Elvis Presley’s Christmas music is legendary. There is all kinds of merchandise with some of his tunes, such as “Blue Christmas,” attached to them. His holiday tunes gets played on radio stations all over the country, and they have been a mainstay for decades around many Christmas trees. So, in 2008, when RCA Records released a Christmas album that features the vocals of Elvis mixed with the vocals from many contemporary singers, there was a mixed reaction. The album, simply title “Christmas Duets” is something that you either think is a very good or a very bad idea.
I happened to be unsure when I first heard about the project, but I have been thrilled with the album since I first listened to it. In a really unique twist, there was even a music video made for one of the singles, “Blue Christmas” by Elvis and Martina McBride, that took a live performance Elvis did of the song and inserted Martina into it. The camera work was well done, with Martina looking as though she were in the old film clip, even dressed perfectly for the era in which it was recorded. That was a risky chance to take, and it paid off. The video is a must-see, and the song soared high in the charts.
For me, the best song on the album is “O Come, All Ye Faithful” with Elvis and Olivia Newton-John. Their voices are blended so that they seem to be singing perfectly in unison at the start of the track. The blend is really so pretty and the contrast between the voices so distinct that a really cool sound is created. After the initial start, Olivia starts to sing sort of in echo of the vocals of Elvis, and the layering effect is unique. It’s the best recorded version I have heard of the standard.