Street Sounds: Elvis gets the orchestral treatment

Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: If I Can Dream is an orchestral reimaging or reimagining.

Just in time for Halloween, it’s resurrection time for Elvis! Here it’s an orchestral reimaging or reimagining, take your pick.

From the first track, Burning Love, it appears that some arranger went crazy on strings and trills. It makes a great rock and roll song sound silly. Elvis’ voice will always sound great no matter the context, but in this case, they neutered the backing track. Not cool.

It’s Now or Never sounds fine with its Royal Philharmonic treatment (done at Abbey Road Studios). The orchestral treatment takes the dreamy Presley vocal and adds more of a lush syrupy bed for it to luxuriate in.

This is an album for die-hard fans of The King. After all, how many more times does anybody need to hear Love Me Tender repackaged and pimped out?  On the other hand, the most engaging Presley releases of recent years have been releases of live Vegas and Madison Square Garden concerts.

These albums were well recorded live shows where Presley and his faithful band of ace musicians are kicking out the jams and having a good time.

The repertoire is fluid and tight and you get to hear the King of Rock and Roll get crazy, flirt with the ladies and joke with his audience. They (the albums) sound sweaty and electric.

Here on If I Can Dream, Elvis sounds disembodied. Even more so because his vocal has been removed from the original track and dubbed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s a grandiose undertaking but there’s too much fluff and schmaltz to make an engaging Presley record.

Production-wise it’s lush and immaculate and the classic track You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling benefits greatly from the epic and shivery treatment that it receives. Presley’s saccharine soundtrack work of the 1960s (his low point) is channelled and somehow works for this song. Fever keeps that flow moving and features a sympathetic “duet” with Michael Bublé.

The strongest song on this album is Bridge Over Troubled Water. That’s where the choice of material, great vocal performance and orchestral treatment create a perfect storm of drama and grandiosity.

Another king, Duane Eddy, the once and future King of Twang, also appears and adds beautifully atmospheric guitar texture. It’s a stirring track that’s been thoughtfully produced and arranged.

Many songs here are best left in their original state (In the Ghetto, Love Me Tender, It’s Now or Never) and some just roll on in their maudlin way, so even an orchestral facelift doesn’t alter them. Others are just goofy, especially the cover of James Taylor’s Steamroller Blues. Bluesy it ain’t.

If I Can Dream is an ambitious album that sounds sweet but actually doesn’t add anything interesting to Presley’s output.  If anything, it waters down his impact and softens his edge. It would be a perfect inclusion onto an inoffensive and safe Christmas album list.

Dean Gordon-Smith reviews the latest music for The Morning Star every Friday.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dastkar, a new furniture store in Vernon, features handmade, unique furniture carved from wood and inlaid with brass in the Chiniot style. The business located on 43rd Avenue was started in December 2020 but is currently unstaffed due to COVID-19 staffing shortages. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
PHOTOS: Vernon’s hidden handmade furniture store

Owners of Shahi Pakwan Indian restaurant opened the South Asian furniture store in December 2020

(Vernon Search and Rescue/Facebook)
Vernon Search and Rescue responds after family gets UTV stuck on SilverStar trails

The family activated their SOS beacon around 3 p.m. once they realized they could be facing a night alone in the mountains

The organizer of a Kelowna protest against COVID-19 restrictions was fined by the RCMP for the third time Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19: Organizer of Kelowna anti-restriction protest ticketed for third time

The individual’s latest ticket for $2,300 was handed out by RCMP at an anti-lockdown rally Saturday

Mount Boucherie Secondary School is one of three Kelowna schools with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to an update from the school district Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at 3 Kelowna schools

Interior Health has confirmed exposures at Mount Boucherie, Springvalley and South Rutland schools

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Half of the most expensive homes are on 2080 Mackenzie Crt, which is across the street from Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
The 10 most valuable homes in Revelstoke for 2020

Combined, the properties are worth more than $35M

Lake Country native Evan-Riley Brown is in the cast for the new film Journey To Royal: A WW II Rescue Mission to be released on video on demand and streaming services on Feb. 2. (Contributed)
Okanagan actor lands role in WW II movie

Evan-Riley Brown, from Lake Country, cast in production labelled as hybrid of a feature film and documentary called Journey To Royal: a WW II Rescue Mission.

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
More than 20 days have passed since the last case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Lakeside Manor. (File photo)
Salmon Arm retirement facility reopens social areas after COVID-19

More than 20 days have passed since last confirmed case at Lakeside Manor

Most Read