I still remember the first time I met Elvis. It was 1997 and I was passing through Macon, Georgia on my way to Pittsburgh, Pa. I pulled into a small diner called Lillie’s Southern Fried to get a bite when I noticed my shoe was untied. I bent down to remedy the situation and I heard a voice come from behind me.
“Umm excuse sir”, the stranger said in a smooth deep southern voice. “Any chance you might have change for a dollar?” I looked at him. He was wearing dark sunglasses, had his jet black hair beautifully quaffed, and was wearing a blue and white sequenced jump suit that had a red silk scarf around the collar. I was frozen in my tracks. “I...I think I do”, I stammered as I thrust my hand quickly into my pocket to search for change. As I searched through my pockets for enough change I kept staring at this stranger. “It couldn’t be him”, I said to myself. Finally, after searching every pocket I had, I was able to produce the requested change for the stranger. He looked at me and his lip went slightly higher on the right side and he said in a very familiar voice, “Thank you, thank you very much.”
As he turned to leave I said, “Aren’t you…” to which he replied, “The names Earl. I own the hardware store in town.” As he was walking away he stopped and spun around fast like a dancer and took the scarf from his neck and through it to me and then dropped to one knee and bowed his head…to pick up a coin he had dropped.
I have always been an Elvis fan from the day I was born and started shaking around in the crib. He is, after all, the King and finally the King gets the treatment he deserves with the release of Viva Elvis. It is, hands down, pure genius. This album, the result of a brilliant partnership between Cirque du Soleil and Elvis Presley Enterprises, puts Elvis’s music and vocals into brand new beautifully contemporary musical settings without ever losing the original greatness of the songs. Elvis himself was as versatile as a musician could be in the way he crossed all musical borders from rock to country to delta blues to gospel to Vegas pop. Viva Elvis crosses even more musical borders by mixing in elements of punk rock, urban beats, and hip-hop to create a masterpiece that would have made the King raise a lip and say, “Thank you, thank you very much”.
The songs themselves are all highlights from a career that contained nothing but highlights. From a beautifully rocked up version of “Blue Suede Shoes” that adds a harmonica that should have always been there to “That’s All Right” which has so much energy in it that it alone could power a Graceland for years. The genius here is the little things in that background that blends Elvis’s entire career into each song. The story is told through radio, television, and movie clips that make you feel as if you are hearing it all for the first time. It all blends seamlessly as to provide you with an absolutely complete listening experience that has you in the moment as if nothing else exists but you and the music. It really is quite beautiful the way there is no silence in between tracks. After “That’s All Right”, you are led into “Heartbreak Hotel” by a clip of Elvis harmonizing like an absolute angel. Then comes the delta blues guitar that accompanies a live (listen for the screams) performance of The King singing the opening verse that sounds as if it’s coming from a old television speaker. He is barely able to get out the words before the static is replaced with huge guitars and horns playing that classic opening of the song. It is stunning to listen to. The original vocal track is used which only adds to the cool factor of this version.
Something odd happens next as you’re led into “Love Me Tender” by a simple piano followed by a warm guitar. A woman’s voice sings. It takes you by surprise until you see it turns into a beautiful reworked duet when Elvis’s voice comes in. This version does wonders to update an already great song. Ideas like this have gone horribly wrong in the past but thankfully this works brilliantly. On the next track, you’re led into “King Creole” by an original news story about Elvis playing Danny Fisher in the movie of the same name. It’s a masterstroke in blending that makes this version of this song work like a man possessed. The ending is a beautiful studio outtake that is wonderful to hear. It only gets better when “Bossa Nova Baby” kicks in with its drums that make it impossible to stand still as you listen to it. It captures every ounce of feeling possible and even finds a way to make it feel like you are actually there dancing along with Elvis. This song is like feel good sunshine for a cloudy day. The album simply continues on nonstop with hits like “Burning Love” and a “Love Me Tender” style duet on “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You”. The reworked version of “Suspicious Minds” is worth the entrance fee alone. Starting out with just a stunning piano and Elvis’s voice, it then slowly builds until you reach the peak where you will get goose bumps of happiness and a new reason to scream Elvis’s name from the top of the mountain.
You have to get this album. I’ll say it again; you have to get this album. It is a work of art. It is hard to believe but this album never stops. It is perfectly assembled and is will have you listening to it repeatedly. Giving this album only 5 stars is unfair; It deserves an entire constellation. If you die without hearing this album God himself will send you back down to make up for your greatest sin. Do your ears a favor, go a buy it and play it as loud as you can and don’t forget to sing along because you know every word just like I do. Have mercy! Elvis has just come back into the building for a spectacular encore performance! Long live The King.
Hot Tracks-That’s All Right, Bossa Nova Baby, Suspicious Minds
Doug Morrissey- Muzikreviews.com Staff
October 15, 2010