Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

If Elvis were alive today, what tributes might he be singing to departed music giants?

Some of the answers are on Gravelands - an astounding album, comprising entirely of songs by sadly deceased composers, and performed, um, inimitably by 'The King'.

Right from the opening track - Nirvana's Come As You Are - the agenda is clearly set-out. None of these tracks are parodies. The production-values go all-out to make each piece a valid standalone recording regardless of how bizarre the whole crazy idea might sound out of context.

The result is an album that could well have been produced in a parallel universe where Presley himself still lives.

Inevitably much of the success of this release depends upon the guy filling the blue suede shoes. (Don't step on them BTW) It's highly tempting to review this CD as though it had actually been recorded by the sneakily-still-alive Elvis himself, yet continuing the joke would seem to diminish the credit that the actual performer surely deserves.

Far from playing it as the stereotype who we all think of, this crooner underplays much of the album with all the nobility and respect of the original. Equally, he booms the loud ones, and flies with many of Elvis' oft-forgotten high notes too.

All in all, he sounds close enough to the original for my imagination to take me that last step of the way. Also, whatever little he might lack in authenticity, he more than makes up for in sincerity, right down to the odd jokey off mic aside. "I hear ya, I hear ya honey."

As a result, several tracks can easily be passed-off as containing the original performer, particularly sixties numbers like I Heard It Through The Grapevine and Dock Of The Bay.

Many of Elvis' genres are covered in here - his early work, his unplugged recordings, his metally 1970s stuff, and perhaps unintentionally his last years. Even Elvis didn't sound like Elvis all the time, and from that perspective this guy's uphill battle on Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart just about makes it through okay.

Towards the end, the well-structured album sneaks in a few 'live' concert recordings, reaching their apex with a belting performance of AC/DC's Whole Lotta Rosie, relaxed beautifully afterwards by the peace of the piano-accompanied New York, New York.

Aside from the synthesised instruments, if there's anything this album really lacks, it's the inclusion of a good gospel number, which is a bit of a shame as that's my favourite Elvis genre. With about 100 such songs recorded, I suspect that it just might have been his too.

Alas, we're unlikely to hear any new albums from Elvis for a bit yet, however when he eventually does make it back, these are 17, well, 16 songs that he won't need to worry about.

Available to sample and buy from Amazon here.
Track Listing:

1. Come As You Are
2. Love Will Tear Us Apart
3. Song To The Siren
4. Whiskey In The Jar
5. I Heard It Through The Grapevine
6. Blockbuster
7. Sweet Home Alabama
8. Working Class Hero
9. Something Else
10. All Or Nothing
11. Twentieth Century Boy
12. Dock Of The Bay
13. Piece Of My Heart
14. No Woman No Cry
15. Voodoo Chile
16. Whole Lotta Rosie
17. New York, New York

Review of the follow-up CD Return To Splendor here.

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