'Christmas: Peace'

BMG CD review

"A snowy wonderland of Elvis audio listening pleasure"

Elvis Presley's original 'Christmas Album' has sold more copies than any LP that he ever released.

Sales of the song 'Blue Christmas' alone are already around 22 million and the excellent CD compile 'White Christmas' was released just 3 years ago.

So do we really need yet another Elvis Christmas album? Well, if it gives you an excuse to spin those Elvis classics just one more time to brighten up your Christmas season then, "Hell Yeah!"

All of Elvis' 20 Christmas songs are featured on the first CD. Kicking off with the classic 'Blue Christmas' before it heads down 'Santa Claus Lane' and calls those reindeer home with the sublime blues of Elvis' favourite Christmas song, 'Santa Claus Is Back In Town'.

If Elvis hated 'Winter Wonderland' it's still fun to hear him sing it, while 'If Every Day Was Like Christmas' demonstrates just how well composer & friend Red West understood Elvis' musical interest in the mid-sixties, while The Colonel squandered Elvis' talents on the likes of 'Double Trouble' & 'Old MacDonald.'

The audio here has been upgraded with a DSD transfer off the LP masters. While this is not the sensational improvement of 'Elvis 30 #1s' or '2nd To None' it is an upgrade on the 'White Christmas' CD with a better dynamic range and a total openness to the high frequencies. This truly sounds as if it has come from the Master tape.

If there are any complaints, it is that 'Crying In The Chapel' is not the perfect Studio copy as featured on 'Elvis 30 #1s'.

However, far worse is the fact that whoever did the rough edit on 'Silent Night' clipped off the original piano intro, losing the beautiful start of the song.

The original is available on your Elvis budget Camden Xmas LP! Joseph DiMuro is credited as Executive Producer (although Ernst & Roger still get noted as compilation producers) so I hope that he is severely reprimanded. What a ridiculous mistake!

All this is forgiven, of course, by the time we hit the penultimate track of Johnny Moore's 'Merry Christmas Baby'. Recorded at 2am in Nashville's Studio B, decorated for the recording session in May 1971 with Christmas lights, you know that Elvis was born to sing this kind of material. It touched his soul and can melt a frozen heart. Listen to Elvis' every soulful sigh - "Well I wanna' kiss you baby, underneath your Mistletoe", indeed!

However the real bonus to this set is the second 'Peace/Gospel' CD. A delightful compile of 20 essential Elvis religious songs and just perfect for this time of year.

From the raw and important statement of 1957's 'Peace In The Valley' to the sublime 'If That Isn't Love' from 1973's Stax sessions the selection is perfect for the Christmas season. 'Peace In The Valley' was the very last song that Elvis sang on the Ed Sullivan TV shows and with it Elvis threw down the gauntlet showing the world that, although at the time he was perceived as the devil incarnate, religion and gospel music were deep in his soul. The studio version was recorded just one week after Elvis' TV performance. Hopefully, for the general public who don't own any of the Gospel box-sets, this will be the perfect introduction to Elvis' religious side.

The fragility of 'Known Only To Him' contrasts superbly against the power and passion of 'How Great Thou Art', while the assembled backing choir of 'Amazing Grace' is just outstanding. Definitely worth a listen on headphones.

The cover photo is one of the very best, featuring a clever reverse of Wertheimer's 'Heartbreak Hotel' single cover against a snowy backdrop.

It looks terrific, sounds great, and some fan club called the "Elvis Information Network" is noted on the Australian sleeve!

Verdict: Running nearly an hour on each CD, and costing the same as a single CD this is a great Christmas gift. With an audio upgrade and a top class selection at a fabulous price how can you lose? Mysteriously this compile has been released in England as yet another single Christmas CD which makes no sense at all - Buy the Australian copy!

Christmas Peace was reviewed by Piers Beagley. 2003

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