Elvis Presley

The Great Performances, Vol. 1: Center Stage

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The first of three volumes of Elvis Presley footage contain 53 minutes of clips that by and large are excellent, with all but four of the 14 songs sourced from performances in his early 1956-1957 prime. The best of these are his early 1956 television network performances on the shows of Ed Sullivan, the Dorsey Brothers, Milton Berle, and Steve Allen, including his bump-and-grind version of "Hound Dog" on Milton Berle, his consciously tamed-down singing of "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" on Steve Allen, his cover of "Money Honey" for the Dorsey Brothers, and a cool cover of Little Richard's "Ready Teddy" for Ed Sullivan. The other early clips come from his early movies, and while these can't quite compare to the TV performances, as they're lip-synced, they do include some fine scenes, particularly the choreographed theme song sequence from Jailhouse Rock and the title tune to King Creole. As a much rarer item, there's also Presley's first screen test, in which he lip-syncs "Blue Suede Shoes" on April 3, 1956. Of the four non-'50s clips, two are from his 1968 comeback TV special; another, a 1970 Las Vegas performance of "Suspicious Minds," from Elvis: That's the Way It Is; and another, "Unchained Melody," from Elvis in Concert, filmed just a couple of months before his death. There are also a few fairly interesting snippets of home movies, press conferences, and the like linking the songs; it's interesting to hear Elvis slightly mock his early Sun singles as having too much echo about 15 years after their release at a press conference shortly after his return to live performing. Longtime Presley friend George Klein does a good job of voice-over narration, though unfortunately the voice-over occasionally goes over the clips themselves for a few seconds. The only DVD extra of note is a trivia track (which can be turned on or off), which flashes factoids in subtitle print at the bottom of the screen once in a while.