Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Cover versions of famous songs are usually disappointing.

It's not generally their fault, it's just that they haven't a hope of fulfilling what the listener really wants to hear - the original.

Not so with this artist. We're not listening out of warm familiarity with the earlier version. We're listening because we want to hear Elvis.

When this tribute album of songs that Elvis never recorded kicks-off by launching straight into the five-minute Sympathy For The Devil, complete with Elvis monologue towards the end and faux-improvised remarks ("C'mon honey - what's mah name?"), there's no doubt that Return To Splendor is right up there on a par with its jubilant predecessor Gravelands.

Bearing that in mind, I still think that the first album just has the edge, but this is probably because, as of this date, I've only listened to this follow-up CD once. All that familiarity with the recordings hasn't developed yet.

Inevitably I guess my favourite numbers at this early stage therefore look to be the ones with which I have the greatest existing connection. Everybody's Talkin', King Of The Road and - surely a track that many Elvis fans would like to hear him perform - Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

Go on - imagine in your head now how he'd croon that ballad. That's it - that's what it sounds like. So now you don't need to get the CD. Except that you do, for the awesome way he finishes it. (I can't make out what they've changed the backing vocal "ready Freddie" to)

Once more, the diversity of the songs is one of the album's strengths. He really throws himself into You Got It, while Everybody's Talkin' has him practically yodelling along to the instrumentals. Under The Bridge even sounds reggae in places.

The inclusion of the classic What A Wonderful World is likewise another inspired choice.

The only minor room for improvement here lies in the forgivable use of synthesisers in place of a few real instruments (why shouldn't Elvis be using these today anyway?), the absence of a hidden bonus track (I sort of expected one after the last album), and the over-use of throwaway remarks between lyrics. I think that just the odd remark here and there would feel more believable than filling-up as much time as is available, and avoiding re-using the same quip on different tracks would sound more authentic too.

Oh, and still no gospel track. :( (Child Of A Preacher Man doesn't quite make it)

Still, this is not a sequel, but an equal.

This was released in 2000. Is it too late to still hope for a third album sometime?

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

1. Sympathy For The Devil
2. L A Woman
3. Under The Bridge
4. The House Is Rockin'
5. Whole Lotta Love
6. You Got It
7. Everybody's Talkin'
8. Sweet Home Chicago
9. Child Of A Preacher Man
10. King Of The Road
11. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
12. Pretty Vacant
13. Hoochie Coochie Man
14. Take Me Home, Country Roads
15. What A Wonderful World
16. Little Ole Wine Drinker, Me


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