In the late 1960s, Elvis Presley revitalized his career both by looking backward -- notably during the off-the-cuff performances of his old songs on his 1968 television special -- and by looking forward and beginning to perform new songs growing out of the trend toward maturity and social consciousness in writing that the '60s engendered. "Though he never became a hardcore protest singer during the 1970s," writes annotator Charles K. Wolfe in the liner notes to this album, "Elvis came to realize that he could not totally separate his personal life, or current social issues, from his music." The result was written-to-order songs like the anthemic "If I Can Dream," with which he closed the TV special, and his 1969 comeback hit "In the Ghetto," his first Top Ten single in four years. Both are included here in From the Heart, one of the volumes in Time-Life Music's series The Elvis Presley Collection. Though its title might suggest a companion volume to another series release, Love Songs, From the Heart contains songs with a philosophical or reflective bent, songs that might have a romantic element to them, but tend toward rhetoric. This sort of material made up a big part of Presley's repertoire during the last decade of his life, and much of it is here, including "Memories," "My Way," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and "An American Trilogy." Though Presley updated his outlook during the early '70s, his attitude toward the social changes of the era remained at best ambivalent; this was a man who sought out and shook hands with President Richard Nixon, of course, and "An American Trilogy," a medley of "Dixie," "All My Trials," and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," is hardly a revolutionary statement. As the '70s wore on, the singer focused more on songs of romantic loss, an interest usually attributed to the breakup of his marriage in 1972, and his performances became increasingly histrionic. Those tendencies are reflected in some of the later selections here.
The Elvis Presley Collection: From the Heart is a good compilation of an important thematic phase in Elvis Presley's work that would get a higher grade if the music itself were more impressive and the album better organized. Running 101 minutes over two discs, it could have been sequenced coherently and edited down to a single CD at a lower price. As with each release in the series, there is an unreleased cut, in this case an alternate take of "Separate Ways."