By Chaz Lipp
Article first published as Music Review: Elvis Presley – Prince from Another Planet [Deluxe 2-CD/1-DVD Box Set] on Blogcritics.
Sony Legacy has put together quite a special package to document Elvis Presley’s historic 1972 concerts at Madison Square Garden. Prince from Another Planet is a two-CD, one-DVD box set. Though the music has been previously released, it has been remixed and remastered for optimal audio quality. The first disc is the afternoon concert from June 10, originally issued in 1997 as An Afternoon in the Garden. The second disc is the more famous evening show, having been in print since 1972 as Elvis: As Recorded at Madison Square Garden. Brand new is the DVD, which offers some real treats for Elvis fans (more on that later).
The sold out shows on June 10 and 11, 1972 were not only the first time Presley played MSG, they were his first actual concerts in New York City. He had performed for studio audiences on several television shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show, in 1956 and ’57. More than slightly evasive when asked why it took so long for him to come to the Big Apple, Presley stated at the press conference, “[We] couldn’t get a good building in 15 years…We had to wait our turn to get in.” The concerts were understandably treated as full blown events.
Those who have heard these concerts already know that Presley was in flawless voice throughout. The TCB Band, backing vocalists The Sweet Inspirations, and The Joe Malin Orchestra are all absolutely on-point for both of these shows. The entire gamut is covered, from the early rock and roll classics “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Hound Dog” (teased out humorously before a slightly funky arrangement) to more recent hits like “Suspicious Minds.” Including introductions and the intro/outro themes, the afternoon show has 25 tracks, while there are 22 for the evening show. A few tunes had been dropped from the matinee’s setlist, including “I’ll Remember You,” “Reconsider Baby,” and “Blue Suede Shoes.”
The DVD contains an excellent 25-minute featurette about the Madison Square Garden concerts. For purely casual viewing, this is the centerpiece of the disc. Combining interviews with some of the musicians from the backing band (including guitarist James Burton, pianist Glen Hardin, and orchestra conductor Joe Guercio) with press conference and performance footage, this is a solid “mini-documentary.” The complete press conference film is presented as well, which is about 10 minutes long (listed incorrectly as 12 minutes on the package).
Making the most of approximately 20 minutes of fan-shot 8mm footage, the entire audio of the afternoon performance is presented with the film footage in its appropriate place. In other words, for much of the hour-long set you’ll be watching a black screen. But where there is film available, it has been synced with the audio. The liner notes assure us that Sony has utilized every bit of existing footage that was presented to them, so what we have here is a rare chance to see Presley live on stage at MSG. Quite a restoration effort was invested in the 8mm material and it looks amazing considering it was filmed by a fan in the audience. We get to see a couple complete or near-complete performances (including “That’s All Right” and “Hound Dog”) as well as cool bits and pieces throughout—including the karate-inspired freak-out at the end of “Suspicious Minds.”
My only complaint about this package is my general distaste for sliding CDs and DVDs in and out of tight cardboard sleeves. I understand the overall move away from heavy plastic cases that most distributors have made. I also understand that increasing numbers of consumers only remove the discs once in order to rip them to a computer or mobile device. Still, the tri-fold sleeve isn’t conducive for removing the discs without getting fingerprints and possibly even scratches on them.
The 50-page booklet is a great guide to this set, with lots of photos, reprinted vintage articles, and an excellent new essay by Lenny Kaye. We even get to see the original New York Times article from which the collection’s title is taken. Fans of The King almost certainly have Prince from Another Planet on their Christmas lists, if they have managed to resist picking it up already. This is simply an essential set that perfectly documents an important chapter of Elvis Presley’s career.