By Dennis Hartley
The White House, 1970: Two great recording artists meet at last
I’ve never been a huge Elvis fan, but like most ‘murcans who have strolled this planet since mid-century last, I have a sizable portion of his catalog burned into my neurons (how do I know all these lyrics?). But the people who are really into Elvis? They are really into Elvis.
I can’t deny that he’s an icon. Some have suggested he literally is:
The Statue of Liberty thing is spooky; some point even further back:
I digress. This crossed my desk at the radio station the other day:
The sticker on the shrink wrap read: Elvis is back! Really?! You mean all that Weekly World News stuff wasn’t complete and utter shash? The cover photo was obviously archival, but I flipped over the jewel case and sure enough, there it was: copyright 2015, RCA Records. 14 tracks, spanning Elvis’ career, but remixed with the addition of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Conceptually, it’s a comedy premise:
I was intrigued enough to give it a spin, and…it sort of works, depending on the track. For example, “Burning Love”, does not work; “Hunka hunka burnin’ love” and “lush string arrangement” should never appear together in the same sentence, much less the same mixing console (ditto the cover of James Taylor’s “Steamroller Blues”).
On the other hand, “Love Me Tender” is beautiful; the reflective ballad transforms here into lovely chamber pop, in the vein of The Beatles’ “Yesterday” (or George Martin’s orchestral enhancement of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” demo for the Beatles Love remix). Unfortunately, the deeper you go into this collection, the more exploitative and schmaltzy it feels. Rabid fans will likely adore it; speaking for myself …let the man rest in peace.
If I Can Dream-Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
RCA Records CD (Street date: October 30)