Tuesday, September 19, 2023

DBD 2023 – Review Closing Night 1972

The latest escapes from the U.K. based Memphis Recording Service are a 2-CD / book set and single LP titled ‘Closing Night 1972’. 

The CD features the September 4, 1972 Dinner Show on the first disc and rehearsals for the engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton recorded one month earlier. Both newly mixed from mono to stereo. The LP itself is a single disc, so it only contains the concert.
Usually released a few months apart, now the CD and LP arrived together, so we can review them back-to-back. 
The design by Kev Reape is done very tastefully, as we have come to expect from the MRS label. A hardcover digipack with a great cover and a nice booklet inside, containing short but to the point liner notes and many pictures, most of them provided by Elvis fan and author Judy Palmer. The CDs - presented as picture discs this time - are housed in sleeves attached to the cardboard package. 
The LP, available on black and on clear vinyl, features a different picture on the cover. I like it better than the one on the CD as Elvis looks more engaged. The LP came in a protective plastic sleeve, now that is what I call service. 
Elvis seems to be counting down his working hours on this ‘Closing Night’ as he opens the show with fast versions of ‘See See Rider’ and Johnny Be Goode’. The results are sloppy versions. On the latter song he slurs the words a little, fortunately James Burton makes up for that with some fast fingerpicking. 
‘Until It’s Time For You To Go’ and ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ are better performances, but there is a little distortion audible which originates from the source used. 
There is even a little distortion between Elvis and Ronnie Tutt, missing a beat on ‘Polk Salad Annie’; “What are you doing Ronnie… What are you doing fool?“ But they have fun about it finishing the song. Jerry Scheff seizes the opportunity and steals the performance playing some mean southern bass with the Sweets joining in for a wild finale! That’s how you rock!
On ‘What Now My Love’ we primarily hear Elvis and the orchestra, with the band and Kathy Westmoreland joining in halfway the performance. This has always been a great song for Elvis as he surely knows how to deliver it! It is one of the better performances from this show.
Listening to ‘Fever’ you hear the added value of mixing mono recordings to stereo, extracting the various audio elements and putting them back together again. The snapping fingers, key to this song, stand out very nicely.
‘Love Me’ is a mess, due to Elvis making the rounds pleasing the ladies. After that it sounds like he want so make up for lost times as he speeds through all the rockin’ classics before catching his breath again with ‘Love Me Tender’. On this ballad he can’t escape from the ladies either; all they want is for him to be their ‘Teddy Bear’, while he asks them “don’t be cruel to a heart that’s true”, handing out scarves for the ladies to dry their tears; "
you gotta work for it kid". These songs were throw-a-ways too.
With ‘Little Sister / Get Back’ he is back on track as this is one of the stronger  performances of the afternoon. The slower performance ‘Hound Dog’ has a long lead-in, as Elvis plays with the audience and his band before he picks up the pace for the finale, but the performance remains tame and without any energy or effort. 
On ‘I’ll Remember You’ we hear the performer and showman Elvis can be when he wants to. This is followed by J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, singing the gospel ‘Walk That Lonesome Road’. A segment like this is part of the Elvis show, but an unnecessary intermission in my book as The Stamps make it sound like vocal gymnastics. 

Up next is the classic ‘Suspicious Minds’, but Elvis gives us another sloppy performance, which nevertheless pleases the crowd. 
After the introductions of the band and 200 fans from the United Kingdom that made the passage across the Atlantic to see Elvis in concert, he does a good version of Kris Kristofferson’s ‘For The Good Times’. With OK versions of ‘A Big Hunk O’ Love’ and ‘You Gave Me A Mountain’ Elvis closes the show before the closing theme ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ sets in.
The rehearsals, recorded just 6 hours before the opening of the engagement, are fun to listen to, as they learn us how Elvis and the band prepared for the shows. But they remain rehearsals, with everything that comes with those kind of performances like incomplete songs and Memphis Mafia members and others talking in the background.
(Possible) Sources
The September 4, 1972 show on CD 1 was first released on the Rock Legends bootleg ‘I'll Remember You’ (1998), the Madison bootleg CD ‘A Hilton Double Shot’ (2009) before the Follow That Dream label released it officially and complete on ‘Destination USA’ in 2014. 
The rehearsals were first released on the FTD collectors label CD ‘3000 South Paradise Road’ (2012). So this isn’t the first official - at least in Europe - release of this material, but it is the first time they are widely available outside the fan-club circuit. 
The overall stereo-picture is good. The engineer who restored, remixed and remastered the audio at Studio D, opened-up the concert but he still placed most elements around the middle with Elvis’ voice is placed upfront and the audience in the back. The backing vocalists are a bit high in the mix. He probably couldn’t separate all the audio-elements from the original mono source to place them wider apart, mimicking the set-up of the big Hilton Showroom. 
The concert sounded better when listening through headphones than it did playing it over a stereo-set. Comparing this new stereo mix to the mono mix on the ‘Destination USA’ CD it did sounded better, especially through headphones. When listening to the concert over a stereo-set the difference was less audible. 
Playing the CD back-to-back with the LP, the sound on the latter was more powerful, so that will be my go-to version for a stereo mix. 
The rehearsals were recorded on what sounds like a small cassette-recorder. You can compare the result with a good audience-recording, but without the audience and Elvis a little closer than during a concert performance. 

Compared to the original ‘3000 South Paradise Road’ release the rehearsals sounded better and cleaner. It was probably easier to work on these recordings without the big sound of the orchestra melting all the audio together.
After having listened to the concert and rehearsals I’m left with mixed feelings. The CD-audio sounds better through a headset than through a stereo-set while the vinyl sounds better than the CD on that same set … 
The concert itself is average, Elvis sounds uninspired and the ballads distinguishing themselves just slightly from the other performances. 
As stated, the LP sounded better, so if you’re interested in the concert, that’s the one to get. Perhaps it is time to move on to better sources, and with 1973 just around the corner, let’s see what the Memphis Recording Service record label will bring us next. 

The CD and LP are available from the >>> Memphis Recording Service website and Amazon.