If you are old enough to remember the original broadcast of Elvis Presley’s Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite, then it is a safe bet that you are over the age of 40. It was almost exactly 40 years ago that the huge event was first shown on American television, on April 4, 1973. To celebrate this momentous anniversary, RCA Legacy have just released the double-CD commemorative package of Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite.
There are a number of reason this set is a “must” for Elvis fans, but the biggest is that it collects everything that was recorded for that momentous occasion in one set. First and foremost is the remixed edition of the original 24-track double-LP Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite. That album and show is deservedly famous, but this set also includes the not-so-well-known concert recorded on January 12, 1973.
Leaving nothing to chance, Elvis performed a “full dress rehearsal” concert on January 12, which was kept as a backup, just in case there were any problems with the big satellite broadcast to follow. Things went perfectly though, so what came to be called The Alternate Aloha stayed in the can for the next 15 years. With the eternal interest in all things Elvis, RCA released The Alternate Aloha in 1988. And now, for the first time, both shows are available together in this ultimate Aloha set.
You may note the discrepancies in the above dates, with the shows being in January, but not aired in the United States until April. While the concert was broadcast live via satellite to most of the world, it was held back for nearly four months in the United States. That was because at the time, Elvis On Tour was playing in movie theatres, and Colonel Tom Parker did not want to cannibalize ticket sales by airing Aloha on TV until after the film had run its course.
When it did air, it was a very exciting event. I’m giving my age away somewhat by saying I do remember it. Of course at the time, my musical taste veered a little more to The Partridge Family than Elvis, but I certainly enjoyed it. To tell the truth, what I remember most was his incredible outfit, and how exciting it all was. You could feel it, and even though I only knew a few of the songs, the whole spectacle was something that stayed with me over the years.
I never bought the album though, so hearing this set is really the first time for me in nearly 40 years. I must say the electricity in the air still comes through as strong as ever. Elvis used the dramatic “Also Sprach Zarathrustra” as his opening music, and it really sets the stage. As the music builds, the audience just roars, and it is still as exciting as ever.
The first song is “See See Rider” and Presley is in top form. The original 1973 double-vinyl album contained 24 tracks, which the first CD duplicates. The second, Alternate Aloha disc contains that previously mentioned “dress rehearsal” show, plus five bonus tracks. This is where things get interesting. There are a couple of differences between the two concerts. For one thing, the January 12 show featured 22 rather than 24 tracks. But there are five more songs that were recorded for the U.S. broadcast after the main event which did not appear on the original vinyl set.
After the big show, Elvis and the band recorded “Blue Hawaii,” “Ku-U-I-Po,” “No More,” “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” and “Early Morning Rain.” These were only shown on the April 4th American telecast, and left off of the original double-LP. They were appended to the CD reissue of Aloha from Hawaii in 1998.
So with this Legacy release, we get a grand total of 51 tracks, and it is all top-flight Elvis material. The main body of both concerts are nearly identical, with a couple of exceptions. Classic Elvis hits such as “Hound Dog,” “Burnin’ Love,” and “Suspicious Minds” were performed at both shows, as well as some great covers. The first of these was his version of George Harrison’s “Something.” Elvis delivered this great song with everything he had, and I’ll bet even the ex-Beatle was impressed with it.
Other highly notable covers include “Welcome To My World,” “My Way,” and “Fever.” As noted, the January 12 concert contained 22 tracks, and the January 14 one boasts 24. The broadcast concert actually features three songs that were not performed at the dress rehearsal, “Johnny B. Goode,” “I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You,” and “Medley: ‘Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” The 22nd track on the Alternate Aloha is “Closing Riff,” which really does not qualify as a “song,” but that is where the number 22 comes from.
To get technical about it, there are really only 19 songs on the Alternate, as the “Introduction” (‘Sprach Zarathrustra’), “Introductions by Elvis,” and “Closing Riff” are not really Elvis songs, but are tracks on your CD. There is no “Closing Riff” on Via Satellite, so the actual number of Elvis songs on that one is 20. Got it? Nit-picky stuff really, but those are the major differences.
The most important point is that Elvis was in excellent form during both shows, and it most definitely comes through here. Presley’s huge fan-base is kind of a pre-sold audience, so in closing I would like to address the average Joe. Like myself, really. I have always liked him, but would never be considered among the “fanatical” members of his audience. Still, I find this to be an excellent “one-stop” for two great performances of The King playing live. It was a major event, and deservedly so.
I am not going to say that Aloha from Hawaii is all the Elvis you need, because that would be silly. For “live” Elvis though, the argument could be made (for those on a limited budget at least), that this one would suffice. There is no question that this is the definitive edition, and Elvis Presley was absolutely in top form on both nights. For the curious, Aloha from Hawaii is not a bad place to start to see for themselves just what all the fuss was (and remains) all about. Long live the King.