Music Review: Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - If I Can Dream

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The new Elvis Presley album, If I Can Dream, posthumously pairs the King with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for a set of 14 brand new arrangements. Presley's isolated vocal tracks are expertly overlaid atop bold orchestral backing. Despite a hearty endorsement in the liner notes from Priscilla Presley, who speculates that her ex-husband would've considered the album "a dream come true," we of course have no way of knowing if Presley would've liked this. In fact, it's a safe bet he would've recorded new vocals to go with the orchestral tracks, so If I Can Dream remains a piece of music 'fan fiction' at best. 
elvis if i can dream display (380x375).jpg With the griping about posthumous tinkering (or grave-robbing, depending how strongly you feel about the matter) now out of the way, it can also be said that If I Can Dream is handled with relative grace and good taste. The results are extremely listenable and, as far as these "what if" type projects go, this is a very worthwhile experience for Elvis fans. Any temptation to make this a full-on "duets" album was mostly resisted, with only "Fever" becoming a twosome with Michael Bublé dropping in. And while on paper it seemed like a questionable idea, on disc this is a fun, sexy piece that ends up being an album highlight.

Overall, If I Can Dream retains the "DNA of Elvis" (as Priscilla puts it in the liner notes) while managing to cast the songs in subtly different moods. "Burning Love," which opens the record, trades the original's raucous rock for a more tempered, formal setting. Ballads like "Love Me Tender" and "Can't Help Falling in Love" wind up with more predictable, supportive backing. "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" is treated a suitably big, bold, powerful score. Italian trio Il Volo back up Presley vocally on "It's Now or Never." Duane Eddy adds guitar to "An American Trilogy" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

In the end, while the new album may not ever be considered essential, it is a potent reminder of the power and beauty of Elvis Presley's voice. The audio fidelity is spectacular, with the decades-old vocal tracks blending seamlessly with the newly recorded Royal Philharmonic Orchestra backing.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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