Culled from sessions, Las Vegas concerts and rehearsals for the 1970 documentary "That's The Way It Is" captures the 35-year-old Elvis Presley still glowing from the resurrection of his 1968 comeback special and a fresh string of hits.
Like many Sun Records alumni, Presley strongly related to the gospel elements that bled from soul into mainstream pop during the previous decade. Resultantly, his stage-show featured gospel back-up singers and hyped-up spiritual arrangements on an impressive melting pot of roots and pop material.
Whether covering the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Felling," Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" or Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Presley raves like a tent revival preacher wallowing in the throes of sin while trying to sell salvation. That he eventually lost those battles in his personal life makes these performances all the more compelling in retrospect.
A true eclectic, Presley regarded Adult Contemporary with as much favor as country or rock - sometimes more. "Mary In The Morning" and "How The Web Was Woven," and the Orbisonesque remake of Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me," are achingly fine examples of his skill on poignant ballads.
Clearly the burgeoning nostalgia movement meant little to Presley, who preferred venting his snarling blues urges through Tony Joe White's "Polk Salad Annie" than his own seminal creations. Though he gleefully rocks through retooled versions of "That's All Right Mama," "Mystery Train/Tiger Man, and "One Night With You," the former Hillbilly Cat profoundly disappoints with throwaway renditions of his popular '50's hits. However, the groovin' "Little Sister/Get Back" medley, salacious "Cindy, Cindy," and several rough rehearsal tracks will tickle those seeking proof that Vegas and Hollywood did not entirely snuff out Presley's true-rockin' heart. With few exceptions, Presley sounds vocally impassioned and creatively engaged on everything he attempts.