March 30, 2014
By Chaz Lipp, Contributor
Legacy Recordings continues its excellent Elvis Presley reissue program with a newly remastered and remixed Legacy Edition of Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis. Originally released in 1974 as a 42-minute single LP, it was only modestly successful, perhaps due to oversaturation at the time of Presley live recordings. While Memphis did exceptionally well on Billboard’s country albums chart (hitting number one) and was eventually certified gold by the RIAA, that paled in comparison to the multi-platinum success of Aloha from Hawaii: Via Satellite (1973) and As Recorded at Madison Square Garden (1972).
Regardless of such figures, Memphis offers a mostly relaxed set delivered before a hometown crowd on March 20, 1974. An expanded version including the complete 70-minute concert was first released on the Follow That Dream collectors label in 2004. That 25-track album constitutes disc one of the new Legacy Edition, highlighted by a Grammy-winning performance of “How Great Thou Art” (Best Inspirational Performance; Presley had previously won a Grammy for his studio recording of the same song in 1967). Presley is in good spirits throughout, joking with the crowd and occasionally miffing a lyric. His fixed patter—such as feigning confusion over his rhythm guitarist’s name (“Is it Wilkerson or Wilkinson?”)—always conveys the illusion of the first time.
While some of the rock and roll standards are thrown away as rather rote run-throughs (including a medley that leads with “Long Tall Sally,” followed by five others), there are moments of real conviction among the other oldies. “Trying to Get to You,” in particular, soars convincingly. The fresh remastering only enhances the experience. As explained in the extensive new liner notes (by noted music journalist Ken Sharp), “producer Felton Jarvis wanted to the album to reflect the experience of being at an Elvis concert immersed in the maelstrom of excited concertgoers.” Audience mics effectively captured the rapturous fan reactions.
Considering the premium pricing of the Follow That Dream releases, even a single-disc edition would’ve been a bargain. But the Legacy Edition’s second disc is arguably even better, offering an entire concert from Richmond, Virginia, recorded on March 18, 1974. Recorded in mono, this was supposedly taped as a test run for the big Memphis homecoming. Though touted as being “recently discovered,” this show was also released via Follow That Dream as 48 Hours to Memphis in 2011, augmented by a few bonus tracks that do not repeat here. Instead, the Legacy Edition contains five cuts from an August 1974 “RCA Rehearsal.”
The 22-track Richmond show is, if anything, even more laidback than the Memphis one. Even more joking occurs between songs and the “Introductions” track proves he didn’t deliver quite the same banter every time (here he throws in a special thanks to the hotel that housed his entourage). James Taylor’s “Steamroller Blues” is a lot of fun, as is a particularly jokey rendition of “Fever.” The Richmond show is tighter; all its tunes repeat in the Memphis show, though “How Great Thou Art” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” are excluded in this set.
Given the $29.98 pricing of each of the previous two Follow That Dream versions, the Legacy Edition of Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis offers a remarkably economical twofer.