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Elvis: Prince From Another Planet (Deluxe Version) Cofanetto, CD
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"PRINCE FROM ANOTHER PLANET"
LIVE MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK CITY 10 JUIN 1972
Pour les fans du King, les 4 concerts sold out qu'il donna au Madison Square Garden en juin 1972 restent le graal absolu.
80 000 fans en 4 soirs et une hystérie palpable..
Elvis accompagné de son groupe le TCB Band (Taking Care Of Business) emmené par James Burton, son légendaire guitariste, à raison de 2 concerts par jour, va mettre tout le monde d'accord.
Le King c'est toujours lui !!
2 des 4 concerts joués par Elvis se retrouvent sur ce double CD et en bonus un DVD d'1 heure d'un des concerts.
Cette vidéo totalement inédite provient d'un fan qui filma caméra au poing 1 h de show du King.
C'est donc des images jamais vues d'un de ces concerts que s'est procuré Legacy Recordings pour le plus grand plaisir des fans du King.
Les 2CD bénéficient d'une nouvelle remastérisation et un riche livret de 48 pages comprenant un essai de Lenny Kaye guitariste de Patti Smith qui assista à ces concerts en tant que journaliste.
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And indeed there is much to like about 'Prince From Another Planet' - the title being a reference to a New York Times review of Elvis' first show at Madison Square Garden on June 9th, 1972. Housed in 8" x 8" packaging, this set looks very eye-catching, with an iconic shot of Elvis at the Garden as taken by MSG staff photographer George Kalinski shot on the cover. You can tell that the Jørgensen / Semon team really `went to town' on this release. The 50-page booklet is lavish and contains photos of the 4 MSG concerts, memorabilia, the original tape boxes as well as an interesting essay by Patti Smith-guitarist Lenny Kaye, who attended both the press conference as well as the first show as a journalist for Cavalier magazine. It was a smart move by Sony to involve people like Kaye and renowned New York audio wizard Michael Bauer (Coldplay, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, etc) for this project. This has given this release extra credibility and thus more exposure in the music press.
My only criticism of the packaging itself involves the way the discs are housed: it's very hard to get them out and can easily result in damaging both the discs and the packaging. This should have been done differently.
When I first heard of this release, one of the things that I was particularly curious about was the June 10th, 1972 evening show. After all, there had been some rumours in recent years about the master tape being lost, but also earlier about the recording being speeded up and/or edited heavily. I think that we can now safely put all those ghosts to rest. There is no indication whatsoever that this recording was being speeded up at any point, though I can understand the confusion. After all, at least one of the musicians involved, drummer Ronnie Tutt, has stated on a number of occasions that it was. The only explanation is that with Elvis driving them like never before and everybody being keyed up about this high profile gig, they performed a high-octane show that in parts perhaps was a notch or two too fast. I remember listening to the evening show with Jerome `Stump' Monroe, who commented: "Damn! That's way too fast. That shit ain't got any groove to it", which reminded me of my interview with Chips Moman, where he said about the live versions of `Suspicious Minds': "It was all about the flash. And the flash don't come out on the record". I don't necessarily agree, but I understand his point.
As for the editing, other than a cough after `Impossible Dream' and Al Dvorin's closing announcement, it appears that the original album released in '72 really is the complete show. Another myth laid to rest.
There have already been some very passionate debates on the various message-boards with regards to the Bauer mixes of these two shows. Some hate it, while others love is, which was to be expected I suppose. Both sides `prove' their viewpoints with graphs and samples, which is amusing in a way. But it's good to see that this release is generating such a strong reaction. I know that some of the audiophile fans are somewhat disappointed and were clearly expecting a different approach, but I think they are missing the point about this release. Right from the get-go it was said that the aim of this release was to get the mixes to sound as close as possible to the actual live concerts, to give the listener the idea that they were seated on Row 5 at the Garden. In my view, that aim has been achieved.
We have all known the original MSG mix of the evening show for many years now and it's a bit odd at first to hear that same recording in a new light, which probably explains some of the reactions. I don't think we would get the same kind of reaction with Aloha, because that one has already been remixed a couple of times. When I first heard of the involvement of Michael Bauer, I wasn't quite sure what to expect but I was curious at the same time. I don't mind new mixes of Elvis' music, as long as they are true to the original intent and vision. That's why I loathed Circus du Soleil's `Viva Elvis', which I felt was disrespectful towards Elvis and his music. My main concern with Michael was that he would do something similar to `The Alternate Aloha' from 1988, which many fans hated with a passion. The sky is the limit when you have access to the original tapes, and I would imagine that it's hard to resist the temptation to put your own mark on a landmark performance by a legendary artist like Elvis. But Michael has shown remarkable restraint and has resisted that temptation; he did pretty much what he set out to do - i.e. give the listener that 5th row experience. Since both shows have a similar-sounding mix, I will refer to both shows here as one and the same mix. I think Bauer essentially stayed fairly close to what was originally there. I have read a few comments from fans saying that they cannot hear any difference with the original mix. I don't necessarily agree, but it underlines the fact that this is not a radical remix. I have played both shows at loud levels, both at home and in the car, and I loved what I heard. No, this is not an audiophile disc - those who expect that are probably better off with the Legacy edition - but to me these mixes sound pretty damn exciting. Elvis' voice dominates the audio picture, sounding strong, rich and in full command, with a busy wall of sound right behind him, especially Ronnie Tutt on drums and James Burton on lead guitar. Elvis and the TCB guys were ready for New York, and phew, they really kicked major butt that weekend! The shows have such an amazing drive to them, and listening to these recordings again has given me a new appreciation for Ronnie Tutt. What an amazing drummer! He was really the glue that kept the whole show together. These two shows may well be the best example we have of Elvis and the TCB guys on top of their game. They were one mean shit-kickin' rock & roll band in their prime.
I have listened to a few audience recordings from this tour in preparation for this review, most notably the first New York show on June 9th, 1972 (which is about to be released on the Straight Arrow label), and in my view the Bauer mixes are a good representation of what the audiences heard at the Garden. You can hear every nuance in Elvis' voice and it's cool to pick up on things that I never really noticed before, like Elvis' grunts and sighs in `Never Been To Spain'. What a great song this is for Elvis, and surely one of the MSG highlights. I also got to see a few performances in a different light, most notably `The Impossible Dream'. This song will never be a big favorite, but I'm beginning to warm to it.
One of the things that I got out of listening to these new mixes is that the original '72 mix of the evening show was not bad at all as has often been said. In the past, it has often been described as a `rush job', but actually the new mix highlights the fact that the original engineers knew what they were doing and did a skilful job, especially when you consider the time constraints that they had to work under. At the same time, I think this new mix clearly wins - it's more exciting, more driving, the audience is more upfront, there's more detail, and most importantly, Elvis' voice really gets to shine. Sure, there's always downsides, one being that the piano is more upfront here and for some reason it's a bit hollow-sounding in parts... Not a big deal but it's a bit distracting on some songs. The difference with the afternoon show is less obvious, which is not surprising, considering the fact that the original mix of that show dates from 1997. Personally I find this new mix slightly more natural-sounding and more `ear friendly', but I know that some prefer the '97 mix.
The DVD was probably the component that I looked forward to the most. There are three chapters on it: a documentary on the MSG shows, footage of the press conference and newly obtained 8mm footage from the June 10, 1972 afternoon show as filmed by Don Lance, who also recorded various rehearsals in '72 and '73, some of which have already been released by FTD, with more being in the pipeline for 2013. The 25-minute documentary contains interviews with Jerry Schilling, Glen D. Hardin, James Burton, Joe Guercio, Lenny Kaye and George Kalinski. I wasn't exactly expecting anything groundbreaking, but I felt that this documentary was a bit bland and definitely `filler'. Mostly comments that we've all heard before, though I did enjoy the input from Kaye and Kalinski whom I have not seen before in documentaries and thus added some freshness to an otherwise somewhat predictable documentary. Kalinski calls the MSG Elvis show that he photographed "the # 1 concert that I have photographed in terms of passion, excitement and charisma", while Kaye notes that Elvis "functioned as a God... It's very seldom that you get a chance to see a show at Mt. Olympus". There's also a few `blink-and-you'll-miss-it' clips from the June 9th, 1972 show courtesy of WNBC, in better quality than what we've seen previously. There's also a chapter on the press conference, but unfortunately the footage is incomplete and a bit choppy, and not as enjoyable as I hoped it would be. There's some interesting answers and a couple of nice moments (most notably the fragment with Vernon being asked a few questions), but all in all it's not something that you'll want to see more than once or twice.
The big surprise of this DVD and indeed the whole set is the rough 8mm footage shot by Don Lance at the afternoon show on June 10th, 1972. Considering the conditions that he had to film under, this footage is very good indeed. Though the footage in total is probably less than 20 minutes, he captured some great moments: Elvis looking iconic and almost otherworldly as he enters the stage, That's All Right complete, Proud Mary and Never Been To Spain nearly complete, Polk Salad Annie almost complete (GREAT finale!), Hound Dog complete, parts of Suspicious Minds and American Trilogy and the final moments of Can't Help Falling In Love.
Elvis looks great and very tanned in his blue `wheat' suit with a yellow scarf around his neck, and right from the get-go he's in total command of the stage and the audience. He is not as dynamic as he was in November '71, and you can see the first signs here of the more static `Aloha' performer. He came to New York to sing - and that's precisely what he did. Though the rawness and the wild energy of the '69 - '71 shows was now largely gone, he was now a more consummate & all-round entertainer, a real pro who had honed his performing skills in the past three years, and the timing for his MSG debut was perfect. This footage captures Elvis at a moment in time where he still had that focus & sense of purpose, and you can see his commitment even on the early hits like `Heartbreak Hotel' (some lovely close-ups, by the way).
It's important to point out that this film is far from perfect: it's grainy, in parts it's blurred, and most songs are incomplete. `Reconsider Baby' is only a few seconds. But it's such a thrill to see this footage after all these years. We all know the photos from the afternoon show of Elvis bending over, ready to do `Hound Dog', and now you can finally SEE it. Ever wonder what he meant when he said "it just died, didn't it", following `That's All Right'? Well, now you can see that he was referring to his microphone. There's a lot of cool things to observe in those 20 minutes. Personally I particularly enjoyed seeing him perform `Never Been To Spain' - he was really into that one, just digging the feel of the song - and the finale of `Polk Salad Annie', which really captures the excitement of the Madison Square Garden shows.
I've read some criticism here and there about the sprocket holes being there, but I don't agree. They give you the sense that you are watching something rare and historical, and besides, that way you also get the information (footage) captured between the holes. Moreover, you can change the settings of your television so that you don't see them if you don't want to, so I don't see this as a problem.
There's also been some criticism aimed at the fact that Sony chose to do nothing with those parts of the concert where there is no footage. All you get is a black screen and audio of the concert. That criticism is more understandable. Some have suggested that they could have added photos in those parts, but I think the footage is best left `as is' out of respect for the historical nature of this film. Personally I prefer getting the raw, undoctored footage here. No doubt in the coming months we'll see lots of people getting creative with this footage on YouTube and elsewhere.
In conclusion, I can only say that I am very happy with my copy of `Prince' and I feel that we are getting real value for money too; the pricing I've seen ranges from 17 to 20 Euros, which is a real steal for what you get. I think we should be counting our blessings that we are still getting deluxe packages like this in 2012. The recent string of amazing releases, both on the main label (`Young Man With The Big Beat') and on FTD (`The Boy From Tupelo') makes me hopeful for the future. For now, this one will be hard to beat.
For those of you actually interested in the film clips, I will lay down the actual show as it was recorded by a fan on super 8mm film and presented in the DVD. Most of the song are incomplete with some only lasting like ten seconds.
0:00-4:50, Intro, That's All Right, Mama, Proud Mary (the latter one incomplete)
6:54-8:42, 8:52-9:43, I Never Been To Spain (incomplete)
19:26-20:33, Polk Salad Annie
25:12-25:43, 25:46-26:52, Heartbreak Hotel
31:42-31:53, Reconsider Baby (Only 11 seconds of this baby. What a shame!)
34:17-36:21, Hound Dog (complete)
37:07-37:53, 38:14-38:30, I'll Remember You (incomplete)
40:16-41:56, 42:15-42:40, 42:49-43:37, Suspicious Minds
44:02-44:27, Introduction by Elvis (incomplete)
50:18-51:08, 51:33-52:24, An American Trilogy (incomplete)
59:39-60:00, End Theme
I hope it is of any use for all those Elvis maniacs (like me) out there! Enjoy this incredible box set.