Elvis Presley plays in Super Bowl XLV

I hope the fine folks enjoying the Super Bowl watch party at Graceland yesterday were able to make this out. While watching the game on FOX-TV, I could faintly hear music they picked up from the stadium loudspeakers near the end of the first half.

That is nothing unusual, except this time it was a familiar voice singing “That’s All Right.” It didn’t last long, but it was awesome to hear Elvis playing in the Super Bowl! It was definitely a remix, probably the one from Viva Elvis: The Album. The Green Bay Packers went on to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers to become champions of the National Football League. Elvis Presley Enterprises’ Super Bowl watch party benefited the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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.

Sony releases four new “Suspicious Minds” remixes, tells no one

Sony has quietly released four download-only remixes of “Suspicious Minds” created as part of the Viva Elvis project. These are different remixes than the one appearing on Viva Elvis: The Album.

And by “quietly,” I mean that they basically released them, told no one, and then went about their business. Were it not for a poster over on the For Elvis CD Collectors forum who literally stumbled across them while searching for something else, no one would even know. Not even a mention on Sony’s official Elvis The Music or Viva Elvis sites. Way to go, Sony.

On Amazon US, the four remixes are available at $1.29 each. You would be better served, however, to just download the entire “album” of four songs for a total of $1.99. That’s some funky pricing.

As such modernizations go, I prefer the version on Viva Elvis: The Album. These are still interesting, however, and will make nice additions to the rotation on my iPod.

Thank you to GibbersGanfa for letting the Elvis world know. Read GibbersGanfa’s “Brand New Official Suspicious Minds Remix” post on the FECC forum.

Shoppin’ Around: Elvis Presley 2010 Christmas Gift Guide

If you know and love an Elvis fan, here are some Christmas gift ideas to suit a wide variety of budgets. Price ranges listed are in US dollars, but most of these items are available around the world.

Under $10

Viva Elvis: The Album: Reactions from the Elvis fan community have been mixed on this CD, which features new backing music to Elvis’ vocals. While this tribute to his career obviously will never replace the original recordings, I love this retrospective. Viva Elvis is a fun and brilliant album that presents Elvis in a whole new light – how it might sound if he recorded today.

Under $20

On Stage (2010 Legacy Edition): This two-CD set contains both On Stage-February 1970 and Elvis In Person At The International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, which capture his August 1969 and February 1970 Vegas engagements. Elvis is in top form here, and these recordings have never sounded better. A few bonus tracks are also included on each disc, from the same time period.

Under $30

Elvis Blu-ray Collection: Jailhouse Rock/Viva Las Vegas/Elvis On Tour: This three-disc Blu-ray set, currently retailing for less than $9 a movie, presents a well-chosen sampler of Elvis’ film career. Jailhouse Rock is the classic 1957 rocker that holds its own against King Creole (1958) and Flaming Star (1960) as Elvis’ best dramatic performance. 1964’s Viva Las Vegas is the highlight of his 1960s “formula” movies – aided, no doubt, by the talents of the beautiful Ann-Margret. Finally, 1972’s Elvis On Tour features Elvis on stage and behind-the-scenes during an April 1972 tour. While not as incredible as 1970’s Elvis-That’s The Way It Is (not yet available on Blu), Elvis On Tour is still a fantastic experience not to be missed.

Fair warning: This 2010 release of Elvis On Tour has been modified from the original version. Due to Warner Home Video’s inability to obtain permission to use “Johnny B. Goode,” the opening song of the movie is now an amateurishly looped, throwaway version of “Don’t Be Cruel.” This only affects the first two minutes of the otherwise unaltered film. The power of Elvis manages to save this release and make it worth recommending. Despite what you may read elsewhere, picture and sound quality for Elvis On Tour are terrific on Blu.

Elvis As Recorded At Boston Garden ’71: This Follow That Dream collectors label CD is a soundboard recording of Elvis’ one and only concert at Boston Garden. This is a must-have for fans of this era, for it provides the missing bridge between his 1970 and 1972 live concert sound. Great show! Find FTD releases at ShopElvis.com and other online Elvis stores.

$400 – $750

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection (Franklin Mint); The Complete Elvis Presley Masters (Sony): These are two different but similarly themed CD releases. Both contain all 711 recordings that Sony identifies as masters released during Elvis’ lifetime. Sound quality is upgraded, but faithful to the original mixes (in most cases, anyway). The $400 Franklin Mint version also includes a 24-page booklet, a “record player” style display case, and a reproduction of Elvis’ first SUN record, “That’s All Right”/”Blue Moon Of Kentucky.” The $750 Sony version is aimed at higher-end collectors and includes another 103 songs (alternate masters, outtakes, home recordings, etc.), a 240-page book, and a fold-out case to hold everything. The first run of the Sony edition is sold out, but pre-orders for a January second run are now being accepted. To still have something to place under the tree, you could print out a photo of the set from the Sony site. The Franklin Mint version is still available.

Have fun, fellow Elvis fans, and thanks to all of those who love us!

Rolling Stone misses the point in review of The Complete Elvis Presley Masters (Conductor’s Reflections #5)

Rolling Stone magazine stopped being relevant a long time ago, but I do occasionally find their music reviews interesting – when the publication bothers to cover music, that is. Their October 26 online review of Sony’s The Complete Elvis Presley Masters is an interesting study in absurdity. The point of this release, as indicated by the title, is to collect all of Elvis’ masters into one collection. Here’s what reviewer Anthony DeCurtis had to say:

[T]he later tracks in particular could use some cherry-picking: You shouldn’t have to hear his deeply moving gospel recordings and hits like 1969’s ‘Suspicious Minds’ in the context of his long, dispiriting downward spiral.”

Besides the all-too-typical jab at his later years, this is just about the most idiotic statement I’ve ever read in a professional review. DeCurtis would prefer a Complete Elvis Presley Masters collection that is incomplete in order to satisfy his warped image of who Elvis really was? He should stick with compilations like Elv1s 30 #1 Hits, then, and leave the deep catalog diving to people who actually want to study and understand the real Elvis.

Of course, idiotic statements are unfortunately not confined to Rolling Stone. I’ve also read fan reviews in more than one place lately that criticize the top-notch Viva Elvis: The Album release for having an overblown Vegas sound. That release is the soundtrack to a Las Vegas show – what exactly did they expect? Elvis unplugged?

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

Hear the once and future Elvis on Viva Elvis: The Album – now available

Viva Elvis: The Album arrives in stores today. The release features twelve main tracks, with remixes designed to make Elvis sound as if he were recording today.

1. Opening: Also Sprach Zarathustra (instrumental)
2. Blue Suede Shoes
3. That’s All Right
4. Heartbreak Hotel
5. Love Me Tender
6. King Creole
7. Bossa Nova Baby
8. Burning Love
9. Memories (instrumental)
10. Can’t Help Falling In Love
11. You’ll Never Walk Alone (instrumental)
12. Suspicious Minds

Some versions of this album include one of several bonus tracks, with Elvis singing a “duet” with a present-day performer.