Sunday, November 22, 2015

ELVIS PRESLEY with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: SPAZ reviews If I Can Dream!



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Stephen SPAZ Schnee takes the new Elvis release for a spin...

Just a few weeks before the world rejoiced over the release of Beatles 1+ (with remastered videos and remixed audio tracks), Elvis Presley’s If I Can Dream was issued to a lot less fanfare. It is no coincidence that both were released just before the holidays and while both will generate money for the artists and their estates, this particular Elvis release has received some very harsh and unwarranted criticism.  On one hand, yes, it does seem like a money-grab by those who are supposed to be preserving Elvis’ legacy instead of cheapening it.  On the other hand, any release that could possibly introduce Elvis to a new generation of fans is a good thing. A release like this stirs up interest and if a new listener likes what they hear, then that opens the door to a magical back catalog filled with some great records.  Not a bad thing if you ask me!

     On If I I Can Dream, 14 of Elvis’ recordings have been given a facelift with some of the original instrumentation removed/re-tracked with the addition of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This isn’t the first time they’ve messed with Elvis’ original recordings (they’ve been doing it since his death in ’77) but this might be the RCA’s most ‘epic’ Elvis musical undertaking yet. Elvis’ original vocalists are, for the most part, intact and lifted from the hit versions rather than using previously unreleased alternate takes. I believe this decision works because the songs feel familiar while still sounding fresh and new.  The gamble doesn’t always pay off on upbeat songs like “Steamroller Blues”, although album opener “Burning Love” is quite nifty. But on the ballads?  Those are the songs that will wrap themselves around you like a warm blanket on a cold night – “Love Me Tender,” “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” “An American Trilogy,” “There’s Always Me” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” will certainly give you the feels.  “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” – the Neil Diamond-penned obscurity – is particularly effective here.  I’ve never been a fan of the officially released version (there are some good outtakes out there, though) but this is definitive version in my book.  And then there is the title track… it was a stunner before and remains that way here. And a very solid end to a batch of songs that will irk some but thrill those who believe in the magic of Elvis.  Like me.

     Oh, and notice how I didn’t mention the ‘duet’ with Michael Buble on “Fever?  Yeah, I’ll leave it at that.

(P.S. The art design by Paul Bevoir for the U.S. cover (see above) really reflects the spirit of the project.  Unlike the UK pressing which looks like someone just discovered Elvis AND photoshop on the morning the CD went to press and threw something together quickly (see below)...

 Peace, love and Pancakes,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Priscilla Presley should not be a producer on any of these albums nearly all of the vocal performances by Elvis were the wrong choices all the energy has been sapped from the originals take a look at michael bubles production of always on my mind for the bbc the horns and strings are amazing Elvis's 2 albums sound like somebody smothered him chips moman
and and Joe guercio must be devastated as I am from being a life long fan I bought the albums out of loyalty but please go back to the drawing boards the man deserves more respect! PS if the original vocal for a little less conversation had been usedone it wouldn't have had the same impact as the one that was used!