Prince From Another Planet

Elvis Presley

Sony Legacy, 2012

http://www.elvis.com

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/17/2012

RCA released over sixty Elvis Presley albums during his lifetime.  These included his studio albums, soundtracks, several live albums, and many, many compilation albums.  The Elvis Presley brand was powerful, and RCA along with the King’s manager Col. Tom Parker made the most of it.  Most of Elvis’ better songs were released as singles, leaving the studio albums to be relatively obscure, and by the 1960s, the recording of hokey soundtracks to accompany his movies dominated his studio work.  Such as it was, Elvis’ non-soundtrack related studio time was so sparse that RCA would use tracks from one or two marathon sessions to create albums years after the fact and would also issue unreleased tracks along with some hit singles as an album.  This pattern would continue in the 1970s.  The most shameless bids for sales were in the constant repackaging of old material as new in compilation albums, which make up the bulk of the Elvis Presley catalog, making it difficult for a fan of albums to find serious studio work.

Why do I say all of this?  To prove two points.  The first is that Prince From Another Planet is another repackaging of old, previously released material in a new box.  The second is that this is not just because Elvis is dead; it is a long-running sales gag that stretches all the way back to 1957.  It certainly doesn’t help that the King has ceased to be.  One should not be surprised that 35 years after his death we are experiencing a dearth of new Elvis stuff.  But the possibility that something new will pop up always keeps some people buying.

Prince From Another Planet is the 40th anniversary celebration of four shows Elvis performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  This marked the first time he had performed in New York since performing shows on television in the 1950s.  The shows have been hailed as great examples of Elvis’ powerful charisma on stage and connection with his audience.  In 1972, RCA released Elvis: As Recorded At Madison Square Garden, which contained the show that was recorded on the evening of Saturday June 10, 1972 (and released just eight days later on LP).  That show is disc two of Prince.  So that is previously released material.  But since there were other shows, then there must be other previously unavailable material from the event, right?  Well, glory be, the afternoon show was also recorded!  And it is disc one!  But…that show was also previously released in 1997 as An Afternoon In The Garden.  

So if the sound material is previously released, then there must be some drops of fresh water for the thirsty Elvis fan, right?  Well, sure.  There is a DVD portion to my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Elvis: Prince From Another Planet that boasts video of the press conference Elvis held before the shows, a mini documentary that is more of a souped-up version of the press conference with commentary, and the holy grail – a video of one of the shows.  Apparently, a fan had brought an 8mm video camera to the afternoon show, and restorers diligently synced the audio with the fan video to produce a bona fide video record of the show.  All of this sounds very exciting, and could be a good reason for picking this set up.  Yet as amateur camera operators are wont to do, the fan did not actually capture the show in its entirety.  He recorded the King’s entrance and first couple songs, and then suddenly the screen goes black.  The audio keeps playing but there is no video.  Do not adjust your TV sets (as this reviewer started to do); that’s how it is.  The screen will go dark for several minutes, for whole songs in some cases, and then come back on when our unwitting documentarian rolls film again.  The footage that we are shown is impressive, Elvis Presley in all his glory, wowing fans with his sound and his style in an era before arena rock and crazy pyrotechnics were the norm.  But for large sections of this “video” you are essentially listening to the CD.

The material from the shows is not bad at all, but there is very little difference between the two shows.  Elvis makes a lot of the same comments and ad libs in both, as any good entertainer would in a well rehearsed show.  Four songs were sung at the afternoon show on disc one that were not in the evening show (“Reconsider Baby,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “I’ll Remember You,” and “Until It’s Time For You To Go”), and one (“The Impossible Dream”) was in the evening set and not in the afternoon set.  With the material in the shows, one can note how far Elvis had come in his career as an entertainer.  In 1956, he came out on the forefront of rock music and really became the symbol for it until the Beatles arrived.  Yet for all the consternation he received and controversy he caused for his moves and music, by 1972 it was clear that Elvis was not blazing any new trails.  He was an entertainer cut from a mold similar to more “conservative” front men like Sinatra and Liberace.  And since Elvis never actually wrote a song in his life, he was really just an extraordinary singer of other people’s songs.  This is clear on Prince, as Elvis dotes on songs that had been made popular by other artists like “Proud Mary,” “Never Been To Spain,” or “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” 

On his own hits from the ‘50s, he flies.  He barely devotes more than 90 seconds each to “Heartbreak Hotel,” “All Shook Up,” “Teddy Bear” and others.  He moves so quickly through his back catalog that he is able to get out two versions of “Hound Dog,” a slow blues one and the standard one, in a minute and a half.  The shows are also done at a breakneck pace, one song after another totaling about an hour.  Then, in typical form, the end theme music plays, Elvis leaves the stage and the familiar “Elvis has left the building” announcement is made.  Show’s over.  No encore.  It’s just done.  I'm not sure how I would a have felt about that as a ticket holder, but apparently the awesome stage presence of Elvis was enough.

Elvis’s range and vocal ability were incredible.  His stage presence and performance were phenomenal, especially for that time period, when the rock music stage show was just starting to come into its own.  But the Elvis Presley marketing machine is full of gimmicks and warmed up leftovers.  Despite some awesome singing, Prince From Another Planet proves to be just that.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2012 Curtis Jones and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sony Legacy, and is used for informational purposes only.