Burning Love (RCA07863 67742 2 – Released: 1999)
On January 26, 1972 Elvis kicked off his now customary late winter Las Vegas season with the usual mixture of old favourites and newer material. As a number of songs had been added to Elvis’ stage repertoire that he had yet to
record in the studio, RCA’s mobile recording unit arrived at the Hilton Hotel in mid February, and recording commenced on February 14th through February 17th. As had been the case with Elvis’ last live album “On Stage, February,
1970 ”, the emphasis here was on recording new material, and for this reason various selections, rather than complete shows, were recorded on RCA’s 16 track recording equipment over the four day period.
Two of the songs recorded by RCA, namely, “The Impossible Dream” and “It’s Over” had been introduced into Elvis’ stage act during his previous two Las Vegas seasons in 1971. “It’s Impossible” had actually replaced “Can’t Help
Falling In Love” as Elvis’ closing song during his first Las Vegas season of the previous year, and was obviously a favourite of Elvis’, who was considering the song for a future single release. “It’s Over” (not the Roy Orbison
song), like most of the other new songs Elvis’ had added to his stage repertoire documented the break up of a relationship, and was indicative of his own personal situation at the time.
The Marty Robbins hit “You Gave Me A Mountain” fitted into the same genre, whilst the Perry Como hit “It’s Impossible”, was also given sombre treatment from Elvis. The more contemporary “Never Been To Spain”, a hit for Three Dog
Night, was also covered in fine style, along with Mickey Newbury’s “An American Trilogy”, which was basically a new arrangement of “Dixie”, “All My Trials”, and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” that the patriot in Elvis identified
with strongly. The song was beautifully performed during this Las Vegas season, and went on to become the centrepiece of many Presley concerts during the ‘70’s.
Although the majority of the songs recorded by RCA were of a reflective, and personal nature, the performances couldn’t be faulted, and RCA captured Elvis in fine voice. In addition to the new material the ‘50’s classic “Hound
Dog” has been given a new arrangement for this Las Vegas season, and was now performed in a slow funky blues style, before a tempo change towards the end of the song. Elvis had also re-introduced the medley of his 1961 hit “Little
Sister” and The Beatles 1969 hit “Get Back” into his act (the song had first been performed in this way during August 1970), whilst his 1959 hit “Big Hunk O’ Love” had also been given a new arrangement, featuring some fine piano
plating from Glen D. Hardin. These performances, amongst others, were also recorded by RCA, and a fine live album was beginning to take shape.
Whilst Elvis had been performing in Las Vegas plans were underway for a second MGM live performance documentary, which would concentrate on his tour shows, rather than his Las Vegas performances. Elvis was due to record further
new material at RCA’s studios in Hollywood in late March, and the MGM cameras would be present for the tour rehearsals, which would also take place in RCA’s Hollywood studios, after the recording sessions were completed.
The RCA session lasted three nights from March 27th to March 29th and produced seven masters. Like the new material RCA had recorded in Las Vegas the previous month, most of the songs Elvis chose to record were ballads that
reflected is own personal situation, but again there were some fine performances amongst them. The first song Elvis recorded, “Separate Ways”, was the most personal of the entire session, and had been written for him by his long
time friend Red West. This was followed by a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “For The Good Times”, another lament to lost love that Elvis’ obviously identified with at this period of his life.
The final song to be recorded on the first night “Where Do I Go From Here” had the same theme as the previous two, but wasn’t really up to the same standard. However, Elvis still recorded eight takes before he was satisfied with
his own performance.
On the second night Elvis’ producer Felton Jarvis was keen to get Elvis to record a version of the Dennis Linde penned rocker “Burning Love”. The song, which had already featured on an album by Arthur Alexander, had obvious hit
potential but Elvis was in the mood for more reflective ballads, and wasn’t keen to record it. It took Felton, and the majority of the guys in the studio with Elvis to persuade him that the song was worth trying, and after six
takes, the master take which would become a Presley classic, and his biggest hit single stateside since “Suspicious Minds” in 1969, was in the can.
Whilst Elvis had every right to be satisfied with his recording, it didn’t change the direction of the rest of the session, and he followed “Burning Love” with “Fool”, another big ballad about the breakdown of a relationship.
The first song to be recorded on the final night of the session, “Always On My Mind”, continued in the same vein, but it was a excellent country ballad written by Johnny Christopher (“Mama Liked The Roses”) and Mark James
(“Suspicious Minds”), that had obvious hit potential. Once again the personal nature of the song brought out the best in Elvis, and the recording is now regarded as one of his best ‘70’s performances.
The last song that the session produced, “It’s A Matter Of Time”, whilst still addressing the subject of relationships, had a more optimistic feel, and produced a good performance from Elvis, who had the master nailed by the
third take. The song was penned by British writer Clive Westlake, and originally issued as the flip side to the “Burning Love” single.
The MGM cameras arrived at RCA’s studios on March 30th to begin filming rehearsals for Elvis’ April tour of America’s southern states, which would be the main focus of their documentary, provisionally titled “Standing Room
Only”. RCA had also decided to follow the tour, and record additional material for the live album they had started recording in February, and at this stage, the live album was also due to be titled “Standing Room Only”.
Both RCA and MGM began recording during the evening show at the Coliseum in Hampton Roads, Virginia on April 9, 1972, and a further three shows were filmed and committed to tape. Elvis showcased most of the material RCA had
recorded during February 1972, along with the recently recorded “For The Good Times” and “Burning Love”, together with a number of old favourites, and songs that had been introduced into his stage repertoire since 1969. The
resulting documentary was slated for a November 1972 release, and by the time it was completed, the title had been changed to “Elvis On Tour”.
Before the documentary was released Elvis was scheduled to perform at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and as the concerts were the first had ever played in New York City, they attracted a great deal of media attention and sold
out in no time. RCA decided to record two of Elvis’ New York shows with a view to issuing a live album, and subsequently recorded both the matinee and the evening performance on June 10, 1972.
Both shows produced fine performances from Elvis, and it was the evening show that RCA chose to rush release as “Elvis as Recorded Live at Madison Square Garden”.
The album was a huge success, but as it featured a number of songs that had already been performed and recorded in Las Vegas during February, and on the road in April, the “Standing Room Only” album was scrapped, and most of the
performances remained in the RCA vaults.
The “Burning Love” single reached No.2 on the Billboard charts, whilst it’s follow up, “Separate Ways” c/w “Always On My Mind” also did reasonably well reaching the number 20 position. The time was right to build a new studio
album around these recent hit records, but following the release of the “Madison Square Garden” album there wasn’t an abundance of new songs left in the RCA vaults. However, there is really no excuse for what RCA did next. “Burning
Love” and “It’s A Matter Of Time” were issued together with eight previously released movie soundtrack recordings that pre-dated the lead tracks by several years on a budget album titled “Elvis sings Burning Love and Hits From His
Movies”. Whilst the cheap price, and the fact that the album was available at a number of retail outlets outside of the regular music chain stores meant that the album sold well, artistically the album did Elvis no favours what so
ever, and meant that his 1972 recordings were never issued collectively on the album they deserved.
With the exception of the studio recording of “For The Good Times”, the rest of the material from the March 1972 RCA sessions was issued on single and album releases during 1973, along with Elvis’ February 1972 recording of
“It’s Impossible”. At the start of 1973 RCA still had Elvis’ recordings of “You Gave Me A Mountain” and “It’s Over” from the previous February in their vaults, but as these songs were performed during Elvis’ satellite broadcast,
“Aloha From Hawaii”, and issued on the resulting soundtrack album, the February 1972 masters of these were not issued officially during Elvis’ lifetime.
Finally, in 1995, with the release of the ‘70’s box set “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”, the March 1972 studio performance of “For The Good Times” was issued, along with seven live performances from Elvis’ February 1972 Las Vegas
season. The live recordings consisted of the six new songs RCA had committed to tape, along with a great live rendition of “ A Big Hunk O’ Love”. All of these had been available unofficially for some time, after being issued back in
1978 on the bootleg album “The Legend Lives On”. An alternate February 1972 performance of “Big Hunk” had also been issued back in 1981 on the album “Greatest Hits Volume One”, and to confuse things further, both of these
performances were given the same master serial number.
With most of the recordings that would have featured on the cancelled 1972 album “Standing Room Only” now officially available, the next logical step would be to compile these on an album in their own right, and this finally
happened in 1999 with the release of the CD “Burning Love”. The album featured the seven live masters RCA recorded in February 1972, along with the seven studio masters Elvis cut in Hollywood the next month. As CD releases offer a
much longer playing time than the old vinyl albums the programme was extended further, and also featured Elvis’ 1972 live renditions of “Hound Dog” and the “Little Sister”/”Get Back” medley, along with two non album singles from
1971, the excellent “I’m Leavin’” and the Mark James penned “It’s Only Love” which had given Elvis a surprise UK top ten hit when released as a single there for the first time during 1980.
Finally, some 27 years after the tracks were originally recorded, and thanks to the efforts of Ernst Jorgenson and Roger Semon, the album Elvis could have been proud of in 1972 was issued, and it makes a welcome addition to any
serious collection of Presley recordings.