Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite is a double-album set that captures Elvis' celebrated live television concert from 1973. Arguably, it also captures the peak of the Presley live extravaganzas of the '70s. Spanning two albums and 30 songs (the single-CD reissue from 1992 trims the number of songs to 24), the record finds Elvis pulling out all the stops, running through a set that favors covers and new material at the expense of classics. That's hardly a complaint, since the whole point of his concerts in the '70s was a sensory onslaught, where a bluesy (albeit over the top) version of "See See Rider" could sit next to a schmaltzy showstopper like "American Trilogy." And the key to the whole thing is that Elvis actually sounds more committed to "American Trilogy" than "See See Rider." That passion and energy are carried over to each song, and that's what makes the entire enterprise so entertaining. It's also why the record was a massive hit upon its release and why so many fans have fond memories of Aloha from Hawaii decades after the actual concert.
As far as Legacy's Elvis Presley expansions go, the 2013 double-disc Aloha from Hawaii is relatively straightforward. It combines the original 1973 double-LP with The Alternate Aloha, adding just a couple of bonus tracks to that 1988 release of the concert's dress rehearsal. Those bonus tracks -- recorded after the live broadcast and featuring Elvis appropriately singing selections from the Blue Hawaii soundtrack, plus a version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" -- are the only additions here (and they've been released elsewhere, scattered on compilations over the years), so what's helpful about this Legacy Edition is that it rounds up all the Aloha performances in a tidy set. Granted, the two performances are quite similar -- it's essentially the same set list, but the broadcast concert ran longer, making room for versions of "Johnny B Goode," "I Can't Stop Loving You," and a speedy "Long Tall Sally"/"Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" medley -- but they have slightly different feels, with the broadcast feeling more insistent and splashy and the Alternate Aloha appealingly loose. It's a subtle difference but one that's apparent on this Legacy Edition, which is enough of a reason to listen to the two sets back to back, but if you happened to listen to one show without the other, you're guaranteed to find Elvis at his spangled '70s prime. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine