Unleashed! (front)Recorded Live at Birmingham Coliseum Birmingham, AL.
December 29, 1976

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01        See See Rider
02        I Got A Woman / Amen
03        Love Me
04        Fairytale
05        You Gave Me A Mountain (incomplete)
06        Jailhouse Rock (incomplete)
07        O Sole Mio / It's Now Or Never
08        Trying To Get To You
09        My Way
10        Polk Salad Annie
11        Band Introductions
12        Early Morning Rain (full version)
13        What'd I Say
14        Johnny B. Goode
15        Band Solos
16        Love Letters
17        School Days
18        Funny How Time Slips Away
19        Hurt (with reprise)
20        Hound Dog
21        For The Good Times
22        The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
23        Unchained Melody
24        Mystery Train / Tiger Man
25        Can't Help Falling In Love
26        Closing Vamp



Whatever reason befitted Elvis to give so much to his new year's tour of 1976 still escapes me, nonetheless nothing can be taken away from the king in this one of his most historic performances ever to be captured on CD. Unlike most of the rest of the year, Elvis seems happy with what he is doing and in himself. His voice seems willing to provide the most spectacular acrobatics, and the crowd cannot help but scream in tandem with the shear adrenalin Elvis gives to the performance and his musicians. One of the maddest performances you have ever heard. A wonderful listening experience with every number!

To start off we rocket into this show with a solid version of 'See See Rider', which right from the start, demonstrates the feel of the occasion with a trademark of years past, Elvis' cheeky giggle, that fools us for a few moments into thinking this is 1969.

Unlike other 1976 versions, 'I Got A Woman' and its always long introduction, has real substance as if Elvis is genuinely interested in its lyrics and preamble. A parody of an old joke started in 1972, not that it has lost its humor, that its humor is defined by the effort of the performer. As with any comedian, a good joke is best performed when it appears it is being said for the first time. In this case, Elvis pulls it off nicely.

After exciting the crowd by mentioning that it's his first performance in the city, Elvis rolls into a richer version of Love Me than seen earlier in the year. With less kisses and more singing adding to a richer listening experience. Of course the usual joke of making the backing singers wait some time at the end of the song, evidently drawing breath for his fantastic endnote. A great punch line.

An above average version of ‘Fairytale' follows, the first demonstration of the strength of Elvis' voice, and benchmark for things to come. The most vocally acrobatic version to date! ‘Mountain' delivers the over top ballad that we are now used to, not to say it's a bad thing! 'Jailhouse Rock' brings a little more effort than usual which on this album is a song you just don't skip due to the effort. The funny thing however is the reminder that Elvis is totally insane in this concert just before 'It's Now Or Never'. A garbled rant preceding this fine version to a fan resembles the affect of too much medication, or possibly too much Gatorade. Nonetheless it all adds to the fun which is the word which best describes this performance. ‘Trying To Get To Yall urrr You' is yet again taken in good spirit, and 'My Way', possibly lacking the commitment of 1977 performances, displays the freedom of his vocal range at this venue, adding to the already impressive endnote by pushing it even higher up the scale. Hardly surprising since his health and weight had improved over the Christmas period. Finally to finish off this section an extremely funky version of 'Polk Salad Annie', made all the more enjoyable by David Briggs' Clavinova. A slight hiccup in the drumming due to a drown out by the orchestra is only met by simply inquiry and forgiveness by the man in the Inca Gold leaf (namely Elvis), who in this show is only interested in having a good laugh. You're lucky this isn't Autumn 1974 Ronnie!

Unfortunately we're now plunging into the depths of the introductions, by this time taking up at least 10-15 min. of the show! There is not as much need to despair however as Elvis takes an active part in all of the band solos, making for more interesting listening and showing Elvis' commitment to the show as he would usually effectively take a breather throughout the displays of his musicians. 'Early Morning Rain' is taken at a good pace, 'What'd I Say' is a little rushed and 'Johnny B. Goode' is only one verse so there, I did it, I told you about the band intros now lets get on with the review.

Moving into the final section we are first greeted by a lovely version of 'Love Letters', which, unlike earlier versions, lacks the depression in its performance that could make the performer burst out crying at any moment. This is fortunate for us, as it DOESN'T lack the emotion that makes the song work. On the side, the tail end of introductions is still with us in this version of 'School Days', which only stands out for its endnote. 'Strained a gut' Elvis remarks (as it was a top B). 'Funny How Time Slips Away' is slightly spoilt by the Birmingham guys not quite knowing Elvis' routine, as the house lights go down about as soon as they go up. Elvis deals with it by telling them about it for around 15 seconds before they finally catch on, nothing major and it's still a fuller version than usual for this period. 'Hurt' is in my opinion, one of the best versions you'll hear. The song appears to have hit a climax around this time, and with Elvis' voice being in such good form the benchmark is rocketed skyward with some of the most amazing high notes ever to grace the arena. He just never ceases to amaze doesn't he? 'Hound Dog' is the standard throw away to justify a large portion of the ticket price. Not to say it's the worst version ever, just a constant in every show that isn't worth listening too unless it's the original. I couldn't tell you what year most of them were from. 'For The Good Times' is a little more unusual and is worth listening too to compare to 1972 versions, where I believe it was first introduced. On the scale of 1 to 10, I would give it an 8 for effort and atmosphere. The best part is the strange noise that makes Elvis shout out 'what the hell was that' and start over, it almost seems as if it was planted there to keep up the comedy feel. 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' is simply beautiful. Ginger Alden was in the audience at this show, and Elvis makes it clear he is singing it especially for her. The influence she had certainly seemed to lift Elvis' performances when they first met. In fact, he seems so determined to impress that he jokingly tells a fan to shut up during the quietest part as they won't 'stop yelling at me' .

In the closing numbers we are treated to one of the finest performances of the night, 'Unchained Melody'. Unlike 1977 versions, Elvis seems more comfortable with his technique and breathing, equaling all the greater of say Elvis In Concert, with one slight exception, which is his falsetto endnote. He just didn't seem to be able to hit them quite right at this point. Oh Well. Giggles still ablaze we enter 'Mystery Train/Tiger Man' which brings no surprises, and still contains those stupid scooping trumpets. God knows who added that. It may have even been Elvis for a joke! Whatever the case the show is now drawing to an end and it is time for the customary 'Can't Help Falling In Love'. A nice version that again represents Elvis' mood nicely in what has been an enjoyable listening experience. A few thrown scarves, a big end note and a short karate demonstration (if you've seen the video!) end this marvelous exhibition of immortality by the ONLY King of music.

This is by far one of the best concert CD's that I have. If you're interested, I also have this concert on DVD.


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