That’s The Way It Was (Godfather Records GR 612/613)
RCA Studios, Hollywood, CA – July 24th, 1970
Disc 1 (55:03): That’s All Right, I Got A Woman, The Wonder Of You, I’ve Lost You, The Next Step Is Love, Stranger In The Crowd, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, Something, Don’t Cry Daddy, Don’t Cry Daddy (reprise), You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, Polk Salad Annie, Bridge Over Troubled Water, I Can’t Stop Loving You, Just Pretend
Disc 2 (71:54): Sweet Caroline, Words, Suspicious Minds, I Just Can’t Help Believin’, I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (reprise), Tomorrow Never Comes/Running Scared (one line), Mary In The Morning, Twenty Days And Twenty Nights, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, I Just Can’t Help Believin’, Heart of Rome, Memories, Johnny B. Goode, Make The World Go Away, Stranger In My Own Hometown, I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
1970 was busy for Elvis Presley with sessions for two studio albums (Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old) and a marathon session in Nashville in June which producedThat’s the Way It Is Love Letters from Elvis), two month-long engagements in Las Vegas (from which was released the live LP On Stage, several singles and the documentary film Elvis: That’s the Way It Is) and short tours to Texas in the spring and around the West Coast in the fall.
Because the August 1970 Vegas shows were going to be filmed for the documentary, Elvis and the band held several rehearsals in Hollywood. These rehearsals in Hollywood were all filmed for the documentary. Tapes circulate of the MGM rehearsals on July 16th and July 29 but are poorly recorded and are plagued with distortion.
But the RCA tape, produced by engineer Al Pachucki, sounds magnificent. It was recorded and filmed for the documentary. Only four songs, “I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water,” “Johnny B Goode,” “Mary In The Morning” and “The Wonder Of You” were officially released as bonus tracks on That’s The Way It Is Special Edition.
That’s The Way It Was on Godfather is a new release with the July 24th sessions at RCA Studios. They were previously released in 1998 on The Brightest Star On Sunset Boulevard Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (Fort Baxter 2206). Godfather gave this a much needed reissue with improved sound quality.
July 24th sounds much like a serious dress rehearsal, playing the set in sequential order and tyring to play as tight as possible. For instance, the tape starts off with drummer Ronnie Tutt’s snare introduction to “That’s All Right,” signalling the King’s entrance onstage much the way it’s heard in the film.
Some songs display impromptu arranging by Elvis. “I’ve Lost You” has him singing “the moment love grows cold … a little heavier” and “Don’t Cry Daddy” sees him improvising “together we’ll put you on a bomber… ” (“that was moderate” he comments afterwards).
“Just Pretend”, a gospel ballad and one of the better cuts from the June 1970 Nashville sessions, has a more blues infused arrangement. Drummer Tutt requests a bathroom break to which Elvis replies with a line from Joe South’s “Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home.”
The second half of the rehearsal is more loose and contains more rarities. They run through more songs from the show including “Sweet Caroline” with a brief reference to “Love Me Tender” afterwards (“We did ‘Love Me Tender’ Joe, so put that one down” Elvis quips) and a take of “Suspicious Minds”which sounds different with only the rhythm section.
But the they attempt a cover of Ernest Tubb’s “Tomorrow Never Comes.” Sung in the style of Roy Orbison, Elvis also includes a verse of “Running Scared.” The ending is a bit too much for him to handle.
By the end things start to get out of hand. “Heart Of Rome,” recorded in Nashville in June, is given a loose interpretation with Elvis imitating the Latin flavor and altering the lyrics “I’ll take a piss in every fountain” instead of “I’ll make a wish in every fountain.”
It comes to a climax with a blues version of “Stranger In My Own Hometown.” His vocals are very rough and he interjects several funny comments like “I’m goin’ back to Memphis, I’m gonna start driving that motherfuckin’ truck again… yeah, ol’ Joe, Charlie and Richard gonna starve to death, yeah Sonny’ll be in the pen.” The tape ends with a silly “I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water.”
Overall the tape reveals both a serious and fun side to Elvis, before the constant Las Vegas shows began to wear him down under his already considerable legend. The packaging is great and Godfather are to be commended for covering this time period in Elvis’ career.