RCA 07863 67611-2
Track listing :Heartbreak hotel/ Baby what you want me to do/ introductions 8pm/ That's all right/ Are you lonesome tonight/ Baby what you want me to do/ Blue suede shoes/ One night/ Love me/ Trying to get to you/ Lawdy miss Clawdy/ Santa Claus is back in town/ Blue Christmas/ Tigerman/ When my blue moon turns to gold again/ Memories.
At 7:30pm on June 27/68 a small studio audience filed into one of the studios
at NBC in Burbank California not knowing what to expect from Elvis Presley. To them, Elvis
had languished in formula hollywood films for the past 8 years and what they were about to
see had a mesmerising effect on the previous audience that same day, just as it would when
it was broadcast in December of 1968.
As previously mentioned the idea for the informal jam session was the brainchild of the shows producer after seeing Elvis in his dressing room jamming with his buddies and musicians. Joining Elvis on stage this night were: Scotty Moore (lead guitar), DJ Fontana (banging on a guitar case for a drum), Charlie Hodge (Guitar) and Alan Fortas (Tambourine).
The nervousness evident in the first performance at 6pm was gone, but what still remained was the rustiness of being in front of an audience and having to talk to the audience. something Elvis would refine at his performances in Vegas in August of 1969.
The show opens with what Elvis calls the worst performance of "Heartbreak Hotel" he has ever done. The song breaks down twice when Elvis forgets the lyrics, but Elvis' self-mocking humour carries the piece off. This is followed by another performance of "Baby, What You want Me To Do". Elvis performed this great number 7 times during production of the special and every performance is a highlight.
After introducing the men on stage with him, Elvis launches into his first record, "That's All Right, Mama" It sounds as if he has never been away, the song moves along with the same free wheeling style that Sam Phillips (Elvis' producer at Sun) heard and was prompted to record some 14 years earlier. This is followed by a version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight", after making a joke about her hair looking a fright and skipping the spoken
part Elvis delivers the song much in the same fashion as the original recording, but laced with a sense of melancholy not found in the 1960 recording.
Being an informal jam and not knowing what songs they were going to do, besides a rough , changeable outline, Elvis immerses himself again in "Baby What You Want Me To Do for a driving rendition. Next up is a version of "Blue Suede Shoes" that must be heard to be believed! Whereas Carl Perkins' original recording was a cautionary statement about not stepping on his shoes and Elvis' 1956 recording was a threat, this rendition is an all out
assault on the perpetrator stepping on his Suedes!
A song that Elvis sang twice in the 6pm show, "One Night" is performed here again. Elvis evokes a passionate plea like no other, no-one has sung the 12-bar blues with such intensity as Elvis does in this performance, or the 6pm taping for that matter.
Next, Elvis performs one of his most acclaimed songs from 1956, "Love Me", this song, by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller of Hound Dog fame, was debuted on the Ed Sullivan show in 1956 and performed tenderly and passionately with some over the top physical movements. By 1968, the song takes on a new sound with the heaviness of the guitar and Elvis deeper baritone to deliver a bluesier performance never equalled by Elvis again.
The Sun sound is visited again with "Tryin' To Get To You", originally released on Elvis' first LP in March 1956, as with "One Night" the listener would be hard-pressed to find a better presentation of Blues/Rockabilly than this song. You really do get the feeling that Elvis would do anything to get to you!
Along with "One Night" and"Trying To Get To You" the Lloyd Price penned "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" is one of the real highlights of this show, it has been covered many times since the beginnings of Rock and Roll, but never in such a manner as this, it is hard driving, bluesy and downright nasty.
Knowing that the NBC special was to be broadcast at Christmas time, Elvis included his most famous Christmas recording, "Blue Christmas", gone is the backup up vocal yodelling found on the 1957 recording, the song is delivered straightforward and professionally, but still has the feeling that it was only performed to satisfy the Colonel. The audience would have been better served by the performance of the Christmas blues, "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" which Elvis starts but can't remember the lyrics.
This is followed by the great blues number, "Tiger Man", which this disc is named after. Elvis performed this song many times after this, in concert in many variations up to 1976, including a March 1975 studio jam. This performance is looser and more vibrant than any of those and is a highlight.
Elvis winds down the informal jam with a wonderful version of a rockabilly number he recorded in 1956, "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again" This is followed by Elvis singing to the prerecorded backing track of "Memories" as he had with the previous performance. The studio version of this song would be released as a single to coincide with the special and charted high, with good reason. Elvis also included it in his set list when
he returned to live performing in August of 1969.
The sound on this releases is great, you can actually hear what some of the audience members are saying, one woman asks for "It's Now Or Never". The one disappointment with this CD is the liner notes, they are incomplete. The first page in the booklet is blank, except for a photo, and page two seems to start off in the middle. It is my opinion that a production error at RCA/BMG caused the first page to be missing the liner notes. The other miscue by RCA/BMG is the failure to credit the performers with Elvis or the people behind the scenes.
It looks as though all the effort was put into MEMORIES:THE '68 COMEBACK SPECIAL and this was rush released. Anyway it is the music that counts and both these releases are essential for not just the Elvis fan but for the music fan.
by Anthony Britch (November 11/98)
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