Sunday, June 05, 2022

Review Las Vegas International Presents Elvis Now 1971

The U.K. based Memphis Recording Service released their second 1971 set, 'Las Vegas International Presents Elvis Now 1971', this time focusing on Elvis’ fourth month-long season in Las Vegas, the first of 1971.




This package nicely fits in with the previous releases from this label in your collection. The small hard-cover digi-book has a strong cover with the discs are nicely housed in sleeves. 


Inside it contains a 40-page digi-book with a “touch of Elvis in the 70’s” in the use of colors. The liner-notes are short, but to the point (previous releases featured more extensive notes by Gordon Minto) and the remaining 30 pages feature live pictures, memorabilia and newspaper reviews. 


Interesting to see is that page 2 of the booklet shows a copy of the tape-box for one of the shows, with a note on the top from 1974 saying there is “no usable dialogue”. Perhaps this concert was checked for the ‘Having Fun on Stage’ release?



The concerts on this set have been around for over 25 years and were first available on bootlegs CDs like ‘Lean, Mean and Kickin' Butt’ (1996), ‘All Things Are Possible’, ‘Snowbird’ and Showroom Internationale’ from 2009 (with a link to the MRS-label) and the Follow That Dream release ‘The Impossible Dream’ (2004). 

But also more recently in 2022 on the first volumes of the Elvis One ‘The Concert Recordings’ CDs and the ‘The 1971 Soundboard Collection and More’ from the Redemption bootleg label. 


So what’s in the box? The set contains a selection of (in)complete January and February 1971 shows, as recorded at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. At this moment in his life Elvis was doing great, a young father, a successful return to live performing, he just recorded new music he liked and he received recognition as one of the ten outstanding young men of the country. 


By now he was an established Vegas attraction with a solid show, with a setlist containing classic hits, contemporary songs and new material, and top band, orchestra and backing vocalists. Let’s see how this reflects on these four discs. 


CD 1: Elvis opens his fourth Las Vegas engagement on January 26 1971 up-tempo with the double punch ‘That's All Right’ and ‘Mystery Train / Tigerman’ and he catches his breath with ‘Love Me Tender’, making the rounds. Probably great for the ladies attending the show, but killing for the opening energy and the performance of this classic balled. 


He performs ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ halfway through the show as a gesture to Hal Wallis, who is in the audience. Performed more professionally is the live rarity ‘Make The World Go Away’ from his recent ‘Country’ album. Also nice is George Harrison’s ‘Something’ with the additional vocals by Kathy Westmoreland. The “you shove it up your nose” lyric change kind of kills the moment. Elvis tries to fix the ending with a reprise, but we only hear a fragment.


The 27th January 1971 Midnight Show is an entertaining performance with ‘Only Believe’ as one of the highlights, as he had not performed that song live before. Great to hear are ‘How Great Thou Art’ although he fools around a bit too much for a gospel performance - after all he is praising the Lord with this song - and good versions of ‘The Wonder of You’ and again ‘Something’. The rocking highlights from this show are ‘Johnny Be Goode’ and ‘Hound Dog’. 


The performances on this part of the CD sound a little fresher than the Opening Show section, but there also is a bit more distortion in the loud bombastic parts. 


Using two incomplete recordings, simply because there are no complete show recordings available, causes some repetition in the songs performed, but it doesn’t spoil the listening experience. 


CD 2: The 28th January 1971 Dinner Show performance was released on the Follow That Dream CD ‘The Impossible Dream’. The sound on that CD was a bit thin. This new mix sounds better with some reverb and a stereo presentation, but still sounds a little sharp. 


This show features the first use of the ‘2001’ theme as the opening of the show. But it is strange to hear this theme halfway through the CD. Although it is logical to present all shows in chronological order, I would have opened the disc with the Midnight Show for the real “concert experience” and the first use of ‘Zarathustra’ as the opening theme. 


During ‘That’s All Right’ Elvis sings “I’ll Be Leaving Town ...” and apparently he means it, as this show is performed at rocket-speed. This actually works on the rockers, although Elvis has trouble keeping up with James Burton on ‘Johnny Be Goode’. Being in a hurry, most songs clock under the 1.30 with ‘Suspicious Minds’ as one of the main attractions for the audience, as a showstopping exemption. 


A highlight is the closing track on this disc, ‘The Impossible Dream’. Elvis really makes an effort and with the help of The Imperials he works towards the climax of this song. Unfortunately there is some tape-damage just before that climax. It makes a great closing song, with so much more punch than the Hawaiian tune. 


CD 3: By the third disc, the January 29, 1971 Dinner Show, with the fifth concert performance from this engagement, we know what to expect having heard the first two discs. After a frantic opening with ‘That’s All Right’ the first real enjoyable performance is ‘You Don’t have To Say You Love Me’. At this stage of his career, Elvis really had the mature voice and timbre to carry these kind of songs. 


What’s really annoying is Elvis making snoring noises while the orchestra opens the first notes of a ballad like ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ or needing three starts to get that ‘Snowbird’ flying at the correct speed. Perhaps some editing would have been nice.


The audio for the original release of this concert was reviewed as “lifeless and without punch” and that still remains. It sounds “flat” despite the stereo presentation. There still is quite some hiss, especially during the second half and the interaction with the audience sounds a bit weird sometimes, it sounds like the audience is far away. Perhaps the label tried to fix the hiss and mask the distortion, but this also may have affected the audio. You can only repair so much to a recording without taking away elements that matter in the audio presentation, this is something that can’t be helped.


CD 4: The set closes with the Closing Show performance from February 23, 1971. This is the best sounding CD from the set with Elvis nice up-front with Ronnie Tutt right behind him kicking the drums and James Burton playing his parts right to him. Just listen to ‘Tiger Man’, this really rocks. ‘Polk Salad Annie’ sounds nice, performed  at slower pace. 


And it can only be Elvis getting away with jumping from ‘Johnny Be Goode’ to ‘How Great Thou Art’  and get away with it. A great final, unfortunately with a little distortion in the original recording. 

The oldie ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ has a nice backbeat and ‘Blue Suede Shoes has some punch, the don’t sound like throw-a-ways. ‘Bridge’ is one of the show’s powerful highlights although we have version of Elvis with a bit stronger voice. Throughout the various shows on this set he complains of the flu, so that will have had an effect on his voice. But the audience really seems to enjoy his performance! 


‘Little Sister’, coupled with ‘Get Back’ almost always get you moving, this performance is no exemption. The disc and set end with ‘Suspicious Minds’, a splice with the January 28 Dinner Show (the same splice as on the ‘Showroom Internationale ‘71’, a coincidence?). 




This release is compiled from various releases, including the flaws these contained. Besides mixing these mono sources digitally to stereo - which will always be up for debate - there is only so much you can repair and the original mono sources were not among the best soundboards available in terms of audio-quality. 

Overall the conclusion for this release is that the sound (experience) has improved - thanks to the added reverb, probably some filters to clean and repair the originals and the added stereo effect - when you compare these versions to the originals. The third disc is the exemption, as stated above, it sounds flat and still has a lot of hiss. 


Thanks to the investigators on various fora, the possible line-up of sources used could be:  

  • Possible source used for CD 1, the January 26, 1971 Opening Show (partially recorded): Flaming Phoenix Productions record label ‘Opening Night 1971’.
  • Possible source used for CD 1, the January 27, 1971 Midnight Show (partially recorded): Gravel Road Music record label ‘Only Believe’.
  • Possible source used for CD 2, the January 28, 1971 Dinner Show (partially recorded): Follow That Dream record label ‘The Impossible Dream’.
  • Possible sources used for CD 2, the January 28, 1971 Midnight Show: International record label ‘Showroom Internationale ‘71’ / Gravel Road Music  ‘Leaner And Meaner Than Ever’.
  • Possible sources used for CD 3, the January 29, 1971 Dinner Show: 2001 record label ‘Snowbird’ / Gravel Road Music ‘Snowbird Revisited’.
  • Possible source used for CD 4, the February 23 1971 Closing Show (partially recorded): International record label ‘Showroom Internationale ‘71’.



So what’s new? New is that this CD brings these performances to the public domain and the label presents them in - newly created - stereo, which is also a gimmick to get around the FTD release from 2004. Looking at this and other releases that entered the European Public Domain, Sony seems uninterested in trying to challenge this legal loophole. 


Among fans there probably will be a continuous discussion on the added value of these public domain releases. Some fans praise the fact that they bring previously unreleased live performances to the general public, others praise the newly / digitally created stereo, fans on the opposite of the spectrum complain that they already had these concerts on bootleg CDs. Although some of those boots were last available over twenty years ago and some of them very scarce to find these days. 


These releases show that there is a market for these (stereo) releases, for fans who didn’t buy the original bootleg, for fans who enjoy the audio / stereo upgrade of their old boots or new fans who enjoy something new (for them at least) or something not available - legally - through Elvis’ official record label. Don’t forget, this release marks the debut of most of these concert as a legal release in Europe. 


The casual buyer or Elvis fan who buys this set get a good overview of Elvis’ early Vegas engagement including a few rarities that Elvis had not recorded in the studio or performed live at that stage, like ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’, ‘Snowbird’ and ‘The Impossible Dream’. There is some repetition in the set-lists, but listening to the shows that’s not a problem as these are still enjoyable performances. And while Elvis seems to be in a hurry during some shows - clocking at circa 40 minutes - he still rocked Sin City.