Elvis Presley never fulfilled his dream of appearing in Britain, let alone ever sang with the Royal Philharmonic. But that hasn’t prevented a new album uniting the King of Rock‘n’Roll’s vocals with the London-based orchestra for a selection of beyond-the-grave recordings.
Released in November, If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and features new versions of classic hits including Burning Love and Love Me Tender.
Conceived by producer Don Reedman with the backing of Priscilla Presley, the singer’s former wife, the Royal Philharmonic add “lush new arrangements” to original vocal tracks recorded by Elvis, who died in 1977.
The 14-track album features signature Elvis vocal performances such as Can't Help Falling In Love and In The Ghetto, as well as a duet with Michael Buble on Fever and appearances by the singers Il Volo and guitarist Duane Eddy.
The album might not impress Elvis fans who believe he was at his best performing untamed rock 'n' roll. But Mrs Presley said: “This is right down the alley for Elvis. This is something he would have loved to do.”
Elvis’s voice has previously been posthumously added to duets featuring Barbra Streisand, his daughter Lisa Marie and even Susan Boyle. Commercial exploitation of the singer helped the Presley estate earn $55 million for the year ending October 2014.
Ms Presley admitted she was initially sceptical about the orchestrated album but was persuaded by a meeting with Elvis’s former Las Vegas conductor, who approached her about a similar project. She said: “Elvis was a risk-taker. If we kept everything status quo, how do we bring him into the future? How do we bring him current with this generation? How do we move on and continue the legacy?”
“He would have loved to play with such a prestigious symphony orchestra. The music…the force that you feel with his voice and the orchestra is exactly what he would have done,” Mrs Presley said.
The album will be accompanied by an ITV special, Joanna Lumley: Elvis and Me on ITV, in which the actress travels to Graceland to meet some of Elvis’ closest surviving friends and family. Ms Lumley also joined Priscilla Presley at Abbey Road during the recording of If I Can Dream.
Sony Music, which will release the album, said the release “highlights Elvis Presley’s diverse musical tastes and appreciation for great vocalists spanning a variety of genres from standards to opera.”
If I Can Dream forms part of an ongoing Elvis “80th birthday celebration” which includes the largest exhibition of Elvis memorabilia ever mounted in Europe, currently running at the O2 Arena in London.
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