Prince From Another Planet
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
When Elvis Presley’s legendary, cigar chomping manager Col. Tom Parker was asked what he was going to do after the singer’s 1977 death he replied, “Why, I’ll just go right on managing him.” Sony/Legacy, the repository of Elvis’ many recordings, has taken that attitude to heart with classy, if often superfluous, reissues of the King’s catalog, all to keep him in the public’s consciousness. For better or worse, this is another.
Copious liner notes from noted critic and rock historian Lenny Kaye along with luxury packaging make much of these two previously released but newly remastered performances being Elvis’ only New York City shows (there were four in total that June 9-11 weekend at Madison Square Garden). Because of the high profile nature of the three night stand, the energy is clearly upped a few notches from his other concerts of the time. Still, this is late period Elvis, all garish capes, high collars and sparkly jumpsuits going through the somewhat schlocky Vegas, crowd pandering moves. That includes covering Creedence by way of Ike and Tina’s “Proud Mary,” Three Dog Night’s “Never Been to Spain” and grinding out often abbreviated versions of his Sun and 60s RCA hits with a slickness unimaginable when they were recorded. Thankfully it’s still early in what was to be a bumpy five year career downslide so he’s vocally fit, animated and not yet the bloated caricature captured in countless later photos.
At an hour each and with both sets differing on only four titles, you don’t get much King for your dollar. A third platter features a DVD with a short informational 20 minute documentary on the weekend, another 20 minutes of choppy, handheld, recently discovered, grainy footage of June 10th’s afternoon performance, and 12 minutes of highlights from a Presley press conference he gave to the New York media that weekend.
Like Elvis’ revue that included strings, background vocals and a large band, the package is padded. A glossy 52 page book of notes, original 1972 newspaper review clippings and rare pictures all in a large 8×8 format makes this something of a cross between a mini-box and a coffee table ready gift for the Elvis fan who needs everything. It’s not Presley at his best and probably not the way most of us want to remember him. But the historical value of these shows, the crisp remastering and the overall lavish presentation makes this a respectable, if perhaps unnecessary addition to your late-Elvis collection.