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(1999/BMG) 18 tracks 1972
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Here's basically what happened: in February of 1972, one of Elvis' Las Vegas shows was recorded for possible release as a live album. The following month, in March, he recorded seven songs, including the scintillating track Burning Love, which would be his last Stateside top 10 hit. Instead of issuing a single album culled from these two groups of recordings, they were instead issued in piecemeal fashion across numerous albums, some of which were released (allegedly) posthumously. The most notorious of these would be Burning Love And Hits From The Movies, a budget compilation that combined the song named in the title plus it's B-side, A Matter Of Time, with 8 mostly forgettable songs from his movies, one of which were over a decade old by the time this LP appeared near the end of 1972. Not only is Burning Love the only actual hit contained on the album (thus making the title an act of false advertising) but it also clocks in at just over 23 minutes in length (during an era when LP's were typically more like 32-45 minutes long). In effect, this LP was the musical equivalent of a shifty bartender serving watered down drinks.
The present CD attempts to rectify this bad judgement by giving us the album that SHOULD have been released in mid or late 1972. You get the seven songs that were recorded in the studio in March of 72, plus a generous portion of the live material recorded in Vegas the month before. The studio material includes of course the aforementioned Burning Love and A Matter Of Time, plus a number of other great songs, including perhaps the definitive version of Always On My Mind (which voted by British fans as the best Elvis song in a poll conducted by ITV). One item worth noting is a Paul Williams composition Where Do I Go From Here, which doesn't seem to appear on compilations too often, and is a personal favorite of yours truly. Not only does it feature an impassioned performance from Elvis, but also a great performance from the TCB band, and in particular, drummer Ronnie Tutt who throws some great fills into the coda.
The live material includes a number of great songs, including Never Been To Spain, which was written by Hoyt Axton, whose mother, Mae Axton, cowrote Heartbreak Hotel), along with Hound Dog, a great medley of Little Sister and Get Back (yes The Beatles song, perhaps dispelling the myth that Elvis hated them), and An American Trilogy.
While there are many ballads on this album, it's worth noting that Elvis and Priscilla had just separated only a couple months before. Elvis had always liked singing ballads, but it's clear that on these recordings, he's pouring some very real emotions into his performances, hitting a home run on each and every single one of them. It's often said that musicians make great music when they're going emotionally hard times, and this collection certainly backs up that theory.
In short this is a great collection of music. If you have any faith that Elvis was still "taking care of business" (as he was fond of saying) in the early 70's, and you don't already own this music on other compilations (and you have my sympathy if were one of the unlucky who put down your money for either the original Burning Love And Hits From The Movies or Separate Ways LP's), this is definitely a good item to have in your collection.
With this release, which collects the seven songs he recorded in 1972 with others found on cut-outs, cheapie collections, or singles released during that period, finds a mature and reflective Elvis, alternately brash and confident and solemn and introspective, singing on some of the best material of his career. Sure, there's some schmaltz in there as well, but it's perfectly enjoyable -- tell me his version of "Never Been to Spain" won't put a smile on your face -- as well as the title track, 70s concert faves "You Gave Me a Mountain" and "American Trilogy," and the break up songs "Separate Ways" and "Always on My Mind" (later reclaimed by Willie Nelson). In all, a consistently superior collection of early 70s Elvis, before the sadness overwhelmed him, the drugs kicked in, and the endless tours and hard-living took him so tragically.