Presley – The Wonder Of You – Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orch. – RCA Legacy

A CD compilation of Elvis tracks.

Presley – The Wonder Of You – Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orch. – RCA Legacy [10/21/16], 51:15 ***1/2:

(Elvis Presley – vocals, bass; James Burton – guitar; John Parricelli – guitar; Steve Pearce – bass; Ralph Salmins – drums; Pete Murray – piano; Gen D. Hardin – piano; Reggie Young – guitar; D.J. Fontata – drums; Don Reedman – guitar; Charlie McCoy – organ; Don Reedman – guitar; Nick patrick – guitar; Floyd Cramer – piano; Nick Patrick – percussion;; Jochem Van Der Saag – organ; Tommy Tedesco – guitar; Dennis Linde – guitar; Robin Smith – string arrangements; Chris Walden – orchestral arrangements; Steve Sidwell – brass, string arrangements)

The Elvis Presley cultural legacy seems endless. Nearly forty years after his death, new recordings are being released by his estate. This is not a commercialization phenomenon to only Presley. The Beatles released a single with John Lennon on lead vocal as part of the Anthology series. Natalie Cole recorded a version of “Unforgettable” with her iconic father. So it is no surprise that the “King Of Rock And Roll” has gotten into this act. The latest album is The Wonder Of You: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.This is a follow up to the RCA/Legacy 2015 release, If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Both albums take original Presley recordings and recreate them with expansive orchestral arrangements.

The opening track, “A Big Hunk Of Love’ is the first single. After a pizzicato string intro, vintage Elvis rock ’n’ roll is launched. Barrel-house piano, gospel backup singers and hot guitar licks surround the vocals. This song captures the Elvis mystique. The selection of the material works at times, and other times does not. “I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby” (despite the Leiber-Stoller pedigree), is too syrupy. “I Just Can’t Help Believin’” was a minor hit for B.J. Thomas, and seems to fit the Presley vibe better, with some finger-snapping grooves. Elvis’ emotional resonance can be felt.

It’s difficult to listen and not watch The King. His live performance4s defined his charisma. Following a mellow-string kick off, “Suspicious Minds” builds to its gospel urgency. This was a “comeback” for Presley that also included the hit, “In The Ghetto”. He shines on the hymnal, “Amazing Grace’. It is clear that there is a connection with the material. A lot of the album is restrained. It seems that the arrangements overshadow the vocals (especially on cuts like “Love Letters” and “Just Pretend”). When country roots are explored, there is greater success. “Kentucky Rain” has a hook-driven chorus that breaks free (temporarily) of the orchestral shackles. “Always On My Mind” is a compositional gem, and transcends the format. But, “Let It Be Me” struggles to stand out. On a different note, the duet with Helene Fischer, “Just Pretend” is soulful and very accessible.

The audio quality is excellent. The mix of augmented instrumentals and the Presley baritone is even. The basic rock instruments (guitar, bass, drums and piano) are not obscured by the overblown production.

TrackList: A Big Hunk O’ Love; I’ve Got a thing About You Baby; Suspicious minds; Don’t I Can’t Help Believin’; Just Pretend; Love Letters; Amazing Grace; Starting Today; Kentucky Rain; Memories; Let It be Me; Always On My Mind; The Wonder Of You; Bonus track: Just Pretend (duet with Helene Fischer)

—Robbie Gerson

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