This week I preview an upcoming release by the King from Sony.
Elvis Presley - "That's the Way It Is"
Some of the material on this eight-CD, two-DVD of the documentary of the King live in Las Vegas also includes some studio cuts mostly produced in 1970. Much of this has never been released before, and there's a slew of extra material and several shows featuring Elvis in prime form.
A modest documentary of Presley's return to the stage filmed in the early 1970s, "That's the Way It Is" is probably one of the best and most interesting documents of the King's return to form.
What makes "That's the Way It Is" so exciting is, first, the amount of unreleased Elvis and the shows themselves, which find Elvis to be in top form.
Commanding isn't even word enough to stress how good Presley was singing at this stage in his career. His voice had matured, and he dug into a slew of new material picked especially for him, producing the best music of his post-1950s material.
When Elvis was "on," he was really on, and it doesn't get any better than his singing on "That's the Way." You can tell Elvis was hungry again, not only for the stage but also the material. There's no obligatory "Hound Dog," "Blue Suede Shoes" or even "Are You Lonesome Tonight," which some later performances show Elvis was totally bored with.
Backed by one of the best live bands he ever had, Elvis' singing here is moving, emotional, heartfelt and extraordinary. He sounds totally comfortable, animated and riveting after years of having to sing junk forced on him through soundtracks to his lackluster '60s movie career.
To my ears his most brilliant moment comes on Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," with Elvis attaining emotional gold with an amazing vocal performance. Another show-stopper, "Patch it Up," also showcases the King in thrilling voice. Elvis also astonishes with "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," a song seemingly made for him but one he'd never sung before.
The bottom line is every cut is quality, and truly shows what Elvis was capable of when given the right material, the right band and the respect as an artist he deserved.
The one aspect that may turn some Elvis fans off is the repetition of much of the material from CD to CD. But die-hard Elvis fans are really going to dig hearing the master in one of his best settings ever.
The box set also includes two CDs of the documentary and live material as well as a book featuring a retrospective of his career at that point.
With the exception of Legacy's beautiful reissue of "Elvis is Back!" this is the best of post-50s Elvis, and for true fans it's not to be missed.