03 February 2009

Elvis Presley - "Christmas Duets"

Christmas Duets
Elvis Presley, Various Artists
Original release date: 14 October 2008
CD list price: $16.98

Posthumous duets are always dubious.  On one level, there is something disturbing about mixing a live vocalist with someone who should be resting in peace.  On the other hand, for reasons unknown, artists are drawn to attempt these projects from time to time, and so too are we as fans drawn to hear them.  Elvis Presley's discography covers several genres, but perhaps none is as well-loved as his Christmas recordings.

Fun fact: the King's best-selling album of all time, per the RIAA, is Elvis's Christmas Album, at 9x Platinum.

Christmas Duets unites Elvis's classic Christmas recordings with female vocalists, most from the country field.Part of the problem with this project is that it's more like you're listening to these women sing along to Elvis on their radio, rather than hearing an actual recording.  The most baffling cut is the Sara Evans collaboration on "Silent Night."  Inexplicably, Evans provides her own accompaniament, which would not be so odd were she not also accompanying Elvis.  It's like listening to a schizophrenic carry on a conversation with herself at the same time she's talking to someone else, and it is rather disorienting.

There is one track, though, that is worth the cost and that is the 8:04 blues jam session that is "Merry Christmas Baby."  Gretchen Wilson wisely inserts herself strictly as a background vocalist, repeating Elvis's vocals and never taking on a verse by herself.  This cut is clearly comprised of outtakes from the original recording sessions, and Elvis frequently ad-libs new lyrics.  The longer the cut goes, the more captivating it becomes.

Currently, the album can be purchased as a digital download from Amazon for $9.99.  Even if you pass on the album itself, I still suggest spending the $0.99 to download "Merry Christmas Baby."

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