"Viva Elvis" the album mostly came and went without much impact. I love the concept of doing an album like this, obviously inspired by the Beatles "Love" album, but did they do it right?
The cover is not exactly great or memorable, but it doesn't bother me either. Album covers are kind of a lost art and even moreso with music being listened to more and more on small digital devices. It's the music that really matters, so here's what I think, track by track:
"Opening": Nice build-up and 2001 has always been an exciting opening. I personally feel some of the samples featuring Elvis kinda just making noise detract from it, as do the "That's All Right" samples. But overall, it sets a mood and creates a nice opening.
"Blue Suede Shoes": Why would anyone want the classic rock song "Blue Suede Shoes" to sound more similar to non-classic "Stay Away Joe"? And why have that "someone must have stomped on his head with those blue suede shoes" sample? I love remixes, but this badly misses the mark, in my opinion. A quick snippet of "Plantation Rock" towards the end at least shows that the folks who put this together have some knowledge of the Elvis Presley catalogue, but they missed the boat on this one I think. It is hardly unlistenable, it is even fun in places, but I'll take the spliced 1968 version they used in "This Is Elvis" over this as my personal fav version Elvis did of the song.
"That's All Right": This one is an improvement over the previous track, but not over the original certainly. But that is to be expected-we're dealing with the song that started it all; a song purists really don't want people messing around with. Nevertheless, this is a fun listen. The tiny snippet of "When it Rains." only made me want to hear more of it. I'd much rather hear a remix of a slightly obscure track like "When It Rains It Really Pours" over a major classic like "That's All Right" any day.
"Heartbreak Hotel": So they took everyone's least favorite part of Elvis' 70s live show-him endlessly sing-talking "well...well well well..well" before launching into "I Got A Woman"-and stuck it in as an intro to "Heartbreak Hotel"? When the song finally really starts, it has the 1968 comeback arrangement intro (redone) and then more or less goes into the original version of the song with minor changes during the vocal. The harmonica is a nice addition, but the big brassy horn section seems to be fighting it out with the down and dirty harmonica and Elvis' pure vocal. I LOVE the "Polk Salad Annie" part and the "going down to New Orleans." bits, though I feel they'd both have been better suited to a different song, like "New Orleans" or "Johnny B Goode" or something else from King Creole (just thematically it would make more sense to me.) Overall, not bad, but also not really worth playing over the original version.
"Love Me Tender": Here it is-the first near-total disaster on the disc. And it is also the time I will make my first really direct comparison to the obvious inspiration for this album: the Beatles "Love" album. So, how is it that someone decides the Beatles' voices can stand on their own, but for a similar Elvis project, Elvis' voice alone just isn't enough? So here we have a nice arrangement for a classic Elvis song and here comes the opening line. Wait! Who the heck is that singing?? Who cares, it isn't Elvis. This track is the first real serious disappointment of the disc. Up until now, none of it has been especially good, but this is a serious nosedive to me. When the woman (whose voice is perfectly lovely, had I wanted to hear it instead of Elvis) finally stops singing and Elvis comes on, it is pretty great. "Love Me Tender" was always a simple quiet song and the new arrangement (minus the duet part) is very nice. I was hoping for something as good as "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from the Beatles album-an acoustic original with newly written and recorded string part. Instead we get a woman singing half the song. And also another big missed opportunity; the snippet of "In My Way" at the song's close was what I REALLY wanted to hear more of! Again, a nice little obscure gem like "In My Way" would have made a really great track! Plus, if we really want to expose new fans to this music, I think everyone on Earth knows "Love Me Tender"-a song like "In My Way" has a chance to win new people over far more easily than a song everybody already knows.
"King Creole": The intro is nice. It's a fun intro to Elvis' movie career on this cd. But, why all those extra voices?? I hate to keep going back to that Beatles album, but nobody thought "Hey! This song "Hard Day's Night" is pretty good, but maybe we can hire some girls to come sing loudly over John and Paul during the chorus!" That is what they did here on classic track "King Creole." Elvis' voice is totally drowned out during the "jumpin like a catfish on a pole" sections of the song. It is, in fact, recorded in a weird staccato vocal by whomever is singing, changing the whole rhythm of the chorus. There are some nice snippets of "Dixieland Rock" and "Hard-headed Woman" as well as some stuff actually from the movie, which is kind of cool. Sadly the song basically tapers off and even features an apology from Elvis about the ending being messed up. It isn't the worst, but it's a bit jumbled and suffers from all the extra non-Elvis voices drowning him out.
"Bossa Nova Baby": Now we're talking!! They got this one right! They took a very fun, obscure song, kept Elvis' voice right up front and cranked up some new percussion and beats. A little more "Hard-headed Woman" sampling starts it off. There's even a tiny bit of "Clambake" in this one. No matter how negative some other parts of my review might be, make no mistake-this song makes it all worth it to me. More fun than the original, and that's high praise!
"Burning Love": I've never found that interview quote amusing. I love Elvis, and I find him pretty funny most of the time. But the "what's your ideal girl?" "Female, sir!" just never struck me as that funny, and I think they goosed the laughter on this too. But getting to the song, once again they picked a big well-known track. I've never loved the song, and neither did Elvis as I understand it. This remix is, basically, just not terribly necessary. It isn't bad. They didn't massively botch it, but the original is as good or better, as is the 1980 remix or the remix featured in a car commercial not long ago. The "Jailhouse Rock" dialogue is totally out of place as well. This track is basically very inessential.
"Memories": All I can say is, WHY? As short as this disc's track list is already, why put something like this? Maybe this is more a part of the stage show and works better as such, but why not do what they did with "Eleanor Rigby" on that Beatles album? Long string intro, but Paul McCartney does eventually come in with the vocal. But not on this, just a minute's worth of easy listening nothingness.
"Can't Help Falling In Love": Oh good, another classic Elvis track, very nicely redone and then utterly ruined by having someone who is NOT Elvis sing half the song!! WHY? This is not a comment on the woman's voice-she sounds fine, but if I wanted to listen to her I'd go buy a cd by her and not by Elvis Presley. Also, I'm not totally sure how well I think the "Love Me" samples work here either. I'm more tempted to skip this track towards the end than anything else on the