EPE sues Spankox over unauthorized Christmas Remixes album

I remember being slightly surprised last year that Elvis Presley Enterprises had authorized Christmas Remixes, containing dance remixes by DJ Spankox of 1957’s entire Elvis’ Christmas Album. Sure, I could point to the rubber duckies or the potato heads as other examples of severe lapses in judgment when it comes to protecting Elvis’ legacy, but a dance remix version of Elvis’ Christmas Album? Really?

Turns out that EPE may have been just as surprised as I was to hear about the release of the album. In a lawsuit for which they recently won a summary judgment, EPE alleges they gave no such authorization to Spankox (Spankox Sued By EPE – ElvisNews.com).

EPE previously worked with Spankox in an authorized fashion on Re:Versions (2008) and Re:Mixes (2010). Re:Versions had uneven results, though I did enjoy the new take on “Too Much.” The Re:Mixes follow-up was rather poor, with few real highlights – perhaps, only “Hound Dog” (but it is, after all, the power of Elvis’ performance shining through and not the remix itself that makes that one compelling).

Compared to the stellar remix efforts by others on 2010’s Viva Elvis: The Album, 2002’s “A Little Less Conversation,” and 2003’s “Rubberneckin,'” Spankox’s attempts seemed insignificant and worn out. I never bothered to seek out his Christmas Remixes album, and it turns out that I made the right choice. Allegedly attempting to pass off something like that as being an authorized product just isn’t cool.

February 7 Update: The official Elvis.com site has posted an item about winning the Spankox lawsuit.

Viva Elvis “Burning Love” video fails to ignite, while Elvis.com makes embarrassing mistake (Conductor’s Reflections #7)

The official Elvis Presley Enterprises site reports that the folks behind Viva Elvis: The Album have released a new music video for “Burning Love.” Sadly, the Elvis.com news item states, “The video features archival footage of Elvis’ iconic Las Vegas performance.”

Uh, hello official Elvis site? Are you there? That footage is from Elvis’ iconic Aloha From Hawaii performances. You know, the ones that Elvis Presley Enterprises owns and occasionally promotes on DVD? The Aloha From Hawaii concerts took place, oddly enough, in Hawaii. White jumpsuit does not always equal Vegas. E! and other idiotic entertainment sites make this kind of mistake all of the time, but the official Elvis site should know better.

I loved the Viva Elvis album, including this track, so I figured I’d check this video out (“Burning Love” from Viva Elvis: The Album video — YouTube). First of all, it is miles ahead of the horrible video released last month for the otherwise incredible Viva Elvis version of “Suspicious Minds.” At least this “Burning Love” video doesn’t shy away from featuring footage of Elvis singing the song.

The first video, on the other hand, would have you believe that Elvis sang “Suspicious Minds” during the ELVIS (’68 Comeback) special. “Because, like, black leather is just so much cooler than a white jumpsuit,” was their way of thinking, I’m sure. That video mostly stars shadowy images of either 1968 Elvis or, it appears at times, an elvis impersonator dancing around on the screen. At least, that’s what I remember of it. I couldn’t bare to watch that thing twice.

By the way, they could have actually featured “archival footage of Elvis’ iconic Las Vegas performance” of this song. There was a fantastic 1970 version of “Suspicious Minds” filmed in Las Vegas for That’s The Way It Is. Granted, Elvis Presley Enterprises doesn’t own that movie footage (they only own Elvis’ three 1968-1977 television specials), but I’m sure they could have worked something out with Warner Home Video. They cross-promoted and worked together on Warner’s recent Elvis On Tour release, after all.

Though it may represent a switch in the targeted market for Viva Elvis: The Album from newcomers to established fans, I love the fact that this “Burning Love” video actually embraces the jumpsuited Elvis as he appeared in the Aloha concerts. Elvis did not die in 1968 (or, worse, 1958), despite what some would have you believe.

What doesn’t work for me at all, though, is the juxtaposition of Viva Elvis musicians thrown into the Aloha footage. Perhaps it is because I have watched the real Aloha so many times, but there is no illusion established that these people are all playing together on stage. It looks like you are watching two different concerts at once. Maybe that’s one of the problems some fans have with Viva Elvis: The Album. I guess the visual mash-ups bother me more for some reason than the audio ones.

The “Burning Love” video also suffers from a bit of the same problem as “Don’t Be Cruel” on the 2010 version of Elvis On Tour. About halfway through “Burning Love,” the video producers decide to cut to Elvis dramatically taking off his guitar (in reality, from the end of the song). This allows Elvis to move around freely, dance a bit, and interact with the audience. Suddenly, he is back with guitar at the end of the song – and then dramatically removes it again for the song finale. Ugh.

It makes Elvis look silly to apparently do this guitar removal bit twice in this “Burning Love” video – much like hearing Elvis apparently sing his funny “Please let’s forget the past, before I kick your —” line twice for “Don’t Be Cruel” did in the 2010 Elvis On Tour. That’s the problem with the realm of video and audio trickery. Some people do not know how to properly use the toys.

If they just had to show him with the guitar again, why not at least show him putting the guitar back on first? Then, just have him leave the guitar on when the song ended. The footage was there to do both, using elements from “See See Rider.”

The whole thing just seems sloppy, cheap, and rushed. At least it’s better than “Suspicious Minds,” though.

Listen to Elvis again for the first time in Viva Elvis-The Album

Viva Elvis: The Album is the Elvis surprise of the year for me. Since I have no interest in the Cirque du Soleil show that inspired it, I was pretty much ignoring this release until a preview trailer appeared before the theatrical showing of Elvis On Tour. That preview perfectly sets up this album – in fact, it is essentially the opening track. Next, I heard the modernized version of “Suspicious Minds” and I was hooked. (The accompanying music video released yesterday on elvis.com, however, is atrocious.)

From the sound clips on Amazon and other sites, I was pretty sure this album would be about one-third great, one-third okay, and one-third awful. I missed the mark on that assessment, by a mile. The entire album is a creative show of force that left me in absolute shock. The out-of-context song clips do not even begin to do this artistic album justice. Not even the “Suspicious Minds” single is an adequate representation, for this album is an experience.

Unlike other remix-type albums, I recommend listening to Viva Elvis in one sitting from beginning to end – rather than in the segmented form that iPod convenience so often brings us. Though the Elvis vocals are mostly from studio masters, this often feels like a live show – that is, if Elvis was alive in 2010 and gave a multimedia extravaganza concert reflecting on his career.

The backing on these tracks may have changed from the familiar versions, but the heart of this music remains the same. The originals will always maintain their rightful prominence over fancy remixes, but Viva Elvis: The Album offers a chance to listen to Elvis for the first time – all over again. It is so great that I wish I could shout about it from mountaintops – but I’m really not much of a climber. Instead, I’ll just have to use my little blog.

Viva Elvis The Album, 2010

Viva Elvis The Album, 2010

Suspicious Minds remix now available on iTunes (USA)

Suspicious Minds - Viva Elvis Version (2010)

Suspicious Minds - Viva Elvis Version (2010)

For those in the United States, the Viva Elvis remix version of “Suspicious Minds” is now available for download from iTunes. They’ve knocked this one of out the ballpark, folks. Fantastic job. Looking forward to the full album in November.

Go to iTunes to download “Suspicious Minds” (Viva Elvis Version).

Update: The new “Suspicious Minds” single is also available on Amazon.

New site for Viva Elvis album

Sony has unveiled a new website, www.suspicious-minds.com, to promote the November release of Viva Elvis: The Album – which features remixed versions of Elvis classics like “Suspicious Minds.” Five song samples are available there by default. You can hear more if you share the page on Facebook or Twitter. (Hint: Or you could just go to Amazon’s Elvis page and listen to all of the samples.) Two or three of the samples sound amazing, two or three sound like total duds, and the others are probably somewhere in between. We’ll have to hear the whole album to find out for sure, though. It hits stores November 9. Internationally, there will be several different variations available.

Elvis’ latest single . . . wow!

Thanks to a YouTube link posted on the sidebar of the Elvis Today blog, I just heard the Viva Elvis remix version of “Suspicious Minds” for the first time.

To say the least, it was incredible. Viva Elvis-The Album has now gone from being a release I was mildly interested in to a must-have due to this fantastic, modern-sounding version of “Suspicious Minds.”

Do not take “remix” the wrong way. This is not a sound-effects-filled dance remix like the JXL version of “A Little Less Conversation” (which, incidentally, I loved), but instead is a fresh take on the background to the original vocals – sounding closer to what one might imagine an Elvis song would be like if he recorded in 2010.

The album hits stores in November, though the “Suspicious Minds” single is apparently out in some locations now.

This may be yet another game-changer for the Elvis legacy.

Perfection, Remixed: Applying the Rules of Elvis to Beyoncé

Beyoncé Knowles live on stage in Las Vegas, 2009

Beyoncé Knowles live on stage in Las Vegas, 2009

So, I recently bought Above And Beyoncé: Dance Mixes, which features remixes of songs from Beyoncé Knowles’ I Am… Sasha Fierce album.

I’m a Beyoncé fan, but my initial reaction to playing the remixes through a couple of times was disappointment.

The dance rhythms became repetitive and the whole listening experience was tiring by the end. Besides, the original versions were better, so why bother?

However, I stuck them on my iPod anyway and they became part of my normal shuffle rotation. I soon found what I should have realized all along: The remixes were much better out of context.

In other words, a remix of “Sweet Dreams” can sound incredible when you’ve not just heard six other remixes right in front of it.

Why should I have realized this? Because I realized the same thing about Elvis Presley remixes years ago. Elvis remixes date back to 1980’s Guitar Man LP. It featured new background tracks for the following songs:

  • Guitar Man/What’d I Say
  • After Loving You
  • Too Much Monkey Business
  • Just Call Me Lonesome
  • Lovin’ Arms
  • You Asked Me To
  • Clean Up Your Own Back Yard
  • She Thinks I Still Care
  • I’m Movin’ On

Though the “Guitar Man/What’d I Say” single hit #1 on the Country chart in 1981, it became fashionable over the years to hate this album for daring to alter the original versions.

In 2000, FTD apologetically re-released the above songs on CD, along with others from the same remix sessions. The sarcastically-titled Too Much Monkey Business entered my CD collection as soon as it became available. The previously unreleased remixes from that album were:

  • Burning Love
  • I’ll Be There
  • I’ll Hold You In My Heart
  • In The Ghetto
  • Long Black Limousine
  • Only The Strong Survive
  • Hey Jude
  • Kentucky Rain
  • If You Talk In Your Sleep
  • Blue Suede Shoes

Between Guitar Man and Too Much Monkey Business, were any of the remixes better than the originals? Probably not, though there may have actually been one or two contenders (“Clean Up Your Own Back Yard” comes to mind).

Why do they have to be better, though? The fact that they are different and sound “new” is what makes them fun. They do not replace the originals, but stand beside them as another interpretation. You see, I already knew this about Elvis remixes. I just didn’t think at first to apply that line of reasoning to Beyoncé as well.

2002’s “A Little Less Conversation” remix by JXL brought Elvis back to the top of the charts for the first time since, well, Guitar Man! To this day, the JXL remix gets tons of airplay in various media.

I loved the Elvis vs. JXL “A Little Less Conversation,” as well as its follow-up, 2003’s Paul Oakenfold “Rubberneckin'” remix. An alternate remix of “Rubberneckin'” by Jason Nevins from that same time period is also fantastic.

In 2008, DJ Spankox remixed Elvis songs for an entire remix album, Elvis vs. Spankox Re:Versions. Rather than taking relatively obscure songs like “A Little Less Conversation,” Spankox took a bolder approach and went after some of Elvis’ better-known songs, including some of the original Sun masters. Since then, he’s even released a sequel album of additional remixes.

Much like Above And Beyoncé, listening to Too Much Monkey Business or Elvis vs. Spankox Re:Versions as albums in their entireties is really not that enjoyable.

Take the remixes out of that context, though, mix them in with your other music, and suddenly remixes of “Lovin’ Arms” or “Too Much” can sound incredibly fresh. Just don’t play all of your remixes back to back.

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A lot of you are already familiar with the Elvis Today blog, but if you haven’t already done so, be sure to read Thomas’ recent reviews of the book Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business and the Sony Legacy CD On Stage. As usual, Thomas is spot-on in his analysis.