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THE KING'S VEGAS PERIOD COMES OF AGE...
on 17 August 2014
Released as a tie-in to the Denis Sanders-directed documentary THAT'S THE WAY IT IS (1970), this superb album represents the maturation of Elvis Presley's Las Vegas stage show. Dispensing with many of the vintage rock and roll classics, Presley was now filling out his set with a broad range of emotive songs tackling the more adult aspects of love and romance.
By today's standards, THAT'S THE WAY IT IS presents something of an odd programme, in that it mixes live tracks inter-mingled with brand new studio cuts, in this case songs which Presley had recorded in Nasville during the summer of 1970. However, the blending of such superlative ballads as 'Twenty Days And Twenty Nights', 'Mary In The Morning' and 'The Next Step Is Love' with in-concert powerhouses like 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'' and 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' - two songs already on their way to becoming standards - manages to gel easily into a convincing and cohesive whole. Along with ELVIS COUNTRY, THAT'S THE WAY IT IS is easily a contender for Presley's finest album of the 1970s.
The first disc of this package is rounded out firstly with mono single mixes of 'I've Lost You' (a comparatively inferior live version is used on the album itself), 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me' and their respective b-sides, the truly delightful 'The Next Step Is Love' and a studio version of the up-tempo 'Patch It Up'. We then get a series of early takes, most notably a studio rendition of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' which is particularly impressive.
Disc two contains the entire "Dinner Show" from the 12th August 1970. While it may be true that some of Presley's on-stage banter and in-jokes get a little lost in translation, the bulk of the performances come across well enough, with previously unreleased versions of 'I Just Can't Help Believin'', the vibrant rocker 'Polk Salad Annie' and the de rigeur 'Suspicious Minds' more than making up for what had already become Presley's perfunctory lip-service renditions of the likes of 'Hound Dog' and 'Blue Suede Shoes'. The message was clear: Presley had moved on; he was by now 35 with a wife and young daughter and a song of depth and feeling like 'I Just Can't Help Believin'' seemingly meant more to him now than the rock and roll cornball of yore.
As the beautifully written booklet points out, less than a year after this film and album project, Elvis Presley's Vegas seasons were already losing their lustre. One could blame it all on his growing physical and emotional problems, but maybe it was also to do with Presley and manager Colonel Parker simply staying faithful to a good idea for too long and just taking it all too far.
Never mind, though. During the summer of 1970, Elvis Presley was unquestionably back where he belonged, creating some of his finest music in the studio and clearly in his element as a live performer. THAT'S THE WAY IT IS has it all.