The Bottom Line
The conventional wisdom, which we can thank the US Postal Service for, is that there are two Elvises: the Fifties rockabilly rebel and the bloated Seventies joke. But any serious fan of the King knows that's an unfair simplification -- for one thing, there's an enormous difference, in both quality and form, between his "Comeback" gigs at the International Hotel in Vegas and his later heartland tours. The latter came to feel like caging a formerly wild animal and dragging it from town to town in a sideshow tent. But the Vegas years were a show, and it's this impression Elvis: Viva Las Vegas correctly leaves you with.
- This is a near-perfect recreation of those famous International Hotel shows.
- The selection focuses on songs that became famous mainly in the King's stage act.
- Elvis is in prime early-Seventies form, with none of his later sluggishness or bloat.
- Any serious Elvis collector already has this material in other sets.
- Release date: July 31, 2007
- RCA 711867
- Live (1970-1972)
- Las Vegas
- Single disc
Guide Review - Elvis: Viva Las Vegas (live CD)
If you can picture yourself driving to Sin City in early '70 with his studio hit "Viva Las Vegas" blaring from your drop-top, then walking through the International's halls and taking a seat just as the opening introductions are made, you can understand the sequencing here -- the studio hit and then the live show. The focus, again correctly, is not on the Fifties hits Presley would come to lean on in later tours, but the songs he made famous on stage: the top 40 hits "The Wonder of You" and "The American Trilogy," yes, but also Elvis glorying in the swamp-rock movement with "Polk Salad Annie," showing he keeps one ear to the radio with "Never Been To Spain," indulging his countrypolitan side with "Release Me" and "Walk A Mile In My Shoes," turning "Bridge Over Troubled Water" into a simultaneous hymn to God and monument to Elvis' own power, and always, always expressing his taste for the dramatic -- not just his flamboyant antics but his natural operatic vocal flair. This is a new kind of rock and roll, and it predates arena rock and recent Broadway rock by years.
The hardcore collector won't need this single-disc assemblage, which collects sonic artifacts from the longtime classic On Stage: February 1970, the expanded special edition of the Elvis: That's the Way It Is CD and the box set Live in Las Vegas. But this is still a near-perfect replica of Elvis in his best live era, all one on CD, from "See See Rider" straight through to "The Impossible Dream," and if you want to get someone (maybe yourself) into Elvis the live performer, this is a great place to start. It's the sound of Elvis re-inventing himself, and rock music, again.