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Flight of the Icarus – Aloha From Hawaii (1973)

By Mahnuel Muñoz

(Note: This is a review of the original concert soundtrack album.)

The significance of “Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii”, which turns 49, goes beyond being one of the most outstanding moments of 20th century pop, broadcast via satellite to the entire planet, placing it among the most watched programs in history. ; a show with which Elvis not only made the music that best represented him at that stage of his career reach everywhere; He also burned into the collective DNA the image that would transform him into an icon, almost the coat of arms of his generation: the sculptural toupee, the white suit, the American eagle, the cape, the knee on the ground, the outstretched arms.

This document is basic to understanding Elvis-person and character-because of how clearly it shows us his human side. I have mixed feelings about this album, it is not my favorite concert despite the unforgettable moments it has; Elvis is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the broadcast and I perceive him as somewhat rigid and formal in some sections; His classics are performed mechanically and there are countless better versions in previous and subsequent concerts. But in the moments in which he focuses art inward, when man surpasses the showman, barriers and preconceptions disappear, and we have before us the unfathomable artist with whom we fall hopelessly in love.

The Elvis Presley of 1973 is a performer influenced by the suffering of the man hidden behind the gold-rimmed glasses and the walls of Graceland. I am not going to focus on details that all fans know – and those who are not fans intuit or can easily consult -, because there is a lot and very good to talk about music.

That night’s repertoire is both a tour of his cultural contribution and a guided tour of the most hidden recesses of his soul, those responsible, for me, for the perennial value of this experience. Elvis Presley could and should dazzle the world with his voice and his presence, and what he decided to do above all else is share his internal struggle. It requires great courage.

On September 4, 1972, Colonel Parker announced at a press conference the creation and global broadcast via satellite, in January of the following year, of a television special on NBC starring Elvis, who would offer a concert at the Honolulu International Center in Hawaii. whose audience was estimated at around 1.5 billion people, an unprecedented milestone that would have its recording equivalent; In a subsequent press conference, the Colonel declared that the proceeds would be given to the Kui Lee Cancer Foundation, a famous musician from the islands who died due to the disease.

Elvis’ emblematic costume, designed by Bill Belew, would feature, at the singer’s express wish, the silhouette of the American eagle in the jumpsuit, belt and cape, and the stage, conceived by producer Marty Pasetta, had a catwalk that It ran towards the audience and allowed the singer to be closer to the audience. Behind him, some mirror-like polyester strips enlarged the dimensions of the space and in the background, Elvis’s name in different alphabets and the silhouette of a guitarist (who in theory was the king himself) were intermittently illuminated.

The show and the equivalent album were a logical—even necessary—step to give a new boost to Elvis’s career; Despite the critical and commercial success of the documentary “Elvis On Tour” (1972) and the constant sell-out at his concerts, the king’s popularity on the sales charts suffered a clear decline, caused by the drastic evolution of rock and roll. roll, and to an even greater extent, by the disastrous commercial policy of the record company, consisting of flooding the market with cheap reissues of old songs under the Camden label and putting minimal interest in making quality albums with the new material that Elvis generated in the studio at that time. The exceptions to the rule had been the live album “Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden”, number 11 on the charts and a gold record, and the single “Burning Love /”It’s A Matter Of Time”, number 2.

The formula for success seemed clear: a simple and direct Elvis who offered a fun and exciting show drawing on his glorious past. Extrapolating that to a global television program to reach those who otherwise would not be able to enjoy Elvis’ art live seemed like a safe bet.

After the dress rehearsal on January 12, which was recorded with the public to be used in case problems arose with the live broadcast, at 12:30 a.m. on January 14, Elvis came out on stage, with an imposing appearance as a result of a severe diet. and tough physical training to perform live for those present in Hawaii and viewers in, among other countries, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines and South Vietnam. The United States had to wait until April 4 so that the program did not interfere with the good commercial rhythm of the recently released “Elvis On Tour.”


Guitars: James Burton, John Wilkinson and Charlie Hodge

Bass: Jerry Scheff

Drums: Ronnie Tutt

Piano: Glenn Hardin

Choirs: J.D.Sumner & The Stamps, The Sweet Inspirations, Kathy Westmoreland.

Joe Guercio Orchestra.


“See See Rider”

This song was first recorded by singer Ma Rainey as a weepy blues in 1924. It is generally considered an American rural songbook song, with origins in the early 20th century. In the form in which it has reached our days as a standard it is attributed to Rainey herself along with Lena Arent. Many versions were recorded – some titled “CC Rider” or even “Easy Rider” – since then, almost always in the same sad tone. It is the complaint of a person with a broken heart due to the inconsideration of a loved one. Starting in the 1960s, the number of versions with a faster tempo grew. Elvis began to include her in his concerts in Las Vegas in February 1970, converted into an aggressive reproach to the woman who is gone. Over the years the piece became the opening theme in most of the king’s concerts. The introductory orchestral riff has become a classic and inseparable reference from Elvis of the 70s.

“Burning Love”

The song composed by Dennis Linde for Elvis in 1972 had been a resounding success on the sales charts, and yet the king never liked it. In the concert he performs the song with energy but, perhaps, little involvement, as if he were eager to get her off his back; All in all, he gives the audience a spectacular start to the show.


A brilliant love song by George Harrison included on The Beatles’ album “Abbey Road” (1969). Despite Elvis’ little personal affinity with the British four, he included this song in his recitals for several years and considered it important enough to make it part of his most crowded and crucial concert. The solemnity of its interpretation, completely opposite to the intimacy of the original, is enhanced by very sumptuous orchestra and choir arrangements.

“You Gave Me A Mountain”

This song composed by Marty Robbins was recorded by its author in 1966, although the first publication was a version by Frankie Laine in January 1969, whose success led to the recording of a good number of versions that same year.

Usually performed in a conversational and resigned tone, after passing through Elvis’ artistic and emotional sieve, the song becomes the lacerating prayer of a man who, after living a life full of calamities, finds himself stripped of what he loves most and unable to handle that pain. The lyrics contain so many similarities to Elvis’s personal situation at that time that listening to them is a direct access to his torment. Without a doubt, it should not have gone unnoticed by anyone that he was confessing his sorrow and his uncertainty to the entire world.

“Steamroller Blues”

Composed in 1970 by James Taylor, the author’s bland original interpretation does not lend credibility to the lyrics in which he tells us things like “I’m a napalm bomb, guaranteed to blow your mind.” I’m sure he intended it as a parody. However, sung by Elvis, the song is a real steamroller that advances slowly and intensely until it explodes in the last verse, after James Burton’s magnificent guitar solo; The king raises the pitch of his voice and his intentions to sinful levels, backed by the orchestra at full power and the female chorus lewdly repeating the phrases; It is not surprising that the song was published as a single in March 1973 (with “Fool” on the b-side). However, the commercial results were disappointing, a 17th place in the charts.

“My Way”

Frank Sinatra’s classic had its origins in the French song “Comme D’habitude” by Claude François, the lament of a man who sees his marriage die due to routine and lack of communication. The singer and composer Paul Anka turned it into an anthem of self-affirmation for Sinatra, who recorded it in 1969 and subsequently many artists of the most diverse genres tried to identify with its powerful message.

Elvis made a studio recording in 1971 that did not officially see the light of day until almost a quarter of a century later, so during the artist’s lifetime this was his most emblematic recording of the subject.

It is truly difficult to take a piece immortalized by Sinatra, give it a new dimension and, in some ways, a higher and deeper value, and Elvis hits the mark accurately. If at the time it may have been disconcerting that a 38-year-old man at the peak of his career would sing “And now, the end is near and so, I face the fall of the curtain,” the unfolding of events in Elvis’s life After “Aloha From Hawaii” they give this reading an autobiographical charge of almost unbearable beauty and bitterness. Unlike Sinatra, for most of his career Elvis couldn’t do things his way. He was irremediably dragged down by events and people that led him down inappropriate paths, particularly in his years in Hollywood and during his last decade; With only four years of life ahead of him and a devastated soul, body and mind, abandoned before the abyss by the majority of his entourage, the king will pour the best of himself onto records and stages in an epic, miraculous way: Elvis He died with songs. In light of these facts, it is possible to think that “My Way” would be a tool for him to convince himself that he was the owner of his own story. But on the other hand, in what really matters, what is strictly related to his musical creation, Presley left an aesthetically unmistakable, culturally indelible and emotionally unquestionable stamp on each song, and that is why “My Way” is such a valuable and heartbreaking testimony. and can, without shyness, share ownership of the topic with “The Voice”.

“Love Me”

The old parody country of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller that Elvis recorded in 1956 for his second LP always served him in concert to rest and distribute kisses and handkerchiefs.

“Johnny B.Goode”

A classic rock anthem composed by Chuck Berry in 1955 and recorded in 1958, which Elvis had performed in his recitals since 1969. In his first readings the king put all his effort into the task, but as the years went by Presley attacked the piece with more disinterest, and it basically became an opportunity to shine for guitarist James Burton.

“It’s Over”

Jimmie Rodgers composed this wonderful and sorrowful farewell song to love, which he published in 1966 in a very austere recording in which he accompanied his raspy voice with the guitar, creating in me the image of a helpless rural man crying his loneliness under an implacable sky. nocturnal, clean and starry.

Since its premiere, artists such as Glen Campbell, Eddie Arnold and Andy Williams incorporated it into their songbook, usually recreating the air of muted sadness of the original. In Elvis’ version, the work takes on a tragic perspective inspired by his own sentimental trauma, with a subtle, tense percussion line underscoring the singer’s somber reflections. The scenery is completed with orchestral and vocal arrangements that enhance the feeling of loss and helplessness, with Glen Hardin’s piano keys dripping like tears of helplessness and Elvis’s voice going from resignation to an anguished scream. This is, for me, one of the most perfect moments in Elvis’s professional life, in which voice, music and interpretation merge into a sublime and spherical creation that captures the essence of the Elvis of that time, a man and artist admired and powerful, however incapable of stopping, with his fortune and his talent, time and its dictatorship. These few minutes justify the greatness of this show, from which we could remove every technical artifice, every gesture to the gallery and every material purpose and we would not lose a trace of the shocking beauty that it treasures.

“Blue Suede Shoes”

The Carl Perkins anthem that Elvis recorded in 1956 is delivered quickly and superficially as a light interlude between authentic interpretations.

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry “

An old Hank Williams lament dating back to 1949 and, like the show’s previous recreations of country material, it takes on a bigger, deeper dimension. Hank’s litany becomes a dark, restrained bluesy cry, the lyrics of which are, once again, a purge of the king’s innermost emotions, who visibly physically shakes as he sings.

“I Can’t Stop Loving You “

Don Gibson composed and recorded this beautiful standard in 1957 that has been reinterpreted by countless artists from all corners of the musical map, with Ray Charles’ glorious reading in 1962 as the most famous version. Elvis tinkered with it in the 1969 American Studios sessions and incorporated it into his concert repertoire that same year. The King opts for a powerful and luminous gospel-wicker approach that expands the romantic melancholy of Gibson’s original serenade into a celebration of love enjoyed, even if it departs leaving only memories.

“Hound Dog “

The Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller classic that was number one for Elvis in 1956, is, as usual, performed out of pure commitment to the audience.

“What Now My Love “

This piece was born in 1961 from the French pen of Gilbert Becaud and Pierre Delanoe under the title “ET Maintenant” (“And now”) and its passage into the English language was signed by Carl Sigman. Among the numerous versions recorded over time, those by Shirley Bassey, Ben E. King, Engelbert Humperdinck, Herb Alpert and Frank Sinatra stand out.

Elvis knew and loved the song for a long time and even sang it privately with his friends.

The piece had entered Elvis’ live show in August 1972, as a perfect vehicle to channel the artist’s regret over his marital breakup. The lyrics are an elegiac appeal to the loved one in the face of the end of the relationship and the desolate panorama that extends from then on; The cyclical and obsessive melody grows in intensity like a bitter “Bolero” by Ravel and Elvis immolates in a chilling crescendo that culminates in one of his highest registers, life galloping away from his side and the orchestral apocalypse unleashing around him. back. An astonishing moment that appears on the podium of Presley’s masterpieces and that currently stars in numerous reaction videos on YouTube in which people who see and listen to the king are very shocked.


This composition by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell was released in 1956 and saw its most famous version in the voice of Peggy Lee in 1958. Elvis recorded it in 1960, upon returning from his military service, and the song was useful for him to exploit the maximum the most sensual veins of his song. When she performs it live she unleashes her charming sense of humor and resorts to leg and hip movements that ignite the most primal fires of her admirers.

“Welcome To My World “

John Hatchcock and Ray Winkler composed this sweet ballad that was a hit for Jim Reeves in 1962 and also earned the attention of other illustrious gentlemen of the Country genre such as Eddie Arnold or Ray Price, as well as the immense Dean Martin, greatly admired by Elvis.

It is a song with very unctuous lyrics and melody, which in my opinion works better the simpler the approach applied to it; I think Elvis gives it a light and elegant touch that improves the previously mentioned versions.

“Suspicious Minds “

Mark James’ classic about jealousy became an instant Elvis classic in 1969 and a staple of concerts ever since. With it, the king not only displays his vocal power but also his physical flexibility and sense of humor, although I think that this is a standard version, which pales in comparison to those of 1969 and 1970.

“I’ll Remember You”

The due tribute to Kui Lee arrives with a heartfelt and beautiful version of his classic dedicated, once again, to sentimental separation. Lee conceived it as a fresh bossa nova and Elvis had recorded it in the studio in 1966 converted into a beautiful bolero. But for me, this rereading far surpasses in vocal, interpretative and musical quality that first attempt and even the original, presenting itself as a sadly sweet poem of acceptance of the inevitable goodbye.

“Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin’Goin’On”

A brief medley of two rock and roll classics – composed the first by Enotris Johnson, Robert Blackwell and “Little” Richard Penniman and the second by David Williams and Sunny David – which Elvis had recorded in 1956 and 1970 respectively – and which, at the same time, As in the previous rock numbers, it is dispatched briefly.

“An American Trilogy “

Mickey Newbury created and recorded this medley in 1971 using three traditional American songs: “Dixie” (1859, attributed to Daniel Decatur Emmett), a song much loved by the Confederate army – and for years, considered offensive by defenders of the rights of the African Americans -, “Battle Hymn Of The Republic” (1861, with lyrics by Julia Ward on a melody by William Steffe dated 1856), a famous military song from the Northern States, and “All My Trials”, a lullaby of origin uncertain – some researchers place it in the Bahamas – sung by black slaves on the plantations, which recreates the song of a woman on her deathbed to her children, to whom she assures that all anguish, no matter how severe, ends up passing ; That is why it was an anthem in the 1960s within the American civil rights movement.

With this medley, conceived by Newbury as a way of national reconciliation, Elvis tries to make a compendium of the different social sensitivities of his country to show them to the world and appeal to fraternity between people. In the rawest stage of the fight for civil rights, Presley was in Hollywood and his voice did not join those of the multitude of artists who did sing and shout against unreason. At the end of the sixties, with “In The Ghetto” and “If I Can Dream” the king takes sides on the issue, compensating for a decade of social inaction, and his commitment to the protest song culminates in this sublime work in which everyone His material resources, his voice and his heart stand before the land that saw him born as a man and legend, that elevated him and brought him down capriciously. Here, the United States is contained within the confines of the king’s skin and bones. Stars and stripes are perceived in the white and radiance of the suit that tightens the flesh of the humble native of Tupelo who has become, despite himself, a god, a god capable of erasing the color of the skin, the ink of birth certificates. and the lines that separate social strata.

“A Big Hunk O’Love” 

Aaron Schroeder and Syd Wyche composed this powerful rock that Elvis recorded in 1958. It is one of my favorite rocks and probably Elvis’s, which he embellishes with a noticeably more energetic and committed performance than the rest of the evening’s dance songs and provides, with the support of its musicians and backup singers, a resounding end to the party worthy of what was experienced.

“Can’t Help Falling In Love “

And, of course, the closing of each concert comes with the ballad by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George Weiss that, as an intimate ode to love, had dazzled the world on the soundtrack of “Blue Hawaii” in 1961. In the live shows , the song becomes a stadium anthem, a huge THANK YOU from Elvis and his people to the audience that always was, is and will be, at the foot of a stage, on the other side of the music player or the television screen.

The concert’s soundtrack album was released in February 1973 and became their only No. 1 album of the decade.

The success of the concert made people think of other similar events, but unfortunately that never took place. It was Elvis’s particular flight of Icarus; There were still great shows and magnificent albums, but the wings of his spirit, already melted, will not lift him so high again. Although that is another story and I don’t want to end on a bitter note, just celebrate that unique moment in which Elvis connected like never before and never after with the exact point where the most golden of his art and his person converged.

Article written and provided by Mahnuel Muñoz https://www.facebook.com/mahnuelmunozoficial


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