'Elvis Presley - Christmas Duets'

CD review

Here is an on-line review by BlogCritic David Bowling.

Good to see an early positive write up.

Not surprisingly he rates the two blues numbers as the most enjoyable tracks, while Australia's own Olivia Newton-John who joins Elvis on 'O Come All Ye Faithful'doesn't come off so well.

Go here to see scans of the various Duets releases - as well as other Christmas 2008 Elvis releases.

Ah the wonders of modern technology! The RCA label has released another Elvis Presley Christmas album but rather than just repackaging some of his holiday hits, they decided to get a little creative.

They gathered together a number of country music’s biggest female stars to sing duets with him. Such artists as Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Leann Rimes, Wynonna Judd, Amy Grant, Gretchen Wilson, Anne Murray, and even Olivia Newton-John lend their voices to create duets on some of Elvis’ classic Christmas songs.

The original tracks have been remastered and more instrumentation has been added to create a fuller and different sound. Some of the background vocals have been changed or at least enhanced. The results add up to not only an interesting but an excellent album.

(Click here to the EPE 'The Making Of' Video)

Martina McBride does not overwhelm Elvis on “Blue Christmas” as she's been known to do with other artists. She gives a subtle performance that matches the smoothness of his vocal. The drum track is turned up to give the song a little more punch than the original.

Carrie Underwood plays it a little too conservative on the classic “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” There is just not enough of her on the track.

“Here Comes Santa Claus” finds Leann Rimes giving a perky vocal that compliments Elvis well. The instrumental backing is turned down a bit in order to focus on the purity of their voices.

“Santa Claus Is Back In Town” is probably the strongest track on the album. This is a blues rendition that fits Wynonna Judd well. She trades vocal runs with Elvis and more than holds her own. This is the track that I played over and over again.

“Silent Night” is presented in traditional style. Sara Evans vocal is excellent but I can’t help think that she and Carrie Underwood should have traded songs.

Amy Grant joins Elvis on “White Christmas.” The vocals are excellent but the tempo is faster than the original.

“Merry Christmas Baby” is a second blues outing and another superior track. A piano and drums dominate the instrumental backing with some clear harmonica added on the break. Gretchen Wilson doesn’t really duet with Elvis but rather adds phasing that enhances his vocal.

“O Little Town Of Bethlehem” is not a duet but a threesome. Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman bring their clear harmonies to this song and create a wonderful counterpoint. The three voices give this track a fuller sound than many of the others.

Anne Murray has a lower vocal register than the other singers on the album and as such creates a different sound when she combines it with Elvis’. “Sleigh Bells” is presented in traditional up-tempo form.

The Christmas hymn, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” finds Olivia Newton-John providing half of the duet. Her voice is not a match for Elvis, so she wisely stays in the background.

Also included are three bonus tracks of Elvis singing alone. “The First Noel,” "If I Get Home On Christmas Day," and “Winter Wonderland” have all been issued a number of times over the years. Here we find them remastered with extra instruments added. The sound is so clear that you can actually hear the intake of Elvis’ breath.

Verdict: Christmas Duets presents some classic Elvis in a new and creative way. It is a good and fun holiday listen. Merry Christmas to all fans of the true king of rock ‘n’ roll!

Do YOU agree? - Click here to have your say about the new Duets album or to comment on this article

Review by David Bowling

Go here to the BlogCritics forum to see the original posting

Go here to David Bowling's personal site


1. Blue Christmas Elvis Presley & Martina McBride
2. I'll Be Home For Christmas Elvis Presley & Carrie Underwood
3. Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) Elvis Presley & LeAnn Rimes
4. Santa Claus Is Back In Town Elvis Presley & Wynonna Judd 5.Silent Night Elvis Presley & Sara Evans
5. White Christmas Elvis Presley & Amy Grant
6. Merry Christmas Baby Elvis Presley & Gretchen Wilson
7. O Little Town Of Bethlehem Elvis Presley & Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town
8. Silver Bells Elvis Presley & Anne Murray
9. O Come, All Ye Faithful Elvis Presley & Olivia Newton-John
10. The First Noel (2008)
11. If I Get Home On Christmas Day (2008)
12. Winter Wonderland (2008)

(Right; Canadian cover. Features one extra track with Renne Martel)

Reader Feedback.

From Steve P
The new Duets cd is surprisingly good. The best part for me is hearing the 1957 mono album in wonderful stereo. I wish they could release the whole of Elvis' original Xmas album in this stereo format.
The blues songs really work and the mix of the duets with Elvis's vocal is pretty good on most tracks.
I am looking forward to hearing the tracks on the radio.

From Ida R
My personal opinion is that this Christmas duets is nothing new to me. All they are doing is adding  the voices of some artists to Elvis' voice, I have the ones with his voice only. Nothing against the new technology, when they did good remixes I say fine and bought it. 
I personally think that EPE specially does not know what to do anymore to make some money, and the real things are never done.  Instead they should be prioritizing on DVDs like Elvis On Tour or the Elvis Anthology DVD. They should stop making so much garbage, like those toys with Elvis's face that do not even look like him and putting a face on everything they think they could make money out of it. 

From Robert
The album is certainly a good upgrade for this decade. Arent we all fed up with BMGs continuous recycling of exactly the same songs every year. At least this is something new. A lot of care has been taken with the production and it is thrill to hear the original members like Gordon Stoker, Ray Walker and Millie Kirkham still singing with Elvis. These great artists are getting old and I think EPE or BMG should be praised for doing this project while these people are still around.

From Pat O
I think the duets work really well. I know that in the end I will always go back to playing Elvis's original versions but I am enjoying something different for now. The new stereo sound is very good and worth buying the CD for.
I think most fans will have to love this if only for being something new this year.

From: Ryan P
I love this Album.  It is refreshing to hear something that is sort of new, because lets face it Elvis is not in the studio cutting new material! I do get sick and tired of RCA just repackaging the same old material every year, but just with a new cover.    This really is the best RCA release since Guitar Man back in 1981.  I’m not talking about any of the  outtake type of releases.  I have to applaud RCA/Sony/EP Enterprises for a job well done.  I would love to hear an album of non Christmas material in a duet form, as well!!!!!

From: William P
I like the better sound of the mixes as they dont sound as dated as the originals - which i still love. And the more I play the new CD the more it grows on me. One of my favorites no one has mentioned is the new remastered 'First Noel' - which isn't a duet! It sounds really dynamic now, a change from the flat sounding original. Elvis' vocal is much stronger now. It really changes the song for the better.











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