Review : 'The Wonder Of You: Elvis With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra' CD
June 1, 2017
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I found myself really liking the first album, 'If I Can Dream', simply for the fact they cherrypicked some of El's best vocal performances and added simple, organic and extremely tasteful snippets of the Royal Philharmonic. The results were surprisingly good, with the string arrangements totally unobtrusive to the main instrument, being Elvis' voice.
'The Wonder of You' picks up where 'If I Can Dream' left off, with some of Elvis' best vocal performances and subdued, tasteful and stunning orchestral touches that make you wonder why this didn't happen when Elvis was alive.
'The Wonder of You' focuses less on El's big, well-known hits for '70s material featuring the master soul-mining newer pop material, and, many times, far surpassing the 'original' versions. Elvis' band at the time was top-notch in the studio, so that was an important element for this to work. Well-recorded and mixed, the songs stand by themselves.
But the absolutely astonishing string arrangements take these gems to an entirely new level, transcending these already-great performances and making them masterpieces.
I don't know how they pulled this off, but it's really that grand. The strings are, again, not cloying or syrupy but an enhancement that matches Elvis' vocal performances to a 'T'. Some of these arrangements remind me of the great early '70s Motown stuff by Marvin Gaye - they were meant to be there, and once heard, you can't imagine them not part of the song.
Mostly drawing on material from Elvis'mature' period, these tunes made anew, particularly with 'I Just Can't Help Believin' - my favorite - 'I've Got a Thing About You Baby' and an overwhelming, spiritual tour de force with the King's heartfelt rendition of 'Amazing Grace', which was stunning, to begin with.
I also really dig the opener, which is surprising, since I never really cared much for the cheesy 'A Big Hunk O' Love'. But the orchestra makes it rock and brings it to life with a fabulous intro and symphonic swing that never sags. It's really quite excellent studio craft and a real treat to hear.
Others getting the symphonic treatment include 'Suspicious Minds', 'Don't', 'Just Pretend', 'Love Letters', 'Starting Today', 'Kentucky Rain', 'Memories', 'Let it be Me', 'Always on My Mind', 'The Wonder of You' and 'Just Pretend', a necro-duet with Helene Fischer, and my least favorite.
This album is a real labor of love, and it's obvious it was crafted by arrangers and musicians who really understood Elvis, picking tunes that would go well - seamlessly and flawlessly - with his outstanding vocal performances of the '70s. They also went out of their way to really create arrangements where's Elvis' voice is even more so the main instrument. And what an instrument it was - absolute perfection. This album will be a real eye-opener for those who dig the man's talents. This album makes Elvis hip again, nearly 40 years after his death.
Highly, highly recommended.
— Maxwell —
I received mine yesterday. I love this. Much better than the first RPO album that was really good. I know many fans will complain that they should leave Elvis' music alone. Well if you prefer the original Suspicious Minds it is still available on 16 (!) other albums. There are a dozen or more live versions as well. My point is that THIS Suspicious Minds can co-exist with the other 28 released versions.
I saw Elvis live dozens of times. Joe Guercio used union musicians in various cities and got the most out of his small orchestra. The musicians on the now two RPO albums are much better. Joe would have loved these CDs. I talked music with the man many times and he simply loved big orchestras.
This new album is a classy product. The new orchestrations are well done and it doesn't effect Elvis' legacy in any way. Elvis recorded Old Macdonald and No Room to Rumba etc. so this is MUCH better than crap like that. Everyone has their own opinion and my take is Elvis would love this album.
Full disclosure, I'm a life-long Elvis fan and I panned the first effort by Royal Philharmonic. I thought the orchestral additions were disharmonious, distracted from the vocals and were untrue to the original arrangements, the ones that Elvis was responsible for. But to their credit, they do a better job on this album and there are quite a few songs I -- gasp -- might actually prefer over the originals. I also love the fact that these albums are so well-received, introducing Elvis to a whole new audience (my brother witnessed college-age girls screaming and jumping up to dance when 'Burning Love' from the last album was played at a local bar). I know others feel differently, but I think 'Just Pretend' with Helene Fischer is awesome -- hearing Elvis with strong female singer makes you appreciate just how powerful his vocals were. Good job! (Mongo).
'The Wonder Of You' album is truly a worthy successor to last year's 'If I Can Dream'. First off the sound is magnificent and Elvis' voice is really upfront. The backings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are innovative and brought right up to date. Again, Elvis is featured singing in many musical genres including rock, country, pop and gospel.
The album opens with an Elvis classic from the 1950's 'A Big Hunk O' Love' which rocks along magnificently with the help of the RPO who give it a really innovative opening. Then comes 'I've Got A Thing About You Baby' which is not a very well known track by Elvis but it is given a really upbeat treatment here, especially with the drums, and is great to dance to. This is followed by perhaps Elvis' most loved song ' Suspicious Minds' which is given a new string arrangement here. Elvis' voice never sounded clearer or upfront. Next up is another 50's track with the young Elvis singing one of his classic ballads. The arrangement is great and it is amazing how brilliant Elvis' voice sounds after all these years. This is followed by another Elvis favorite 'I Just Can't Help Believin' which was recorded 'live' for the personal appearance film 'Elvis, That's The way It Is' in 1970. A truly beautiful song written and sung originally by B.J. Thomas. Elvis has never sounded better with the RPO string section coming very much to the fore towards the latter part of the song. Next, comes another Elvis fan favorite, and certainly one of mine, 'Just Pretend'. Nothing need be said about this track as it is magnificent.
Then we have the classic Ketty Lester track 'Love Letters'. Elvis sang two versions of this love song - one in the 60's and one in the 70's. It is the 70's string version which is used here but the RPO strings bring it bang up to date. 'Starting Today' is a song about lost love and again not a very well known song from his album 'Something For Everybody'. It is beautifully sung by Elvis in that soft falsetto voice he used often in the 1960's. This is what makes this album special - the different voices Elvis could conjure up at will. 'Kentucky Rain' is up next and a country track which Elvis sang in Vegas during the early 70's. Another great track and one really liked many many DJ's. All of Elvis' songs tell a story and this one is no different.
'Memories' was recorded during Elvis' 1968 NBC TV Special known as his Comeback Special. He looked magnificent in his black leather suit and sang this song sitting down on the edge of the stage with fans. A beautiful song reminiscing about days gone by. 'Let It Be Me' is another live recording from his early Vegas years and is most famously associated with The Everly Brothers. Elvis puts his heart and soul into this love song and it shows. 'Always On My Mind' follows and many believe that this song was sung by Elvis with Priscilla in mind. Beautifully sung and the RPO give it that extra touch to improve on the original. The album ends with the title track 'The Wonder Of You' again another 'live' track from Vegas1970 and this is classic Elvis with a 50's sounding ballad. It's a knockout. Apparently, according to Priscilla Presley, when Elvis sang the song he was referring to the glory of God. I Love these albums with the RPO as they bring the sound and arrangements bang up to date. A big well done to all those involved. Finally, if one buys the download version of this album you get an extra 'bonus' track of a Duet of 'Just Pretend' with German singer Helene Fischer. Personally, I think it is fantastic and has been mixed amazingly well. (F. B. Quinn).
'The Wonder of You: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic'
Sony Music Entertainment is proud to announce the release of 'The Wonder Of You: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra', on October 21, 2016. This remarkable new album is the follow-up to last year's huge global phenomenon 'If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra', which topped charts worldwide and sold over 1.5 million copies.
The Wonder Of You focuses on the iconic artist's unmistakable voice with lush new orchestral accompaniment. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London with acclaimed producers Don Reedman and Nick Patrick, the album features Elvis' most dramatic original performances augmented with lush new arrangements by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The album spans a variety of musical styles that Elvis embraced, from rock and gospel to country and ballads, featuring beloved Presley classics along with several surprises. Standout tracks include a sultry new version of the 'A Big Hunk O' Love', the glorious 'Amazing Grace', the heartfelt emotion on 'Kentucky Rain', a stunning new take on the classic 'Always On My Mind', and the fun, upbeat 'I've Got A Thing About You Baby.'
The Wonder Of You: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be released on CD, 150g gatefold 2LP.
And a Deluxe version of the album will be released on December 2nd and will include a CD with two additional tracks, two 150 gram LPs in a gatefold package, a poster suitable for framing and a 12-page booklet, all housed in a beautiful 12'x12' lift-off box.
'Elvis always loved the great, operatic vocalists', says Priscilla Presley, executive producer of The Wonder of You. 'We often talked about his interest in recording material that allowed him to perform in that space. It's exciting to hear him on these recordings, performing with the world-class Royal Philharmonic Orchestra via the magic of Abbey Road Studios. He would have loved these performances and I'm very happy that we were able to make this dream come true for Elvis and his fans.'
'As with the first time we stepped into this amazing world – it is the extraordinary intimacy of Elvis' vocal performances that is truly breathtaking', says Nick Patrick. 'The exquisite and effortless way he takes us on an emotional journey with him through delicate sensitivity to power and grace all within a magical 3-minute song. It's a wonderful, wonderful privilege for which we are truly grateful.'
'I believe we have made an album that is uplifting, sensitive, heart touching and fun – the way that Elvis was and still is to so many of us', says Don Reedman. 'His spirit has never left the building!'
The Wonder Of You: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
A Big Hunk O' Love
I've Got A Thing About You Baby
I Just Can't Help Believin'
Let It Be Me
Always On My Mind
The Wonder Of You
Just Pretend (duet with Helene Fischer)
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.