’68 COMEBACK SPECIAL: 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
RCA/Legacy (5-CD/2-Blu-ray Box Set)
Since the Elvis “comeback special” first aired in December 1968, there have been numerous releases of the show’s audio and video elements. Definitive sets were finally released in the 21st century: the 2008 The Complete ’68 Comeback Special box (four CDs), featuring the original soundtrack, rehearsals, and the four live performances taped for the show, and the 2004 ’68 Comeback Special “Deluxe Edition” (three DVDs) that had the original show, the live performances, and all known outtakes/rehearsals.
And that’s apparently all that’s left in the vaults, for there are no surprises in this 50th anniversary box; no previously unreleased material. So, is it worth picking up, if you already own the previous sets?
The set features most of the music from the 2008 box (the sole exception being “A Little Less Conversation”). But there’s also an additional CD with 19 outtakes that first appeared on the 2016 reissue of the soundtrack on the Follow That Dream collector’s label. The video material is presented on Blu-ray for the first time (the set has no DVDs), and includes not only everything from the 2004 set, but also the longer re-edit of the special released in 2006. And there are three re-edits of songs from the live performances, for no discernible reason.
One element that is brand new is a nicely illustrated 80-page softbound book. Most of the text draws on interview outtakes from The Searcher, the three hour Elvis documentary that aired earlier this year on HBO. It’s great to hear the creative team talk so extensively about the project; that’s a definite selling point for the new set. Interestingly, the book contradicts the new book by the special’s director, Steve Binder (Comeback ’68: Elvis — The Story of the Elvis Special), as far as the timelines go. The set’s book says Binder was hired on May 16, 1968 and first met with Elvis on May 17. Binder’s own book has him being hired in April and meeting with Elvis on May 10.
If you want the special on Blu-ray, this box is the only way to get it (for now). It’s also the only way to acquire the book. But if you already have the previous CD and DVD sets, whether it’s worth the $100 price tag to get everything in one collection depends on the state of your pocketbook.
— Gillian G. Gaar