'Viva Elvis' Album Marks a New Take on the King
A re-styled version of the Elvis Presley hit "Suspicious Minds" hit radio stations on Monday, part of an album being released later this year featuring newer, more contemporary takes on many of his hits.
"Suspicious Minds" is the first single off "Viva Elvis-The Album," set for mass release Nov. 9. The 12-track compilation is a companion piece to the Las Vegas show "Viva Elvis" by Cirque du Soleil, which began in February.
The new "Suspicious Minds" and the other reworked songs on the album could strike a dissonant chord with Elvis' older fans. But the minds behind the new album said the new tracks won't lose the qualities that made them hits in the 1950s and '60s.
"I can understand why the purist may be cautious and hesitant, but the new album is a unique way to bring Elvis' music to a whole new younger audience," said Tom Cording, vice president of media relations for Legacy Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment's catalog division.
The Elvis machine is relying on fans who never saw him in person to keep revenue pouring in. Last year, Elvis generated more than $60 million in revenue from royalties, licensing and Graceland's operations, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings by CKx Inc., which owns Elvis Presley Enterprises.
Erich van Tourneau produced and arranged the new songs, fusing thousands of samples of Elvis' music and voice with more modern styles like punk, garage rock and hip-hop. Other tracks feature voice-overs and sound effects.
For instance, "Suspicious Minds" opens with Elvis' soulful, echoing voice and prominent piano notes, then shifts into a guitar introduction that evokes memories of U2's classic anthem "Bad." The song has a strong drum and guitar component without losing the sing-along quality of the original.
Other songs on the new album include "King Creole," "Burning Love," and "Love Me Tender," many sounding like they were released after Elvis died in August 1977. The danceable and energetic "Blue Suede Shoes" has elements of Kenny Loggins' 1984 hit "Footloose," and it features a blues harmonica and rhythmic, clapping backbeat.
"That's All Right," meanwhile, possesses the more frenetic style of Jet's 2003 rock 'n' roll anthem "Are You Gonna Be My Girl."
"Heartbreak Hotel" has traditional blues elements while incorporating rock guitar and a solid contribution from the horn section.
And Elvis sounds fine on "Love Me Tender," but female singer Dea Norberg's presence seems out of place. Still, Elvis' talents and the original material are the foundation for the new releases, even if some of them seem overwrought or overproduced.
The album's reception seems to be mixed. For instance, Miami oldies station WMXJ-FM plans to play the new version of "Suspicious Minds."
"That still has great legs," WMXJ program director Bill Stedman said of the song. "It wasn't an accident that they chose it as their first release."
But Jerry Dean, operations manager for Entercom Memphis' five radio stations, said he probably won't play it. Elvis - a native of Tupelo, Miss. - lived in Memphis and is still the city's most well-known figure.
"Elvis is so beloved that when you start changing his original music, then the die-hard fans don't like it," Dean said. "Some things just shouldn't be remade."
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