Review : Christmas duets with Elvis Presley
The new CD is Christmas Duets. Basically it is made up of previously recorded songs by Elvis. Most of them are from his very first Christmas sessions in 1957 while he was at the peak of his career. The resulting LP became the biggest selling Christmas album of all time. The others come from a later set done in 1971.
These songs were then arranged into duets, the new vocals were added and then reorchestrated, remixed and presto!, you have the Elvis Presley Christmas Duets.
Eleven country music stars were treated to this chance to sing with Elvis in one of this year's most important Yuletide releases. Blue Christmas with Martina McBride; I'll Be Home for Christmas with Carrie Underwood; Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) with LeAnn Rimes; Santa Claus is Back in Town with Wynonna Judd; Silent Night with Sara Evans; White Christmas with Amy Grant; Merry Christmas Baby with Gretchen Wilson; O Little Town of Bethlehem with Karen Fairchild & Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town; Silver Bells with Ann Murray; O Come All Ye Faithful with Olivia Newton-John.
This is a powerhouse line-up that cuts across generations of country music stars. For some strange reason though, the duets are exclusively female. [Elvis Australia Comment: Originally male singers we planned, in fact Cliff Richard made his recording which now sits locked up in a Sony BMG vault (Much to the annoyance of Cliff Richard fans in 'the know'). Priscilla Presley decided there should be only female singers and so the order went out. We agree with her decision, somehow we just can't see it being as good with male vocals on these Christmas songs, and we doubt Elvis would have wanted it.] This is probably because the people behind the project still saw Elvis in his leading man image and not as the music artist. [Correct] It would have been nice to have a male or two singing along. Garth Brooks or Tim McGraw in a duet with Elvis would have really been an event. And what about a band, something like the Eagles would have been sensational.
But that is all wishful thinking. [Elvis Australia Comment: Our understanding is that a mainstream (Non Christmas) Duets album is being considered, and would likely contain male singers as well, and the Eagles sure would be great accompanying Elvis on the right tracks.]
The best thing about the CD is that it showcases Elvis in his country roots, back to the time before he discovered Italian-inspired pop. And he sounds great, bluesy and rocking hard. Another one is that it shows that Elvis has really no need for singing partners. As the three solo bonus tracks, The First Noel, If I Get Home on Christmas Day and Winter Wonderland that he recorded in 1971, easily prove, he could put so much feeling in a song that embellishments like added vocals come out superfluous. Still, this is a must for all Elvis fans who must have thought they will never again get new recordings from their king. It is also a good addition to this year's harvest of new holiday albums, which seems to be turning out one of the most varied and interesting.
Above, you can now view the new music video to promote the Elvis Presley Christmas Duets CD featuring Elvis Presley and Martina McBride 'performing' Blue Christmas. The video takes you and Martina back in time to 1968 and she steps on stage to sing with the King of Rock 'n' Roll.
Review - Elvis Presley Christmas Duets CD by Cameron Adams Herald Sun - Melbourne
Review - Elvis Presley Christmas Duets CD
By David Bowling
Ah the wonders of modern technology! The RCA label has released another Elvis Presley Christmas album but rather than just repackaging some of his holiday hits, they decided to get a little creative. They gathered together a number of country music's biggest female stars to sing duets with him. Such artists as Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Leann Rimes, Wynonna Judd, Amy Grant, Gretchen Wilson, Anne Murray, and even Olivia Newton-John lend their voices to create duets on some of Elvis' classic Christmas songs.
The original tracks have been remastered and more instrumentation has been added to create a fuller and different sound. Some of the background vocals have been changed or at least enhanced. The results add up to not only an interesting but an excellent album.
Martina McBride doe not overwhelm Elvis on 'Blue Christmas' as she's been known to do with other artists. She gives a subtle performance that matches the smoothness of his vocal. The drum track is turned up to give the song a little more punch than the original.
Carrie Underwood plays it a little too conservative on the classic 'I'll Be Home For Christmas'. There is just not enough of her on the track.
'Here Comes Santa Claus' finds Leann Rimes giving a perky vocal that compliments Elvis well. The instrumental backing is turned down a bit in order to focus on the purity of their voices.
'Santa Claus Is Back In Town' is the strongest track on the album. This is a blues rendition that fits Wynonna Judd well. She trades vocal runs with Elvis and more than holds her own. This is the track that I played over and over again.
'Silent Night' is presented in traditional style. Sara Evans vocal is excellent but I can't help think that she and Carrie Underwood should have traded songs.
Amy Grant joins Elvis on 'White Christmas'. The vocals are excellent but the tempo is faster than the original.
'Merry Christmas Baby' is a second blues outing and another superior track. A piano and drums dominate the instrumental backing with some clear harmonica added on the break. Gretchen Wilson doesn't really duet with Elvis but rather adds phasing that enhances his vocal.
'O Little Town Of Bethlehem' is not a duet but a threesome. Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman bring their clear harmonies to this song and create a wonderful counterpoint. The three voices give this track a fuller sound than many of the others.
Anne Murray has a lower vocal register than the other singers on the album and as such creates a different sound when she combines it with Elvis'. 'Sleigh Bells' is presented in traditional up-tempo form.
The Christmas hymn, 'O Come All Ye Faithful', finds Olivia Newton-John providing half of the duet. Her voice is not a match for Elvis, so she wisely stays in the background.
Also included are three bonus tracks of Elvis singing alone. 'The First Noel', 'If I Get Home On Christmas Day', and 'Winter Wonderland' have all been issued a number of times over the years. Here we find them remastered with extra instruments added. The sound is so clear that you can actually hear the intake of Elvis' breath.
Christmas Duets presents some classic Elvis in a new and creative way. The Elvis Presley Christmas Duets CD is a good and fun holiday listen. Merry Christmas to all fans of the true king of rock 'n' roll!
The Australian release will include Olivia Newton-John.
1. Blue Christmas with Martina McBride
2. I'll Be Home For Christmas with Carrie Underwood
3. Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) with LeAnn Rimes
4. Santa Clause Is Back In Town with Wynonna Judd
5. Silent Night with Sara Evans
6. White Christmas with Amy Grant
7. Merry Christmas Baby with Gretchen Wilson
8. O Little Town Of Bethlehem with Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town
9. Silver Bells with Anne Murray
10. O Come, All Ye Faithful with Olivia Newton-John
11. The First Noel (2008) Elvis Presley
12. If I Get Home On Christmas Day (2008) Elvis Presley
13. Winter Wonderland (2008) Elvis Presley
Review - Elvis Presley Christmas Duets CD by Cameron Adams Herald Sun - Melbourne
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.
Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.