This made-for-DVD (and PBS pledge night) special traces a line through Elvis' career by examining the love songs he performed and the reaction they provoked from his fans. Depicted early on as a hip-swiveling instigator, Elvis' balladry, though present at the very start of his hit-making career (e.g., 1956's "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" and "Love Me Tender"), didn't make for sensational headlines. Still, his ballads were hits, regularly evoked shrieks and swoons from his female audience and became an essential part of his television appearances, film soundtracks and live shows. Early clips here feature Elvis crooning on the Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan shows, the latter a sublime version of "Love Me" in which Elvis plays to the girls in the balcony. There's a post army clip of Elvis goofing with Frank Sinatra on a television special, and the '68 comeback special yields Elvis reconnecting with "Are You Lonesome Tonight" and "Can't Help Falling in Love."
Much of Elvis career in the `60s is painted through musical clips drawn from his films. This provides ready-made widescreen color footage, but shortchanges many classic hit ballads in favor of lesser soundtrack material. Luckily, with Elvis' reentry into live performing at the end of the decade, live footage is once again introduced, with Las Vegas performances of "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "The Wonder of You" finding Elvis fit and energized, and Aloha From Hawaii yielding "What Now My Love" and "I'll Remember You." When there are no film or live performances to draw from, the producers switch to photo montages to accompany studio recordings, such as Elvis' take on "For the Good Times." The video closes with a Vegas-era live take of Elvis coming full circle to his early ballad hit, "Love Me Tender." Elvis prowls the stage and kisses women in the audience as he sings.
The special is narrated by Ashley Judd, who provides background on songs, recording sessions, career machinations and a variety of Elvis trivia. There are also interview clips with Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires, Joe Moscheo of the The Imperials, Ed Enoch of the Stamps Quartet, and Myrna Smith of The Sweet Inspirations. Thirty-five minutes of additional interview footage is included as an extra, and the stories from those who knew and worked with Elvis are often more compelling than Judd's scripted narration. Three short commercials for Graceland are also included. Fans will enjoy this 79-minute collection of previously released performances and clips, songs and photos, but if you want deeper analysis, you'll need to read Peter Guralnik's biographies. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]