Album: Elvis Presley, I Believe: the Gospel Masters (Sony)

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The Independent Culture

Rarely does a year go by without some new reconfiguration of Elvis Presley's back catalogue.

Quite apart from the ubiquitous "CD remastering" con that has been inflicted on virtually every performer of substance, we've had compilations or reissues dealing with Elvis's film music, Elvis's live shows, Elvis's 1968 comeback special, Elvis's Christmas songs, and so many repackagings of his Sun sessions it's hard to believe there's anyone left who doesn't already own them. The worst cash-in was probably last year's album of Spankox remixes; the best by far, for my money, being the collection of blues and rhythm'n'blues tracks Reconsider Baby. Now we have four CDs of gospel recordings, a parade of sanitised sanctimony. The best black gospel which has the gripping tone of supplicants begging their deity for consolation or consideration; by contrast, most white gospel sounds like crafty attempts to cajole that deity through wheedling flattery rather than authentic emotion. So it is here: only those who have never heard The Soul Stirrers' "Peace In The Valley" or The Swan Silvertones' "Milky White Way" could possibly argue the supremacy of Presley's versions, and the overall impression left by I Believe is of the chapel being relocated in the cabaret club, to neither's advantage.

Download this: "Crying in the Chapel", "Working on the Building", "Run On"