Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Elvis Presley - A Profile: The King on Stage Vol.2

Elvis Presley
A Profile: The King on Stage Vol.2

Released 1996 on Fort Baxter (Bootleg)
Reviewed by Klaus Trofobya, 07/01/2009ce

Yes, I know.
Those (two or so) of you who saw "Elvis Presley" in the "Artist" field of this review who didn't either A: Let out the smuggest of black coffee-reeking psychedelia-slut chortles before moving on to more comfortable Amon-Hawk-Gong-Tempel safety zones, or B: Navigate away from this site entirely, convinced that it has been sullied, cracked forever by the mere mention of, well, we dare not utter the name again lest the ghost of Conny Plank visits us in our hoariest nightmares to torment our sleep with but one word-"Traitor" played endlessly through an ever-coruscating blast of Echoplex, are probably bemused by mild curiosity, waiting for the punchline, as it were.

Well, kiddies, there is none.

When one thinks of great "outsider" rock albums, Discs like "The Madcap Laughs", "Gremlins Have Pictures", and "Oar" immediately come to mind. They (and their respective creators) have earned their rather particular, precarious place in the pantheon (how's that for alliteration?) because they are signposts at the razor's edge of the psychedelic experience-the place where genius, overexertion, and Bacchanalian excess break the fragile skin of sanity and push through into territories which are frightening and wildly new before collapsing in on themselves, no longer able to take the psychic strain of being an open conduit for the collective unconscious. They are hard albums to listen to, because while they soar so close to perfect brilliance, madness melts their wax wings and sends them crashing into the ocean time and time again, but worthwhile for those brief, dizzying glimpses of perfection. The ups outweigh the downs, Y'dig?
Conversely, the downs are also fascinating because, well, they're crazy. As in, mentally ill.
And if those albums are largely the sum of insanity+psychedelics+alcohol, then the recording which comprises "A Profile: The King on Stage Vol.2" is the result of egomania+bennies+high fructose corn syrup.

It's a live bootleg of Elvis on the second night of his 1974 tour in College Park, Maryland, widely recognized as his absolute WORST recorded concert (a recording of the first night exists in a nicer package entitled "Chaos in College Park", but its the second night captured on this recording that is the abyss to truly cringe into), but that description barely does it justice. While I don't really buy into the idea of things (especially things musical) being "so bad they're good", This performance comes close.
I will say that it's goddamned captivating. From the very start, everything is completely wrong. Elvis burbles and chokes out the lines he remembers without any semblance of melody, pitch or timing, and just flat out makes up shit when he (frequently) forgets the words. Between the abortions that were once classic tunes, He rambles (and rambles) practically out into the parking lot about whatever pops into his addled head-from his love of "Show Biddnuss, Bisnid, Business" to his mastery of Karate, to the newspaper reviewer who mocked his paunch (he claims its a bulletproof vest he's wearing under his jumpsuit, in case "some fool decides to take a .22 and shoot his belly button off"), at one point he even threatens to cut the soundman's kidney out. No foolin'. And when the torpid one needs a breather, his vocal group (whose names he can't remember) torture us with utterly tepid renditions of "Killing Me Softly" and "When its My Time", the climax of which Elvis forces its singer to perform again, because he "Really takes it to hog Heaven". You really kinda have to feel sorry for the T.C.B. Band, who, for what they did, were really quite a cracking group, Guitarist James Burton, especially. You can actually hear them trying, to no avail, to pick up the greasy pieces "The King" was leaving all over the stage.
Its the type of Schoolbus wreck I could go on explaining forever, but you really just need to hear it. Everybody does, especially connoiseurs of drug music, because it stands as a dire warning of the real dark side of indulgence in both substances and hubris. Its also entertaining as hell, for no correct reasons. In my opinion, its the only Elvis recording besides his ubiquitous, Pangaea-cracking first Lp worth owning. I play them back to back whenever I feel my opinion of myself getting a little too Messianic.

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