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.
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.