I must admit, I’m a die-hard Elvis fan. And like many other fans, I’ve been following the legendary singer’s life and career through the pages of “Elvis: The Man and His Music” (EMM) magazine. It’s always been a reliable source of historical honesty, never shying away from the truth. But lately, I’ve noticed a change in the magazine’s tone – a hint of darkness and intolerance.
One of the issues that sparked controversy within the Elvis community was the release of RCA Records’ compilations featuring Elvis Presley’s vocal recordings accompanied by orchestral arrangements by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO). The first volume, “If I Can Dream,” hit the shelves in October 2015, followed by “The Wonder of You” in October 2016, and “Christmas with Elvis and the RPO” in September 2017.
Despite the skepticism surrounding this collaboration, the first two volumes achieved surprising commercial success. According to Wikipedia, “If I Can Dream” sold 1.6 million copies worldwide, with over 90% of sales in the United Kingdom. “The Wonder of You” reached over half a million units, with the majority sold in the UK as well. Even Graceland recognized the achievements of these albums, with Priscilla Presley accepting Gold and Platinum Awards for the RPO releases at Elvis Week.
When Nick Patrick and Don Reedman first approached Priscilla with the RPO project, she saw it as a way to keep Elvis relevant in a changing musical landscape. She believed that an album combining Elvis’s iconic voice with the grandeur of a symphony orchestra would be a dream come true for the King himself. In support of the releases, Priscilla amplified the emotional connection Elvis had with operatic vocals and expressed her happiness in making this dream a reality.
However, not everyone was thrilled about the RPO compilations. EMM, in particular, criticized the orchestral arrangements and the supposed greed behind the project. The magazine accused Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) of being desperate and clueless, claiming that they would do anything to make money at the expense of Elvis’s recorded legacy. The editorial even took aim at Priscilla’s involvement, questioning her understanding of music and casting doubt on her role as the spokesperson for Elvis’s thoughts.
This criticism sparked a heated debate among Elvis fans, with EMM dismissing anyone who disagreed with them as being “mad” or not caring about Elvis’s musical legacy. It seemed that EMM wanted to safeguard the purity of Elvis’s original recordings and saw the RPO compilations as a threat to that legacy.
I, on the other hand, found myself somewhere in the middle of this debate. While I agreed with certain points made by EMM, such as the questionable fit of orchestration in some tracks, I also discovered a few gems within the RPO albums. Songs like “There’s Always Me,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “The Grass Won’t Play No Mind,” and “Starting Today” made it onto my personal Presley ballads playlist. These tracks offered a different perspective on Elvis’s music, and I appreciated the extended arrangements that breathed new life into his timeless melodies.
In the end, being an Elvis fan is about personal taste and connection. It’s about cherishing the original recordings that captured the essence of the King, while also exploring new interpretations that add a touch of contemporary flair. So, I won’t be taking up basket weaving, as suggested by EMM. Instead, I’ll continue to embrace the complexities and controversies that make Elvis’s legacy enduring and fascinating.
Read more about the world of Elvis on All about Elvis.