48 Hours To Memphis
March 18, 1974
Back in 2011 Follow That Dream (FTD), announced this release which captures Elvis Presley live on March 18, 1974 as he preformed on tour leading up to the recording of his album "Recorded Live On Stage in Memphis". The sound quality on this release...er, escape as Elvis would say is excellent and in no way a disappointment.
March of 1974 saw Presley in strong voice and good shape (though not as trim as he would appear in the months following this tour). He gave fun, exciting shows, attracting sold-out crowds in cities such as Tulsa, Houston (at the Astrodome!), Charlotte, Hampton Roads, and so on. The tour ran from March 1 to March 20, starting in Tulsa, culminating in Memphis. As the title of this CD says, this show was recorded 2 days before the Memphis show and was perhaps recorded as a test of the system RCA was going to use for the Memphis show.
All that being said, let's move on to the actual show. The strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra fill the arena as the crowd anticipates the arrival of 'the King'. You can sense the excitement as the build-up climaxes with pounding drums as the crowd goes absolutely nuts when Elvis struts on to the stage. This, as usual, goes into See See Rider, and without a doubt Elvis is on tonight and is ready to give a hell of a show. When he belts out "Oh see, see see rider, oh see, what you have done", the cheers are deafening. Great start! This is followed by I Got A Woman, a song which had been on Elvis' first album and a song that practically never left his live act. Elvis throws in a few verses of Amen, stops the music, teases the crowd a little, then hands the reigns to backing singer J.D. Sumner to do his "dive-bomb" bass voice gimmick. Elvis states "That was okay, you know...it was fair," which leads to J.D. repeating his thing. All in good fun and not as drawn-out as this would become in the next year or so.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to be back here in Hampton Road--I mean, uh, Richmond...just kidding, just kidding," Elvis asides as he starts Love Me, one of his many '50s classics. As custom at an Elvis show, when Presley sings "Treat me like a fool, treat me mean and cruel...but love me" he tosses out scarves to the women that rush the stage to either kiss him, photograph him, etc. They would indeed beg and steal, Elvis. Trying To Get To You is next, really the first show-stopping song of the night. Elvis really pours his soul into this one, perhaps as it was reportedly one of his father's favorite songs. This is followed by a rushed All Shook Up, which in no way sounds like the original recording, but at least Elvis puts some effort into it. You won't miss anything by skipping it -- though, it's only a minute long, so what's the point?
Steamroller Blues, a funky, parody blues jam written by James Taylor follows which is miles ahead of the single version released a year earlier from the famous "Aloha" special Elvis did from Hawaii. Presley always did this song justice, and the guitar work of James Burton is nothing to snuff at either. "Thank you, you're a fantastic audience" states Elvis, as he dives into the uninspired medley of Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel, which as is the case with All Shook Up, if you skip it, you're not missing much. "My first movie was Love Me Tender, and I'd like to sing a little bit of that for you", and it's decent enough. From here, Elvis manages to get 6 (!!) records into one big, but short 3 minute medley, the records beingLong Tall Sally, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, Your Mama Don't Dance, Flip, Flop and Fly, Jailhouse Rock, and Hound Dog. It's fun, but not exactly ground-breaking stuff. Fever is next, much to the delight of many female fans. "That's a fun song..."
Polk Salad Annie really cooks and features some great bass playing. This rendition doesn't compare to the 1970 version you'll find on the On Stage album, but it's good in it's own right. From there, Elvis goes into a complete 180, switching from 'swamp' rock to gospel with "I'd like to ask J.D. and the Stamps to sing one of my favorite songs...Why Me Lord?" It's a very impassioned song, and Elvis obviously enjoys it with his gospel roots. Elvis again flips it around on us, this time going into his smash 1969 hit, Suspicious Minds. This song would not last in his set much longer, making this one of the last live versions. Afterwards, Elvis stops the show and introduces us to his whole band, backing singers and orchestra included. Nice.
"Anyway...you know what I can't do?" asks Elvis as he belts into I Can't Stop Loving You. Listen to Elvis' voice on the end, nice and powerful. Elvis again goes into the gospel realm, this time with Help Me, which thematically isn't too different from Why Me Lord? An American Trilogyfollows, which ends in a fantastic blaze of horns and trumpets. Very emotional performance and well worth the time. Elvis goes into Let Me Be There next which he reprises after the end. Fun performance, with an infectious beat. Elvis' voice was still as strong here as it was at the start of the show. Afterwards, Funny How Time Slips Away is sung, in a nice, if not lazy, however, way. "You're a fantastic audience, you really are. Until the next time we're here in Richmond, we bid you an affectionate 'Adios'." Can't Help Falling In Love, Presley's tried and true show-closer, features beautiful
Is this show better than Memphis? Perhaps. Elvis is in strong and solid voice throughout and gives many good performances. Certainly a standout show from the 1974-1977 period and definitely a great release. If you can track it down, definitely listen to it.