Elvis On Tour - The Rehearsals (Follow That Dream/BMG)

Follow That Dream (FTD), the exclusive Presley collector's label, turns the clock back to spring 1972 with Elvis On Tour - The Rehearsals. Taped on 30 and 31 March, these superb stereo rehearsal tapes present just Elvis, his core rhythm band and the Stamps gospel quartet running through material for his first tour of the year.

Something of a sister disc to FTD's 6363 Sunset, the 19 tracks expand upon what we already know about the man in this period of his career. Here is Elvis Presley, age 37, visiting RCA's Studio C in Hollywood for what is basically a "mock" recording session and tour rehearsal for documentary cameras of MGM, with actual masters completed between 27 and 29 March.

The sessions scheduled in Studio C are Elvis' first since 1960's work on the "GI Blues" soundtrack. Evidently, the fresh setting and first-time use of his 1970s touring band in the studio inspire the artist. Emory Gordy, fill-in bass player for the week finds the vibe "professional" and energy level "high." It carries through to the end of March, as the MGM cameras capture Elvis "recording" and rehearsing for his April tour.

Some of the cuts are akin to a live performance, with an audience or the additional voices and orchestra. Too bad it wasn't always like this. The band plays with all the fire of 1972, with a warp-speed "C.C. Rider" a treat to the ears. Elvis nonchalantly runs down stage regulars like "A Big Hunk O' Love" and "Never Been To Spain," and the listener is in the front row.

The entire crew rips it up with "Burning Love" in a remarkable and energetic offering. As they vamp on the "hunka hunka" ending, a new concern is raised. "But how are we going to 'fade it' on stage?" asks Presley during a break, only half-joking.

With the wistful ballad "Funny How Time Slips Away," Elvis lets the mask slip a bit. Obviously thinking of his failing marriage, after the lines "How's your new love, I hope that he's doing fine," he cannot resist adding "lying like a fool."

In the seventies, Kris Kristofferson's insightful, poignant songwriting found many fans, including Elvis. Elvis made a 1971 Nashville studio recording of "Help Me Make It Through The Night," but was unable to snare the heart of the tune as well as when done live. The rehearsal take here is also superior to the studio master. On the other hand, "For The Good Times" would've graced any 1972 album by Elvis, but Presley's studio cut from 27 March stayed in the RCA vaults for 24 years. The rehearsal is just as good, with the Presley passion bleeding through each verse.

"Always On My Mind" is an example of a presentation that surpasses the studio master, and this exquisite ballad from the pen of Carson, Christopher and James was first heard and seen in 1981's "This Is Elvis."
A 1990 CD was the first time the track was issued without overdubs, but sounds better on this FTD release.

Unquestionably, the most anticipated number on this disc is "Young And Beautiful." Originally recorded in May 1957 for the classic "Jailhouse Rock," Presley had never given the sumptuous ballad another thought until now. Apparently strumming an electric guitar, the melody returns to him and he begins to sing. The band falls in as best they can behind him -- it's doubtful anyone else recalled the song -- and for a couple of minutes they strive to honor its innate beauty. It's a nice surprise, if not a total success, and it's a shame Elvis never chose to add it to his regular set list. Perhaps these professionally recorded and filmed moments will one day find a DVD release from whoever owns MGM's material these days.

FTD producers Ernst Jørgensen and Roger Semon continue to expand in a thoughtful manner those moments worth sharing on CD with the Presley fan.
With any luck these might inspire the release of the many hours of unissued film footage in the near future. Wouldn't it be nice?

[Johnny Savage, USA]