Sunday, February 20, 2022

February 20 - Review The Boston Garden Revisited

After a long break, the Gravel Road import label is back with the release of ‘The Boston Garden Revisited’, containing a digitally remastered presentation of Elvis Presley’s November 10, 1971 performance from Boston. 

This releases followed shortly on the release of ‘The 1971 Soundboard Collection’ featuring the Follow That Dream outing of this show (most likely) and a newly created stereo mix by the U.K. based Memphis Recording Service. The extra’s on this Gravel Road outing of this show are a new audio-mix, concert footage on both DVD and Blu-ray and a 168-page hard-cover book.




The design of this set follows the previous releases in this series ‘Love American Style’ and ‘Vegas Rhythm Revisited'. The hardcover book is primarily a picture-book, in which some new articles describe the historical context and the original and translated articles illustrate the 150+ pictures with the experiences from fans and professional music journalists like John Landau. 


The book is of good quality, the design is modern but a bit dark. The latter can’t be helped as the pictures feature Elvis wearing his Black Matador suit, photographed against a black background. The pictures are generally presented full-page. The Venus Productions book / CD set ‘Tearing ‘Em Up’, which covers the November 1971 tour, has a bit more variation in the way these pictures are presented, but lacks the content from the liner-notes. 

The book holds the CD and DVD in plastic sleeves in the cover, the Blu-ray comes in a separate cardboard sleeve with its own design. 


Reading all the articles the conclusion is that the Elvis Presley Tour was a professional and smoothly organized machine, both behind and on the stage. The Colonel and his team really took care of business for Elvis when on tour, we tend to overlook that sometimes. All Elvis had to do was show-up “5 minutes” before the show, to do what he’s good at and get back on the road or in the air for the next city, leaving the audience pleased and star struck! 


But not all reviews and concert experiences were positive (especially for Jackie Kahane, which I can understand). The usual critical Rolling Stone magazine was actually the most positive and well written account of this concert I may add.


Author Jon Landau notes that “He has his audience, they have him, he loves them, they love him, and his purpose is to please himself by pleasing them, never to please them by pleasing himself. Elvis is too old to imitate his own past. He will not pretend that he is some adolescent high-energy rocker straight out of the Delta. … The one thing Elvis Presley obviously doesn't want at his concerts are uncontrolled displays of emotion. He has had them before, knows how to elicit them, could have them now if he wanted them, but controls his performance brilliantly to make sure that they don't occur. ... He wants his people to have fun and he wants to have fun with them. But it's all middle-aged now and he wants them to have a middle-aged kind of fun. And so he does his balancing act between really singing and acting, and farce, burlesque, vaudeville. His brilliance is reflected in his control; he never moves too far in any one direction and therefore never loses his grip. … 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.


The liner-notes also show how fast the music world changed. It had only been 17 years since that “adolescent high-energy rocker straight out of the Delta”, Elvis Presley, recorded his first single for SUN, when Landau wrote his review. 




The concert itself has been review many times, just reread the >>> ‘Like A Black Tornado’ review




Where the Redemption import label just copied the Follow That Dream release of this show and the Memphis Recording Service mixed the concert from mono to stereo, the Gravel Road label returned to base and remastered the show from a new transfer of the (original) soundboard tape. 


This new mono mix has more punch than the original ‘The Power of Shazam!’ which actually didn’t sound all that bad listening to it again 26 years after its release. But my view may be a little biased as this was one of the first bootleg CDs I bought and I’ve always liked it. 


The new mix sounds fresh, and you can clearly identify Elvis, the band and orchestra with the drums and brass most prominently audible (as in the original recording). There still is a little bit of background noise audible, but that's an engineer's choice as removing that noise also comes at the expense of some of the original music and vocals. The audio engineer had to make a choice between cleaning and / or preserving the audio. 


Compared to the MRS release the mix sounds less heavy, but of course lacks the “stereo experience” and there was less background noise in the MRS outing of this concert as that one was “taken apart, cleaned and reconstructed” using the Digital Extracted Stereo technique. The original mono-recorded audio cassette featured a very compact recording - never intended to be released commercially - which was hard to take apart.

The audio comes on a golden CD. This does not benefit the audio itself so much as there is no difference in the digital content (“zero’s and ones”) between a golden or silver disc. 

Using gold does prevent CDs from “CD-rot” as silver discs are made from aluminum which can corrode, resulting in a matte layer. This layer can prevent the laser from reading the content 100% correctly, causing playback errors. Several bootleg titles, but also some official releases from the FTD label have, this problem.



The DVD / Blu-ray


The concert footage on these discs is presented as a “soundboard compilation” from the concerts of the November 1971 tour. It completes the photographs in the book and adds to the overall concert experience. The editor nicely dubbed the audio to the footage. On my big TV-set the (uncompressed) footage Blu-ray looked better than the DVD, which didn’t scale to full screen.


Although previously released by other import-labels (for example on the ‘Sold Out! DVD series or the DVD ‘The Elvis As Recorded At Boston Garden '71’) the footage is still fun watch. For example the Boston footage showing Elvis having trouble keeping his attendance belt positioned during ‘Proud Mary’ or Elvis having fun with the musicians and the audience. But more important, see Elvis perform some of his greatest hits while still in good shape. The footage also shows that he isn’t as sharp and energetic as he was a year earlier during the filming of ‘Elvis: That’s The Way It Is’. 


The quality is a s to be expected from fan-shot footage, most of the Boston footage is of pretty good quality, but to complete the picture various (quality) sources were added. Although the Blu-ray showed some horizontal lines on my big screen every now and then, the footage was a pleasure to watch. There are some jumps in and between songs, but that’s part of how it was filmed. 


Besides the Boston show, the DVD / Blu-ray contains footage from Philadelphia, November 8th where Elvis looked slim, dressed in white and filmed from a distance, on the Baltimore November 9th footage we heard more girls screaming than Elvis singing. 


From Cincinnati, November 9th we get part of the pre-show with The Sweet Inspiration, and from Houston November 12th some great close-ups of our man , but unfortunately awful sound. The Boston footage is actually the only show with great audio (due to the fact that no other soundboard recordings exist / are available). Here we get a good look at Elvis and we see him halfway through the change to the ‘On Tour Elvis’ with a more seventies look we know from the 1972 movie. 


From Dallas, November 13, we get fragments from both the Afternoon and Evening Show. Although the quality isn’t very good, the excitement of the audience is clearly audible. Attending a concert is still way better than just listening to it or watching it on TV, even if Elvis only seems to stroll from left to right on the stage. 


The footage from November 14th Tuscaloosa is better, great to see Elvis work on ‘Proud Mary’, the audio is very average unfortunately. The same goes for the November 15th footage shot in Kansas City. The final footage from Salt Lake City one day later is a little better. 


It must be said that the Boston footage and audio stand out from the rest - I consider that just a bonus - on the Blu-ray. Overall the other fragments are nice bonusses, but for me too much a “collection of fragments”. I prefer complete songs, preferably a few in a row. But again, this is how it was filmed and what we have to settle for. 




This outing of the 1971 Boston is a nice definitive set of this performance as it brings it all together: good audio in remastered (mono) quality, accompanied by a nice book placing the show in the correct (historical) context and footage of the actual performance and other shows of the tour. 


With the many mono and stereo mixes on CD and vinyl (previously released and most likely due later this year) fans have enough options to choose the set that fits their needs.