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July 14, 2022

Amarillo '77 (CD - FTD, 2011)

Amarillo '77
FTD [FTD 101] [506020 975027 2]
Number of tracks:
Running time:
Type of album:
Linked to:
FTD discography
March 24 - 30, 1977
July 2011

Amarillo '77 was the 101st FTD CD. It covers the nearly complete March 24, 1977 show and exceptional versions of the same tour. The work is currently out of print.

In 1977, Elvis was at a low ebb. His setlist was pretty stagnant and his shows were often shallow at best. After the excitement and newfound high energy of the December 1976 shows, in early 1977 he quickly went downhill and gained the weight he had recently lost. In January, the singer showed little interest in finishing songs for his upcoming album at Nashville's Creative Studios. Maybe it was his preoccupation with the next revealing book being written by his former bodyguards or maybe the novelty of his new relationship with Ginger Alden had worn off.

Desperate for new music, Elvis' producer Felton Jarvis went on tour from March to May 1977 to try to record new material live. These recordings eventually provided three songs for the "Moody Blue" LP, as well as being used for FTD's "Spring Tours '77" compilation.

Elvis' first tour of 1977 had 10 shows, starting in Hollywood, Florida on February 12 and ending in Charlotte, North Carolina on the 21st of the same month.

Despite having rested in Hawaii for a month, the March tour wouldn't be the best either, but it had some highlights like the show on the 24th in Amarillo. Unfortunately, with Elvis having put on weight and being totally tired, things were going to be much worse going forward and the April tour would see 4 out of twelve shows canceled due to health issues. From then on, Elvis only occasionally dared to perform admirable concerts.

By releasing the "Spring Tours '77" CD in 2002, FTD had the opportunity to select Felton Jarvis' best live recordings in the spring of 1977, which created an interesting, if somewhat positivistic, profile of Elvis in concert during those 3 months. When distributing this new work, the label was smart to select thirteen new songs that were not featured on previous compilations, making it a worthy companion.

In fact, so far, no full show from 1977 has been deemed worthy of official release, although many have appeared on bootlegs - and some of them from audience recordings. But here, finally, we have a "complete" show (as far as it was recorded by the sound engineer) and, even better, a completely previously unknown performance of Elvis' second and final show in Amarillo on March 24, 1977. Knowing that Elvis was not at its best, there's a definite bonus to having a selection of 11 extra tracks to increase CD playtime.

Below is our review of this spectacular CD.

- 1. That's All Right [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: For a soundboard recording, the quality is very good and the mixing is excellent with Elvis' voice well balanced between the band, backing musicians and orchestra. Unfortunately, the sound engineer didn't record the first few numbers - which included a rendition of "Love Me Tender" right after the opening - but then again, Elvis used to take some time to "warm up". And to be honest, there's no need to have another extremely long version of "I Got a Woman / Amen". When we start listening to the concert, Elvis already sounds fully engaged, singing beautifully and without slurring his words - a great sign.

- 2. Are You Lonesome Tonight [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: "And then we did a song called 'Are You Lonesome Tonight'." Elvis chats and jokes with the audience for a few minutes, something that had already become rare. Just like in February, he misses the lyrics right at the beginning and stops. After a little more interaction with fans and his musicians, the singer returns to the music, but is now more out of it than ever. Laughing and amused, he makes a point to Charlie Hodge: "Charlie, 20 years down the drains." In comparison, this is a less memorable version. 

- 3. Reconsider Baby [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: "'We did a blues song called 'Reconsider Baby'.After the perfect rendition made a month earlier in Charlotte, it was to be expected that another version of this rare classic would excite both Elvis and his fans. Unfortunately, he just rehearses a few chords and gives up singing it.

- 4. Love Me [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]:Elvis tries to kick off the 1956 hit, but realizes the musicians are out of tune: "Now look, one of us is wrong, fellows. And I ain't gonna take the blame for it." The rendition is standard, with Elvis handing out kisses and scarves to the audience as he sings.

- 5. If You Love Me (Let Me Know) [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: "This next song is one, it was recorded by Olivia Newton-John and it's called 'If You Love Me, Let Me Know... If you don't, move it!'" Elvis' voice is weak for this powerful classic, but he still manages to deliver a good version.

- 6. You Gave Me a Mountain [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: There's an amusing interaction with the crowd at the end of the rendition, as Elvis makes an effort to do his best and receives effusive cheers and applause from the audience. The version itself is average, perhaps a little less energetic than the "In Concert" one.

- 7. Jailhouse Rock [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: "My third movie was called 'Jailhouse Rock', and you know... My voice was much higher then, so... And the words are very, very fast, so... I shall try it. Slow it to half." Another throwaway in concerts, but here it receives a little better treatment than usual.

- 8. O Sole Mio / It's Now or Never [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: "In 1960 we did a song called 'It's Now or Never'. It was taken from the Italian song 'O Sole Mio'. I'd like to ask Sherrill Nielsen to do the Italian version, 'O Sole Mio'. Listen to his voice, ladies and gentlemen.Elvis' adoration of Nielsen's voice is at times mind-boggling. It's hard to know if he really thought of him as a great singer or if he knew that making him sing caused quite a bit of hatred - and an earache - in the audience. After the torture, "It's Now or Never" has a Latin feel - although it's a Neapolitan song - absent most of the time and it's even nice to hear.

- 9. Little Sister [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: "I'd like to do a medley of some of my recordings for you, just little ones. Starting with 'Little Sister'." The singer tries to put on a good show, but it is audible that his voice has little range on this day.

- 10. Teddy Bear / Don't Be Cruel [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: As the rendition begins, Elvis stops it and addresses Tony Brown: "Wait a minute, Ronnie. Tony... That's the first time that you have ever been late. I mean, you're a fantastic piano player, but..." The rendition is average to mediocre, with Elvis centered on the audience to hide the state of his voice.

- 11. My Way [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: "This next song... You might've heard us do it, it was recorded by Frank Sinatra, called 'My Way'. I don't know the words to it, so I have to read it. But I'd like to try it anyway.A powerful number, it finds Elvis putting all of himself into an exhilarating surrender - though his voice fails in some parts. It's a valid and exciting attempt, but not as good as the one in Chicago about a month earlier.

- 12. Introductions / Early Morning Rain [Abilene - March 27, 1977]Allegedly, side A of Amarillo's tape ended up here, and until it was turned over, the intros were lost. FTD replaces them with those recorded in Abilene, Texas, three days later. Elvis kicks off the introductions with The Sweet Inspirations, JD Sumner and The Stamps - identifying them one by one - and sings during John Wilkinson's solo.

- 13. What'd I Say / Johnny B. Goode [Abilene - March 27, 1977]: James Burton's solos sound average.

- 14. Band Introductions [Abilene - March 27, 1977]: Following are the usual solos by Ronnie Tutt, Jerry Scheff, Tony Brown and Bobby Ogden, and Charlie Hodge's introduction.

- 15. School Days  [Abilene - March 27, 1977]: Finishing up 12 expendable minutes, Elvis introduces conductor Marty Harrell (replacing Joe Guercio for a few days) and his orchestra.

- 16. Hurt [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: "One of our latest records is called 'Hurt'.Back on the B-side of Amarillo's tape, we have a pretty good rendition, but it still shows that Elvis wasn't vocally ready that day.

- 17. Hound Dog [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]: The singer tries to tweak the beginning of the song, reminding us of the 1972 versions, but in the end the rendition is more of a throwaway.

- 18. Can't Help Falling in Love / Closing Vamp [Amarillo - March 24, 1977]:  "Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. I'm sorry that we were late tonight getting over here, but, uh, we had a little problem, you know, personal - no big deal. But any time you want us back here just let us know and we'll come back, 'cause you're a good audience.Elvis gives a basic explanation of his delay because the show started much later than anticipated. When he took the stage that night, the fans were so elated that he appeared that the King of Rock decided to joke with someone in the audience: "You didn't think I would come, did you?" A minute and a half of an above-average version for the night leads to the end of the set and a "Closing Vamp" more funky than usual.


- 19. And I Love You So [Alexandria - March 30, 1977]: "I'm gonna take a few minutes, ladies and gentlemen, there's something that's wrong with my microphone, so I gotta adjust it. I have to call my sound guys up here, to the stage and listen to the next song. The instant I start it... Felton, you too, son! That's Bruce Jackson and Felton Jarvis. If you guys haven't been playing football, I mean, you wouldn't need to be sitting out there.Elvis seems to be in a sour mood. After starting the song, he gives a sarcastic laugh and amends the lyrics to criticize the sound system. Overall, the version is better than the one heard on "In Concert".

- 20. Fever [Alexandria - March 30, 1977]: "Fever." The version that follows is good, but a bit slow. Elvis seems to be moving around a lot on stage, from the reaction of the fans.

- 21. Love Me Tender [Alexandria - March 30, 1977]: "Let's do 'Love Me Tender', ok?Rarity in the setlist in 1977, it brings Elvis having fun and enjoying the music and the audience. He laughs and seems to be remembering the craziness of the early 1970s versions.

- 22. Blue Suede Shoes [Alexandria - March 30, 1977]: Excited with the reaction to the previous song, the singer has another hit from 1956 and the version is very good for that point of the year. Hearing a rendition without Elvis dragging his voice is fantastic.

- 23. Steamroller Blues [Austin, 28/03/77]: "There's only about 900 more songs that we can do... 'Steamroller'.Spontaneously, Elvis surprises everyone with the first and only rendition of this blues in 1977. His voice fails on points, but he delivers a clean, well-executed version. The general feel is similar to the 1976 versions, although here he shows a real joy in being able to perform this song so well.

- 24. Help Me [Austin - March 28, 1977]: "I'd like to do a song that we recorded a couple of years ago, called 'Help Me'.Although it's slower paced than the usual versions or the 1973 Master, this rendition is good for having lighter instrumentation and subtle backing vocal accompaniment. The mix that privileges different points from the usual is fantastic.

- 25. Why Me Lord [Alexandria - March 29, 1977]: After a rough cut, we arrive at a true Gospel session that Elvis, JD and The Stamps lead on stage in Alexandria. Here you can certainly say that we are listening to the best of the 4 versions made in 1977 - and even Elvis' jokes to distract JD, who laughs charmingly, are welcome.

- 26. Bosom of Abraham [Alexandria - March 29, 1977]: Maybe Alexandria reminds Elvis of the biblical city and that's probably why he insists on the Gospel. Here's a nice little acoustic version of the 1971 recording where he and The Stamps have fun with the harmonies.

- 27. You Better Run [Alexandria - March 29, 1977]: Continuing the Gospel medley, The Stamps help the singer do the 1966 recording. The feel is only disturbed by the occasional feedback.

- 28. How Great Thou Art [Alexandria - March 29, 1977]: "Let's do 'How Great Thou Art' while we're out here, fellows." This is a powerful and well-structured version, but unfortunately it is not the best version of 1977. Elvis' voice fails at the end and reveals that he is not in as good a health as he wants to make it out to be. Even so, the audience cheers and applauds effusively, making the joy overflow in his voice as he thanks the crowd.

- 29. Tryin' to Get to You [Abilene - March 27, 1977]: Fortunately, FTD decided to end this CD with a solid version of the best show of March 1977. Elvis gets the lyrics wrong at first, but concentrates and delivers a fantastic rendition that lifts the crowd.

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