Viva Elvis

October 31, 2010

I’m not sure we ought to waste much time wondering what Elvis Presley would make of the latest addition to his discography, Viva Elvis: The Album, a recombinant art project assembled by Erich van Tourneau, who uses thousands of samples of Elvis’ music and voice and also plays bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano and keyboards on the album.

Essentially the soundtrack for the Las Vegas show, mounted by Cirque du Soleil in honor of what would have been Elvis’ 75th birthday, Viva Elvis is — like their earlier, Beatles-themed show Love — impressive though hardly necessary.

It’s also probably better consumed live, with the attendant visual spectacle, than via a CD. That said, I kind of like some of the ways familiar Elvisiana has been technologically refreshed, and in a way it plays as a kind of sonic documentary, another iteration of the re-imagined E-dude who, 33 years after his (alleged) death continues to abide.

It opens with an overture, strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra mingled with interview clips and Ed Sullivan, with resolve into a re-mixed “Blue Suede Shoes” that’s been given a new adamantium spine; touches on a few early highlights —“That’s All Right” bumps along to a “Lust for Life” beat; “Heartbreak Hotel” grafts together three distinctly different versions to surprisingly good effectand the whole thing culiminates in an effective, droney “Suspicious Minds” which sounds like Elvis fronting U2.

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