She Is the King - Comeback
Let's get it straight from the start - "Elvis impersonators - Who needs them?!"
OK, so maybe the genuinely talented can try to imitate Elvis' unique persona and help fans relive his amazing legacy and on-stage excitement. But male Elvis impersonators releasing CDs of poor imitations of Elvis' original songs - What can be the point? Listen to the original. There is ONLY ONE ELVIS.
But here is something entirely different - and quite an exciting counterpoint too. A female Elvis releasing a CD of classic Elvis songs.
Of course She Is the King isn't the first - maybe that goes to Janis Martin and all that followed, including the stunning 'Elvis Herselvis' - but She Is The King is serious about her art, her production and what she is trying to add to Elvis' legacy. And the gender twist to the lyrics also gives them a potentially interesting feminist undertone if one cares to consider where she is coming from.
However She Is the King has stated...
"I’m not trying to appeal to the market that is already there for Elvis, I’m trying to appeal to possibly new devotees to him. If I’ve modernised the sentiment or music slightly, but enough to attract the interest of a young person, then I hope they’ll go and research who sung the song originally and they will find Elvis. That’s my take on it and then I feel I will have done my job."
'She Is The King' - Jacqueline Feilich - is the only woman ever to be selected by EPE to compete in the worldwide Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition and she has already achieved quite an impressive international following.
(Right: She Is the King in concert December 2007)
So after the build up of the two initial singles (the first three tracks of this album) we get the full first album - cleverly obtuse in its title – 'Comeback.'
As already noted in our earlier single reviews, She Is The King fits Elvis’ mold very well having a deep throaty/soulful vocal that is well-suited to her choice of material. Hearing a female vocal tackle her initial singles with obvious conviction was an aural delight. Visually and musically she is imbued with a number of iconic Elvis qualities.
So after the glam excitement of 'Viva Las Vegas', the apprehension of 'Edge Of Reality' and the sincerity of 'If I Can Dream', She Is the King has to lay her Elvis soul on the line - and yes, there really are some gems in store.
Ask any hard-core Elvis fan to nominate what are their most important, if more obscure, Elvis songs and several of the album's selection would be in their list. Tracks like 'Clean Up Your Own Backyard', 'Long Black Limousine' and 'I've Lost You' are all underrated Elvis classics that fans should "hold in their hearts".
As a sidenote, at a 'She Is The King' live performance it was fascinating watching the supportive Elvis audience looking perplexed by these "strange" selection of song choices. You could see them itching for the overplayed (boring) Elvis classics - but 'She Is The King' was that sincere in her performance that the crowd was definitely won over. No wonder Elvis was exasperated and musically unfulfilled by the crowds he had to face!
'Clean Up Your Own Backyard' kicks off the real-deal after the singles with a cool band work-out and a delightful raw feel, very reminiscent of Elvis’ 1969 Memphis Sessions. She Is The King's band is funky and tight, the lead guitar particularly impressive as are the backing vocals and soulful organ - This has a great vibe. Moving on from the highly-polished sound of the singles this has a particularly impressive "Live In the studio" feel confirmed by the band chatter and the engineer shouting "Cut" at the end.
'Long Black Limousine' is another challenge which lets She Is The King show off some more Memphis 1969 soulful sincerity. The audio mix is superb with genuine horns and some impressive call & response backing-vocals. She Is The King's vocal maybe slightly too cool on this one - or perhaps one cannot possibly compete with the sincerity of Elvis' overpowering original. The original was after all Elvis’ very first track he recorded on his 'Suspicious Minds' comeback session.
'Such A Night' and 'Bossa Nova Baby' change the mood being positively happy dance tracks - perfect for rocking out on stage. She Is The King kicks off with a real swing that, while not capturing the pure dripping SEX of Elvis' 'Such A Night' original - sure won't disappoint - and the double drums of the original are played to full-effect.
Didn't someone grab Elvis inappropriately while filming 'Bossa Nova Baby'? Well this version would sure have Elvis twisting in delight - nice Tijuana horns - or is that what they said to Elvis at the time! It's real fun.
'I've Lost You' – Did I say that you can't really get excited about an Elvis impersonator's song? Well damn it if this isn't one of the most impressive Elvis re-recordings that I have ever heard. Absolutely stunned on first listen I immediately hit replay. The pacing is perfect and the horns/orchestra/backing vocals are immaculate. She Is The King lays it on the line, pouring just the right amount of emotion into her vocal - her cries say it all. Moving on from Elvis' original the chorus here actually builds up to a new height (@ 03.30) that is totally stunning. Full credit for the new arrangement to producer Novak Langer who also contributed backing-vocals. Even without knowing Elvis’ original this is a magnificent track. Best song on the album - one of the best Elvis releases of 2007! - I kid you not.
Another ballad 'My Boy', complete with orchestra, is a lovely & faithful version of Elvis' 1974 single while not being quite as effective as the previous track.
The tricky number 'Burning Love' follows where She Is The King and her band do themselves proud imparting the feel of the 1972 original. There are some nice chopping guitar licks while She Is The King moans like she means it - although she doesn't try for that crazy Elvis falsetto. The band produce a power-house finale and again the ending doesn't fade giving a true live-in-the-studio feel – "Thank you very much"
'Love Me Tender' can never be bettered than by Elvis so why bother? With its placing as the final track it also makes it a definite statement - but it is very impressive! Perfectly transposed to a fully orchestrated sound while not going Over-The-Top as some of Elvis' own in-concert versions sometimes did. It is a succinct ending to a marvellous debut album. Most artists would push for a longer version but Elvis' original single ran for 2 mins 40 seconds and She Is The King's version does exactly the same!
It's also nice to have the bonus of the lyrics printed too! When did they ever do that on an Elvis album?!
The album was produced by Novak Langer and mastered at Sterling Sound New York. The audio quality is outstanding, as one would hope for nowadays though not necessarily from other Elvis ETA albums.
Vedict: She Is The King – Jacqueline Feilich – has a definite talent that works on both the laid-back studio jam type numbers as well as the beautifully executed productions like ‘I’ve Lost You.’ I can honestly say that this is a rare Elvis Tribute Artist album in that it left me wanting to hear more! Her fans will definitely not be disappointed. It will be very interesting to see what she does next.
Review by Piers Beagley
Copyright EIN - February 2008
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