On Stage: Legacy Edition is a double CD reissue containing two highly regarded Elvis Presley live albums. Both recorded in Las Vegas, the original albums are supplemented with a clutch of bonus tracks. While all the extra material was already available on other archival releases, it's nice to have it in one place.
Disc one features all ten tracks from 1970's On Stage, recorded live at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. The disc is filled out with four bonus tracks, including a rehearsal version of "The Wonder Of You." The second disc's songs were released in a couple different configurations, with the first dozen tunes eventually landing on 1970's Elvis In Person. There are six additional tracks included on disc two. These recordings also came from shows at the International Hotel. While most of On Stage's performances date back to February, 1970, the In Person material was taken from shows that occurred in August, 1969.
For fans of Presley's Vegas era, this is a great package. The remastered sound is superb. Also excellent are the liner notes, which include a lengthy all-new essay by Ken Sharp, author of the recent book Elvis: Vegas '69. The gatefold cardboard case, housed in a sturdy mylar sleeve, is consistent with earlier Legacy Edition reissues.
It's a tougher call for those, like myself, who are primarily interested in Presley's 1950's heyday. The second disc of On Stage: Legacy Edition is loaded with songs from that period. They just don't sound as rough and ready as their earlier studio versions. "Mystery Train," "All Shook Up," and "Heartbreak Hotel" are all accounted for – to name just a few – but they lack the raw energy of The King in his youth. After years of movies and their respective soundtracks, Presley had become an established showbiz performer by this point.
The first disc has even less to offer in terms of fiery rock'n'roll. There are lots of covers, all delivered in the cheesy, over the top fashion that characterized so much of Presley's late career. Del Shannon's "Runaway," The Beatles "Yesterday," and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary" receive the Elvis treatment. His vocals are consistently strong and distinctive, but the arrangements simply lack any real rock authenticity. The iconic rebel who scared so many parents fifteen years earlier was now a mainstream middle-of-the-road entertainer.
There will never be a shortage of rabid completists, ready to snatch up every repackaging. On Stage: Legacy Edition is worth picking up, especially since it is budget-priced. RCA/Legacy has done an excellent job compiling this collection of Presley's earliest Vegas concert recordings.