The soundtrack to an ABC-TV special, Elvis: Viva Las Vegas documents the king's years in a place, the International Hotel (later the Las Vegas Hilton), where he played close to one thousand shows, before two million fans, over the course of seven years. Dramatic, intense, driven and earthy, frequently moving, but not without the occasional cloying note, an Elvis show in the early '70s was the apotheosis of rock music. It was rock and soul, gospel and pop, blues and country. It was Elvis at maximum energy, whether he was kicking his older hits into a higher gear or down-shifting to make a burning ballad out of one of his favorite songs from the past few years. Elvis and his coterie took what had once been simple and unadorned and transformed it into one of the glitziest extravaganzas ever seen. Elvis: Viva Las Vegas is a live compilation (except for the studio version of the title track), most of it recorded during his earliest engagements at the International Hotel in February and August of 1970. (The same material can be found on the original live album On Stage: February 1970 as well as the expanded That's the Way It Is; the rest are from a February 1972 show that had previously appeared on the box set Live in Las Vegas.) The focus here is on material that Elvis had not made his own, but nevertheless seemed to fit with what he wanted to express in his post-movie years -- songs that struck the grand note, that stood for nothing less than a maximum of drama and feeling, songs like "Let It Be Me," "Release Me," "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," and "Bridge over Troubled Water." Late-period Elvis is not the way most fans wish to remember him, but it's an important part of his career, and both the film and soundtrack for Elvis: Viva Las Vegas document it well.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush