The On Stage album has always been special to me, ever since I first heard a scratched copy of it, borrowed from my local library. Since then I've picked up the LP, the original CD release, the extended version and just a couple of weeks ago, the 40th Anniversary Legacy Edition.
As far as packaging goes, the Legacy Edition is definitely the ultimate version of the album. Released in a 5" digipack format with a beautiful matt black finish, it includes a 24 page booklet with liner notes written by Ken Sharp, the guy behind the Elvis: Vegas '69 book. The well written text is accompanied by lots of photos as well as memorabilia.
Before buying the Legacy Edition I read a lot of reviews stating that these February 1970 recording had never sounded better, and I'm happy to report that they were right. "Crystal clear" and "crisp"were some of the adjectives used to describe the sound, and I agree. Were these songs really recorded 40 years ago?
Consequently, it's a joy to listen to the On Stage Legacy Edition. From the driving intro of "See See Rider" to the bombastic ending of "Let It Be Me" you get to listen to Elvis singing more contemporary material, clearly growing artistically and finding new musical directions. It's a fascinating journey.
The showstopper, Tony Joe White's "Polk Salad Annie" has always been a favorite of mine, and I loved reading in the booklet what the songwriter had to say about Elvis recording his song live:
"They flew us out to Las Vegas to see Elvis perform it. It was weird because I was doing Elvis' early stuff in my early days and now all of a sudden he was doing mine. I was totally in awe of the whole thing. Elvis connected with "Polk Salad Annie" because he had eaten polk and he understood it plus it was a great rocker for him.. He put all his moves and dancing into it. He really just got down with it. It seemed like he worked that song harder than anything."
It's also great to get the full rehearsal of "The Wonder Of You" released officially for the first time. This includes three complete takes and it's strange they are not listen on the cover, just the title of the song. Elvis is in good humor, singing, "You get me hope and constipation" during the first try.
So, is this the ultimate version of On Stage? Sound wise I'd say yes, and that also goes for the packaging. But I do miss the "Hey Jude" part right after "Yesterday" as well as "Suspicious Minds," "In The Ghetto" and "I Can't Stop Loving You" featured on the extended CD version from 1999. So content wise, I'd have to say no.
However, the On Stage 40th Legacy Edition is a great buy, and it does help that the second disc included features the original Elvis In Person album together with bonus tracks. Of course a complete February 1970 concert would've been better, but maybe FTD can help me out there?