Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis ( FTD / BMG )

As if in answer to the prayers of many an Elvis fan, BMG's Roger Semon and Ernst Jorgensen have amended the Follow That Dream collector's label release schedule to include a deluxe reissue of 1974's Recorded Live OnStage In Memphis. This concert is apparently no longer a viable product at normal retail outlets, but through Follow That Dream anyone can possess the material on CD.

As with all in the "deluxe" series, the event is housed in a handsome, double fold out, 7" sleeve with full color information booklet, design in keeping with its 1974 pedigree, and incorporation of all the tunes edited from the single LP. It's a real treat for the hardcore Elvis fanatic.

The fifth full concert album from Elvis since 1969, Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis came on the heels of Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite, 1973's international #1 live set, and 1972's well-received As Recorded At Madison Square Garden. Sadly, it seemed at the time to peg Presley as a performer out of new ideas, content to grind out past glories to unquestioning, sold out crowds. And it cannot be denied that the set list from Elvis' March 20, 1974 "homecoming" concert, a misnomer as he'd already debuted at the same venue less than a week earlier, was indeed pruned to remove songs previously included on his recent live albums. Producer Felton Jarvis also enhanced the remaining tracks with periodic "audience reaction" effects to make the product as exciting as possible.

Despite such realities, and the fact that both Elvis and band were very sloppy at times, the end result was entertaining and made for what some consider the most enjoyable of Elvis' mid-seventies live albums. Add thirty years, and the work of the FTD label, and the listener may now delight in all of the previously-deleted material to boot!

Elvis did not disappoint the tour-closing audience that Wednesday evening, delivering the goods on tried and true concert numbers like "Trying To Get To You," "Steamroller Blues," "An American Trilogy" and "How Great Thou Art," the latter performance for which he would win a Grammy award. Of course, as with any Elvis gig after 1970, there are throwaway efforts, primarily the rock classics from his early career he did not understand were precious. And the less said about the "rock medley," which ruined five timeless 1950s recordings alongside a woeful 1970s Loggins & Messina hit, the better!

For this CD reissue, there have been some unanticipated alterations. Project remix engineer Chris Theis apparently chose to add a layer of reverb over the multi-track master not evident on the 1974 LP or original CD issue. For anyone intimate with Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis, the additional effect is distracting. As one expert colleague noted, "when he talks in-between a song it's like he's speaking in huge cathedral." There are segments missing from the original LP / CD content, notably some hilarious audience interplay in the first third of Elvis' set. And a false start known to collectors on Elvis' lovely rendition of "Help Me" is also unheard on the FTD disc.

Perhaps this project was a victim of time constraints. The "deluxe" booklet presents eight color shots from March 20, but not a single one drawn from the original negative. As all previous FTD "deluxe" booklets featured mostly sharp images, one wonders if co-producer Roger Semon had difficulty with the photographer. It might have been interesting to read more than a reprint of a local newspaper review and a basic rundown of Elvis' March 1974 tour itinerary. The previous FTD booklets shared insightful data about the material, but that is not the case here. And why was a UK edition of the original album used for the front and back cover reproductions?

Bringing it all back home, this show may not have featured Elvis at his finest, but remains a cogent look at who the artist was in his 39th year. And this 2004 "deluxe" edition from Follow That Dream positively confirms the label's mission is to fulfill the desires of the hardcore Elvis crowd.Count your blessings.

[Johnny Savage, USA]