CD Review of Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley

Music Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Buy your copy from Elvis Presley:
Viva Las Vegas
starstarstarno starno star Label: RCA
Released: 2007
Buy from

It’s hard to imagine any rock and roll icon whose work has been whored out more than Elvis Presley’s. Ever since his death, RCA has made it a point to repackage Presley’s legacy to the point of nausea. This from the same company that originally issued his albums with cheap, shoddy designs when the man was still alive. Elvis undoubtedly deserved better, and still does. Granted, he followed Colonel Tom Parker into movie making hell, the soundtracks to which featured music that was so completely out of touch from everything else going on at the time that it was hard to imagine this was the guy who inspired so many others. In Parker’s world for Elvis, the Beatles didn’t exist and the British Invasion never happened.

So Presley stopped making the movies, did his televised “comeback special” and then headed out to Las Vegas to not necessarily reclaim his throne, but reap millions catering to the cocktail crowds who initially liked the Beatles, but thought they got too weird as their hair got longer, and felt absolutely lost when it came to the rock of the ‘70s. Presley delivered crowd-pleasing shows to the masses out in the desert, a mythical figure being swallowed up by his own paranoia, addiction to prescription medications, and struggling to remain relevant. By the time the punks arrived, what was truly left for Elvis?

So once again, RCA has repackaged previously released Presley fodder. This time it comes in the form of Viva Las Vegas, a companion album to an ABC television special of the same name documenting Elvis’ life through his years in Vegas. There’s absolutely nothing new here; no unreleased live performances, no sound checks, nada. So chances are, if you’re a real Elvis diehard, you have these songs elsewhere. But RCA knows they can lure in “new” fans by making “specials” like this and squeezing more blood from the Graceland stone. Yes, Elvis certainly deserves better.

Things get kicked off with the studio version of the title track before going headlong into an all-out live collection of tunes. You get the obvious show opener, “See See Rider,” as well as other tracks that Elvis loved to perform during his Vegas shows such as “Polk Salad Annie,” the wretched “An American Trilogy” and “Never Been to Spain.” Elvis’ shows during the ‘70s were always an odd mix of old rock and roll, Christian spirituals, and cover tunes all dressed up in a schmaltzy glitzed-out package. As the pressures wore on, Presley wore out, as evidenced by the infamous live version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” where he forgets the words and starts rambling incoherently. Indeed, the man could turn out some really bad cover versions during this time as well, and one need look no further than “Hey Jude” for proof.

Of course, on this collection, none of that is presented, so you get the dramatic performances of “Bridge over Troubled Water” and “The Impossible Dream.” Also included is the genuinely sprightly and unintentionally hilarious “Patch It Up,” which never seems to end (Elvis’ outburst of “Sing it, Charlie!” to Charlie Hodge, Presley’s towel and water man, has been a favorite personal in-joke ever since I first heard this song years ago). Aside from that nugget, there’s sap like “The Wonder of You” and “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”

Suffice it to say that Viva Las Vegas is a completely unnecessary release, but when people will buy Elvis Presley stuff year after year, why not, right? It’s as if RCA exhumes Presley’s bones yearly and trots them out for a quick, smelly show and then promptly returns them to the vaults only to come out again the next year for another “special anniversary” something or other. Not even the Beatles get this kind of attention from their label, and all any of their fans are asking for are some overdue remasters. In Elvis Presley’s world, however, too much is better than not enough. And so it shall remain and continue.

~Jason Thompson