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Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas

Enjoy an excerpt about Elvis’ Christmas album from Elvis Music FAQ, by Mike Eder. 

Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas (Released October 10, 1971)

This album may be one of Elvis’ most heard of the seventies, but it’s one of his worst non-soundtrack outings. Elvis did not want to do this album, but he did so because it was expected of him. It did extremely well in the holiday market, but the project left a bad taste in his mouth. The production and arrangements are tame on the whole. Other than the fact that Elvis is singing them, selections like “The First Noel,” “Silver Bells,” and “On a Snowy Christmas Night” have nothing to offer. “Winter Wonderland” is also pretty pedestrian, with only a tacked-on rock-and-roll ending being notable. Sure, an Elvis fan is going to like these recordings over most other versions, but Presley was bored, and he brings nothing to the table.

“The Wonderful World of Christmas” and “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You)” have Elvis going through the motions, but they sound slightly contemporary. “If I Get Home on Christmas Day” was a ballad Elvis tried a bit harder on, but it’s still melodically dreary.

Making one wish the EP format was still viable at the time, there are four tracks worthy of Elvis. One is a fine ballad by Glen Spreen and Red West called “Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees.” The melody has a bit more substance to it than most of the other songs here, and Elvis responds to the moodiness of the piece.

“I’ll Be Home on Christmas Day” is a song Elvis toiled hard on, recording several different versions of it before he was finally satisfied with one of his earlier attempts. It’s very bluesy, and one can tell why he wanted to do it justice. There’s a lot of feeling, and it creates atmosphere on what had so far been one of Elvis’ most trite projects.

The two songs chosen for the single were quite solid, with “Merry Christmas Baby” being particularly rewarding. Doing it as a slow blues jam, Elvis pulls out all the stops by reaffirming himself as the best white blues singer there ever was. These types of songs came so easily to Elvis that he never seemed to realize how many singers would kill for his mastery of the idiom. “Merry Christmas Baby” has been recorded by many great artists, such as Chuck Berry and Ike and Tina Turner. As good as their records were, nobody put their stamp on it like Elvis. Even on a project he had no passion for, Elvis couldn’t help but be great when he really dug a song.

It seems less likely that Elvis would excel on “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” but with a country-styled basic track over a tasteful choral backing, excel he does. Though some traditional feeling is retained, there is a modern beat behind it, which keeps proceedings from getting dull. Elvis is credited on the LP with the arrangement. This may have been a ploy for Hill & Range to claim publishing, though it’s likely Elvis did have input, considering the work he put into his vocals. Doing his own harmonies over his main lead, his voicing is intricate, and the resulting thickness is pleasing to the ear. If the LP is far too patchy, at least the single showcased Elvis at his best.

Elvis Music FAQ

Why is Elvis Presley’s body of recorded work still so relevant nearly 60 years after he began recording? Elvis Music FAQ is for anyone who has been inspired by an Elvis Presley record. Following in the tradition of the FAQ series, in Elvis Music FAQ, a lot of rare information is woven together in one concise, entertaining package.

There are chapters about every year of Elvis’s career, including a look at his pioneering original record label Sun; insight on his management; the continued importance of television in his career; a summation of each Presley concert tour; the inside scoop about the role Elvis’s band members and songwriters played in his sound; stories about the amusing musical oddities created by those trying to ride on the Elvis success train; details about the contentious role drugs played in his career; and, finally, a full review of every record the King ever issued.

One might say that the only truths about Elvis Presley can be found in the grooves of his records, where his natural talent and passion for music comes through always. Elvis Music FAQ aims to be the one essential companion that explains the reason why the voice heard over the speakers still carries such resonance. Dozens of rare images accompany this engaging text.

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Q & A with Mike Eder

Mike Eder, author of Elvis Music FAQ, answers some questions about his book on Elvis Information Network.

Mike, thanks for agreeing to an interview, I’m really looking forward to the book finally getting published. How long have you been working on your book ‘Elvis Music FAQ’ ?

Mike Eder: I have been working on it since the fall of 2011. I did the initial chapter for the proposal and then wrote most of it in from June to December 2012. Editing has gone on pretty constantly since then, ending only about one month ago. I had input on pretty much every aspect of the book. Backbeat has a great team who came up with a lot of great ideas, but they were very respectful of me as the author at all times. It is a nice feeling.

It must be hard to gather so much information and then distil it down to a publishable size!

Mike Eder: It is because I am a completest by nature. I basically used my Elvis record collection to write this book. I have read over 300 Elvis books myself so I knew what really had NOT been said. Or at least I didn’t feel it was said in the same way. I do cover every song and make some sort of comment on each one. I did draw the line on home recordings as they weren’t really meant for public consumption and truthfully there is too much we just don’t know about to cover them as definitively as I like to generally. Every tour is mentioned and given a review of sorts, all the films, and every major record, LP, EP, or 45, released during Elvis’ lifetime.

The FAQ series of books tend to cover some quirky stuff and I also had fun doing chapters on “borrowed” songs, records made by imposters, etc (see below left). I always try to be accurate on my dates and most importantly to have a balanced perspective. I am hard on myself that way but the great thing about doing an FAQ book is that you can take your subject seriously without losing the reader. These aren’t dry reference books, but rather meant to be thought provoking and fun. I want there to be a degree of entertainment for the reader.

I know what I like as a fan of Elvis, and music books in general, so I try to make it a book people will want to thumb through again. At the same time I put basically as much information as a typical reference book might have. Whether you have one scratchy 45 and a Christmas comp CD, or every pressing known to man, I aimed to make it work for any kind of Elvis listener. I want it to be a different sort of project in that any sort of fan can take something away from it.

Do you have a favourite period 50’s, 60’s or 70s?

Mike Eder: Well my very favorite Presley recordings generally come from 1954-60 and then 1968-72. I like a lot of stuff from 1961-67, and bearing in mind his troubles at the time, I also find much to enjoy during the later years. Though from a live standpoint the pickings get slim by 1976. Still I think the two periods I mentioned are when Elvis was enjoying what were ultimately two different kind of peaks.

There is no secret that Elvis was a great artist who made some bad records. I try to make sense of those and maybe try to understand how many of them came about. Elvis must bear the blame for making some bad decisions, yet I have no anger or disgust at him for not always making the best choices.

Throughout his career Elvis performed so many different types of music, do you think that your reviews might reflect your own taste in music? 

Mike Eder: One thing I would like to point out is that I am a huge fan of most any sort of rock, folk, blues, country, and gospel from the early fifties to the early seventies. I tend to focus on that one period of music history, but my tastes within that time are quite wide. I think that has put me in the unique position in that I like most of the styles Elvis tried. I have no hang up about him doing pop songs, if they are good pop songs. I like hard rock and I like love songs. It all depends on what I get from it myself.

Aside from the kind of historical factual information that a responsible writer does not let their own feelings color, I ignore other critics and try to tell the story that I get from the music personally. My own take on the whole Elvis Presley story is different than those that have been published before and I hope that’s why I have been able to gain readers over the years. I don’t want to come off like my tastes are more definitive than anyone else’s, I only want to make a case for what moves or doesn’t move me.

Keep reading the interview on Elvis Information Network!

 

Elvis Music FAQ is for anyone who has been inspired by an Elvis Presley record. Following in the tradition of the FAQ series, in Elvis Music FAQ, a lot of rare information is woven together in one concise, entertaining package.

There are chapters about every year of Elvis’s career, including a look at his pioneering original record label Sun; insight on his management; the continued importance of television in his career; a summation of each Presley concert tour; the inside scoop about the role Elvis’s band members and songwriters played in his sound; stories about the amusing musical oddities created by those trying to ride on the Elvis success train; details about the contentious role drugs played in his career; and, finally, a full review of every record the King ever issued.