Review: Elvis Presley - Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite (50th Anniversary Edition)
One of the bright spots in this dwindling physical media age (sales, not volume) has been the rise of the 50th Anniversary reissue. Many times, these exist as copyright extensions, ensuring that the material remains profitable for the rights holders long after the original artists have left this planet. However, for the musicologist and aficionado who loves digging into alternate takes, demos, and rehearsal performances--all brought to stunning new clarity thanks to skillfully-remastered audio, these reissues offer a bounty of bonuses for those willing to invest.
Elvis Presley's crowning achievement--and perhaps the last great pinnacle of his mighty musical career--is Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite, a performance and broadcast that brought him into 1.5 billion homes all around the world. If the 68 Comeback Special is a reclamation of his throne as The King of Rock 'n Roll, Aloha From Hawaii is the jeweled crown, worn with dignity, authority, and humor.
Audio-wise, the tracks have never sounded better. They've been newly remastered, adding greater depth and clarity to what used to be a rushed, muddy presentation. A couple of songs that have been left off of past releases because of copyright conflicts are restored here, so fans can once again hear Elvis sing the Chuck Berry and Hank Williams tunes that influenced him. The rehearsal/extra tracks sound equally impressive, especially considering the band was playing most of them on the fly; my favorite is Elvis' take on Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain."
The three discs present the full concert from January 14th (Disc 1), the "safety" concert that was recorded a couple of days earlier on January 12th (Disc 2), and a collection of rehearsal takes and insert performances (Disc 3).
The included Blu-ray is great for what it is. Let's be clear: Aloha From Hawaii was recorded on video tape, not film. Anyone expecting crisp quality is going to be disappointed--hence some of the surprised and angry negative reviews populating Amazon. By offering the video footage on Blu-ray, we have as close to an uncompressed presentation as we're ever going to get on commercial home media. Video tape CAN yield results stronger than 480p, but the format is obviously limited. I'm grateful that a Blu-ray was included rather than a DVD so that we're able to see and hear Elvis in the best quality possible--something DVD simply cannot provide.
I sincerely hope that these 50th Anniversary collections are selling well for Sony Music Entertainment's Legacy Recordings. We've been really blessed with carefully-curated and expertly-produced reissues that not only present the music in the best possible quality, but that also give us appropriate context via booklets and on-disc features for better appreciation. Kudos to the low price for this set, too, which is currently selling for less than $40. While similar anniversary editions from other acts like The Beach Boys and The Beatles command $100 or more, the lower price on these Elvis releases make it possible for more people to discover the majesty and the magic of this timeless music. Highly recommended.