STREET SOUNDS: Long live the King

Re-release of Elvis playing live at Madison Square Garden brings back some fond memories of the King - white jumpsuits and all.

Elvis as Recorded Live at Madison Square Garden.

Elvis as Recorded Live at Madison Square Garden.

It was Elvis Presley’s birthday a few days ago so here’s a look at a re-release of Presley’s classic live 1972 concert recorded on June 10 during a four-show run at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Presley and his ace band, the best one of his career, recorded two shows in their entirety, included within.

He may be at the height of his powers here; delivering fiery full-length concerts with a familiar big band that followed his every move.

The drive of the pristine James Burton-led ensemble (including orchestra and back-up singers) whips the songs at a healthy pace.

Presley sounds confident and relaxed, ad libbing jovially (“I’ll be up in a minute, baby!” on Love Me Tender). And there’s no down time – song after song, carried by crowd noise and Presley’s asides.  While you can sense some adulation, the mood is warm, fun and rocking.

There are noticeable trademarks of the era that could be dated or annoying – the busy drumming, braying horns and modulations, but they bring period piece charm. The best thing:  they’re not “retro.”

Of course, with Elvis being Elvis, there are some goofy songs (The Impossible Dream, Funny How Time Slips Away, An American Trilogy). The hot numbers are everywhere though, notably Proud Mary, Polk Salad Annie, Suspicious Minds, Hound Dog, That’s All Right, and the medleys.

For many, this is THE classic Elvis period; the time where he was reaching the apex of his performing years. This is also the era burned into pop culture consciousness: the sideburns, jumpsuits, capes and karate kicks.

And when Also sprach Zaruthustra pompously introduces the concert with its futuristic space age theme, you can form a picture of The King in your mind in all his tacky magnificence.

Then it’s on to rocking fast and furious with That’s All Right, with Presley and band locked in for the night. These introductory moments capture the Presley rock and roll age unintentionally: schtick and soul, glitter and a god-like voice.

The best thing about this release is that it brings Presley’s presence from those bygone years to a listener undiluted. It’s a major show, a big gig, from the King. It ends with “Elvis has left the building, thank you and good night”.

The King is dead.  Long live the King.

Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician and freelance writer who reviews recorded music for The Morning Star every Friday in Street Sounds.