Music Review: Elvis Presley - That's the Way It Is - (Legacy Edition)

By , Contributor
A mix of studio and live recordings, That’s the Way It is was issued in 1970 to coincide with the theatrical release of a documentary film of the same name. Though not, strictly speaking, a runaway commercial success (it fared well on the country chart but stalled at number 21 on the Billboard 200) it’s a terrific album deserving of the special treatment afforded by Legacy. Just how special that treatment is will depend on the depth of your wallet. Many fans will be satisfied by the two-disc Legacy Edition that offers expert remastering of the original, 12-song album, augmented by nine additional (previously released) bonus tracks. The second disc is a complete live recording of the August 12, 1970 concert taped for the film. All but four of the 17 tracks are previously unreleased.

The more serious Elvis fan will certainly want to invest in the eight-CD, two-DVD Elvis: That’s the Way It Is Deluxe Edition (or at least add it to their Christmas list and hope for the best). Decked out in lavish, boxed set packaging with rare photos and extensive liners notes, the Deluxe Edition dwarfs the Legacy Edition by retaining everything included in the smaller package, plus six more discs of additional live material recorded during the making of the film (the Aug. 10 “Opening Night,” a mostly previously unreleased Aug. 11 “Dinner Show,” Aug. 11 “Midnight Show,” Aug. 12 “Midnight Show, Aug. 13 “Dinner Show,” and “The Rehearsals”). The DVDs contain the original theatrical cut of That’s the Way It Is and the 2001 special edition.

Whatever your budget, Sony/Legacy has done fans right by documenting the extensive process of creating the That’s the Way It Is album. The original album is highlighted by the opening live rendition of B.J. Thomas’ “I Just Can’t Help Believin’,” with its irresistible hook, “This time the girl is gonna stay/For more than just a day.” Other monumental live cuts include “Patch It Up” (also included in its single version) and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” Of the studio recordings, “Mary in the Morning” was a personal favorite of Lisa Marie Presley’s (she’s quoted in the press notes as saying “I just love” that one). Maybe the most memorable moment is the album’s final track: Presley’s dramatic reading of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Singer Terry Blackwood (a member of the backing vocal group The Imperials) feels that Presley’s “Trouble Water” is “as popular as Simon & Garfunkel’s [original] version.”

The budget-priced Legacy Edition’s second disc is packed with more material that will be familiar to even the most casual Elvis fan. While the expansive deluxe edition provides the benefit of collecting all the That’s the Way It Is shows in one package, most of it has surfaced on various releases (though some material was issued on Sony’s collector-oriented Follow That Dream specialty label, making that stuff harder to find). The August 12 “Dinner Show” is a treat, including spritely jaunts through classics like “That’s All Right,” “Hound Dog,” and “Heartbreak Hotel.” There are also heartfelt versions of “Love Me Tender” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love” mixed with the That’s the Way It Is tunes such as “Patch It Up.”

Backing vocalist Millie Kirkham sums up the appeal of the Elvis Presley live concert experience with this thought: “Elvis sang all kinds of songs; he sang rock and roll, he sang old standards, he sang gospel and he sang contemporary hits of the day. He sang a little bit of everything. He could do it all.” And whether you opt for the two-disc version of That’s the Way It Is or (especially) the ten-disc edition, you’ll hear exactly what she means. If you’re able to go all-in on the deluxe set, you’ll note the shifting set lists. “He had a schedule of what he wanted to sing in a show but he would often change it,” Kirkham continues. “We’d worked with him so long we just went along with it.” Another outstanding entry in Legacy’s continued effort to preserve Elvis Presley’s recorded catalog.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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