Sunday, February 13, 2022

February 13 - Review Like A Black Tornado

This great show was first released by the Captain Marvel import label as 'The Power Of Shazam' in 1996. Ten years later the Madison import label released the show as 'One Night Only' with really improved sound quality. The same title was used for another release of this concert as part of the 'Live Soundboard Collection by the LSD-004 import label in 2006. 

In 2010 the concert was released officially as 'Elvis As Recorded At Boston Garden '71' by the Follow That Dream Collectors label. The SR import label released the concert on CD and vinyl as 'Rocks The Garden' in 2017 while the Venus Productions import label released this concert as part of their ‘Tearing 'Em Up’ book / CD / DVD set in 2018.

In 2022 the Redemption import label released this concert as part of 'The 1971 Soundboard Collection & More', and Gravelroad Music released the book / CD / DVD / Blu-ray combo 'The Boston Garden' - which should contain a completely newly remastered mono version that was  taken from the original reel. The Memphis Recording Service released ‘Like A Black Tornado - Live At Boston Garden 1971'. 

Over the last 25 years fans have had plenty releases to choose from, but what makes this MRS re-issue interesting is that the label remixed this original mono recording to stereo. 


The label stuck to its deluxe cardboard digi-pack, a bit thinner than usual as this is a single CD release. The design by Kev Reape looks smashing with a great picture from the Boston concert, and inside are to the point liner notes, pictures and some newspaper clippings. All illustrated with some elements from his suit.

As this is an official release the packaging stands out from the usual low-budget releases fans and casual buyers will find when visiting a record-store. 


After playing Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe since his return to live performing in 1969, this 14 show 1971 tour was Elvis’ first tour crisscrossing across the country since 1957. Elvis took his Vegas show on the road, including the TCB Band, two backing groups and an orchestra, and it worked! Not only for the audience, but also for The King. 

He responded to the crowd with an energetic performance, and he was really putting on a show with a set-list that was very strong. If his set-list would have been the track listing for a "best of" album only the '2001-theme' and the 'Coming Home Baby' instrumental would be the odd-balls.

Elvis found new energy reconnecting with the 15,500 crowd in Boston as this was a really different audience compared to the Casino crowd. These people were fans that bought a ticket for Elvis, not just a Vegas show. Listen to the fabulous ‘You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling’, you really hear Elvis working the Boston crowd as he growls, "Baby, baby, I get down on my knees for you" and with a great response from The Sweets it really works well. The crowd roars its voice too; listen to their response as during ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ Elvis sings "Gotta go now" and the crowd shrieks "no!" back at him. 

His performances even impressed Rolling Stone writer Jon Landau who wrote about witnessing this 1971 Boston Garden show: 

"What surprised me at the concert was how much I did get involved with Elvis, how much I could relate to his need to be the way he is, and how much sheer artistry and talent manages to pour through the tightly drawn lines of his very stagey production … He sang ‘That's All Right Mama’ with enough verve to scare the unsuspecting. He marched right into ‘I've Got A Woman’ and then segued into a false ending built around ‘Amen’ only to launch back into "Woman". Without coming up for air he was lost in ‘Proud Mary’, and when he hit the chorus, he rolled his body right through "We're rolling, rolling, rolling on the river", with a series of startling knee bends. He did it all in ten minutes and it was a tour de force of theatrics, professionalism, and, happily, music …

He sings like an angel and moves like a ballerina, and he left me struck dumb … he went into what I thought was the finale, ‘Suspicious Minds’. Here, he did with an up- tempo song what he had earlier done with a slow one; he got everything out of it that is there ... and by the time he finished you knew that underneath the control and the lightness of most of the evening's music there stood a man with more natural ability, talent, and soul than I expect to see on the stage at any rock concert … Not through yet, he moved like a locomotive through the last four numbers, all recent hits, climaxing with a fine version of ‘I Can't Help Falling In Love With You’ …

For one of the few times in my recent memory, I had witnessed a performance that had left me completely satisfied.

The Audio

What distinguishes this release of the Boston performance from other outings of this show is that the Memphis Recording Service used Digital Extracted Stereo technique (DES) to create a new stereo mix from an original mono recorded soundboard. 

The producer had to work with the limitations of the soundboard tape which itself has some limitations and damage. And you have to consider that it was not recorded with the intent to do a commercial release. For that purpose RCA would have used professional multi-track equipment, so on this tape ‘How Great Thou Art' is incomplete, as the cassette had to be turned over, and the ending is a bit abrupt. Overall the recording suffers from some high frequency distortion as well as loud backing vocals, and the sometimes too loud trumpets and horns. 

Contrary to the general assumption of many fans, soundboard recordings are usually “just reference recordings", taken directly from the mixing deck. These recordings were made for various reasons like experimenting and validating the audio set up, as Elvis’ audio engineer Bruce Jackson did (read the FTD book ‘On The Road with Elvis’), or new musicians wanting to learn their part to use the tape as a reference for a new gig, or even RCA Victor investigating possible new releases and so on.

Apparently RCA / FTD has little to none soundboard recordings prior to March 1974 with the exception of this one, so we should be glad we actually have this good quality mono cassette tape that sounds pretty clear and captured the reactions from the crowd, something that is lacking on most soundboards. You do at least get the overall feeling that you’re at a concert.

The first release of this show on ‘The Power Of Shazam’ was good for a 1996 release, but the first real improvement was done by the Madison label 10 years later on their ‘One Night Only’ release. The instruments sounded clearer and Elvis voice was more up-front. The Venus release that followed was a copy of this show. The FTD release is pretty similar to the Madison release too, but sounds a bit smoother to the ears as they turned down the high (trumpets / horns) a bit. All these versions of this show are mono.

Listening to the MRS outing of the show the sound-engineer did a nice job creating a stereo experience. The drums are clearly present in the mix, positioned a bit to the left; Elvis is positioned nicely in the middle of the stage, and the guitars slightly to the right. The trumpets claim their rightful place on stage, but are still a bit sharp. The rest of the band, backing vocalists and orchestra do remain ‘one block’. Perhaps he used a bit too much reverb or compression? 

Overall this CD offers an enjoyable stereo sound picture, but on the bombastic and show numbers, when everything on stage comes together, you can still hear that it gets harder to extract all the different elements and place them "individually" in the mix. 

Just compare ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ or ‘Suspicious Minds’ with ‘Love Me’. The result of DES sounds better on the latter. This is no criticism as the mono releases sound distorted too, but you can only do so much using the original mono recording (most likely taken from the FTD release of this concert).


So did the Memphis Recording Service succeed? That will remain a matter of taste and opinion. 

There can be little discussion on the concert itself, it is a dynamic show, Elvis rocks the Boston Garden with passion and the crown responds. The newly created stereo mix will probably remain a matter of taste. Yes there is an overall stereo experience, so this outing of the show by the MRS label really adds something new, but it is all within the limitations of the original mono recorded cassette.

Using the DES technique you can’t extract what’s not there in the original, and that has already been captured in good mono quality on the Madison or FTD outings of this show. 

The label did succeed in creating a more commercial sounding concert in line with an official release that gives you a concert vibe. As a physical commercial release it puts Elvis in the public eye, and even on the album charts in England, Scotland and Switzerland, and with a cover like this, an LP version (which will probably see the light, looking at the labels past releases) will really stand out in record stores around Europe.