On Stage: Legacy Edition is the latest release celebrating the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth.
Elvis had not performed live in eight years when he took the stage at The International Hotel in Las Vegas for four weeks during the summer of 1969. He returned for another month of performances in early 1970. A number of the songs from 1969 formed the live disc of the two record set From Memphis To Vegas – From Vegas to Memphis which was released during the fall of 1969 plus ten songs from the 1970 shows were released as On Stage during June of 1970. The albums were commercially successful receiving gold and platinum sales awards respectively.
RCA/Legacy has now combined this series of concerts into a two CD set. Each disc contains an original album plus bonus tracks. The sound has been scrubbed and cleaned and a booklet with photos plus a three thousand word essay gives a history of the performances and the albums.
I have most of the Elvis catalogue on vinyl and his 1969 concerts remains my favorite live performances. It presents a young, clean, and in shape Elvis at the top of his game. The patter with the audience shows a nervousness but makes the album have an intimate appeal that his later live work lacks.
His 1969 concerts concentrate on his early material and he presents it well as he had not performed it hundreds of times. During his last years this material would be presented quickly and many times in a truncated form. Here such classic songs as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “All Shook Up,” and “Hound Dog” quickly show why Elvis was The King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll. His medley of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” is more straight forward rock while “My Babe” has toughness to it. His hits of the day, “In The Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds” provide a nice balance to the concert. The only real miss for me was a cover of the Bee Gees hit “Words.”
There are six bonus songs included and the first three are nice additions and continue the resurrection of his classic rock material. “I Got A Woman,” “Jailhouse Rock/Don’t be Cruel,” and “Heartbreak Hotel” are all given good work-outs.
The second disc, which represents his 1970 performances, finds a far different Elvis. His concert repertoire had begun to change to more modern cover songs and this disc represents that trend. “See See Rider,” which would be overdone through the years, sounds fresh here. An early version of “Polk Salad Annie” and his only hit, “The Wonder Of You,” to be included on the original release are both performed well. Such songs of the day as “Sweet Caroline,” “Proud Mary,” and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” all benefit from his wonderful vocals but I would have preferred more of his own material from his vast catalogue.
The bonus tracks are more to my liking. “Don’t Cry Daddy,” and “Kentucky Rain” are two of his better songs from this part of his career. The rocking “Long Tall Sally” is great even if a little out of place given the other material. A rehearsal of “The Wonder of You” completes the album.
On Stage: Legacy Edition is a fine addition to the Elvis Presley catalogue. It combines some of his best live work into one package and has the sense to keep the flow of the original albums and concerts intact. While the material has been previously issued, it should prove pleasing to his vast fan base.