Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Dec. 6, 2002
Elvis PresleyToday, Tomorrow & Forever
Elvis PresleyElvis: The Great Performances (Rhino DVD)
For those Elvis fanatics on your holiday list who won't be satisfied by 30 No. 1 Hits, here are two high-end products for your consideration. Today, Tomorrow & Forever is a 4-CD set containing 100 previously unreleased Elvis cuts. That may sound impressive, but most of this unreleased material consists of alternate takes that will ring superfluous to everyone other than completists. Perhaps the one revelatory highlight is a scratchy, VU-meter-pinning recording of "Heartbreak Hotel," "Money Honey," and five more songs at a 1956 Little Rock concert. By contrast, the unreleased takes of "See See Rider" and "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" from Presley's 1970 Las Vegas show add nothing to existing versions. Discs two and three are top-heavy with alternate takes of already banal soundtrack selections. For every nugget like the effervescent "Pocketful of Rainbows" from G.I. Blues, there are two throwaways or just plain bad tracks like "The Love Machine" from Easy Come, Easy Go. If you really need to hear Presley's soundtrack highlights, 1995's Command Performances: The Essential 60s Masters II is a better investment. Rhino's 3-DVD Great Performances exudes a similar air of shoehorned re-purpose. The set consists of two 1990 video retrospectives (Center Stage and The Man and His Music) together with 1997's From the Waist Up, a documentary of the singer's earliest TV appearances. Clocking in at 159 minutes with few bonus features, the whole thing could have fit on one disc. While much of the footage on the first two discs is essential (the "Jailhouse Rock" sequence, "Guitar Man" from the '68 Comeback Special), it's presented with no regard for chronology and peppered with unnecessary voiceovers. From the Waist Up features Presley's Ed Sullivan performances and at least strives for competent narrative structure, but the actual narration is voiced rather pompously by U2's Bono. Besides, any Elvis Presley DVD compilation that doesn't include him adulterously cavorting with Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas is inadequate by default in my book.