Thanks to technology, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride and LeAnn Rimes will be among the country stars performing with the king of rock ‘n’ roll on “Elvis Presley Christmas Duets.”
The new album, due out Oct. 14, will also feature Gretchen Wilson, Wynonna Judd, Sara Evans, Amy Grant and Anne Murray.
Sony BMG is releasing the disc in partnership with Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. They say it’s the late icon’s first duets album and the first Christmas compilation of its kind.
“This is an excellent example of the innovative ways in which we keep Elvis’ catalog fresh for new and existing fans,” said John Ingrassia, president of the Sony BMG Commercial Music Group.
While Presley only recorded 20 Christmas songs, his holiday albums have sold more than 25 million copies in the U.S. alone.
His 1957 release, “Elvis’ Christmas Album,” is the top-selling holiday release of all-time with 9 million in sales, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
The Jordanaires, the vocal group that backed Presley on most of those early recordings, are rerecording their parts for the new album.
“It’s done in very good taste,” the group’s Gordon Stoker said Tuesday. “We’re doing the same background we did originally on the recordings in 1957.”
Work is still under way in the fabled RCA Studio B where Presley recorded. Tracks include “Blue Christmas” with McBride, “Here Comes Santa Claus” with Rimes, “Merry Christmas Baby” with Wilson, “White Christmas” with Grant and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” with Underwood.
“It’s amazing what they can do,” Stoker said. “Elvis sounds great. The recordings sound as if they were done yesterday.”
Priscilla Presley said in a statement that she’s pleased with the caliber of artists on the album. “I am sure Elvis would be proud to have worked with them.”
Even so, some die-hard fans are wary.
“I don’t really like fooling around with things like that. All the Elvis recordings are so good. It kind of bothers me,” said Jean Donovan of Derry, N.H., who prepares a quarterly newsletter
for a pair of Presley fan clubs.
But Donovan said she doesn’t want to rush to judgment without hearing the songs.
Kathie Bryson of St. Louis, a member of the Elvis Memphis Style and TCB Elvis Style fan clubs, said if done properly, the project could enhance Presley’s legacy.
“Some people get all upset if they mess with a classic, but if you take a classic like ‘A Little Less Conversation,’ I vaguely remembered that song until they redid it and now I adore it,” said Bryson, 53.
And if any of the young upstarts should try to upstage the King?
“Good luck overshadowing Elvis Presley,” Bryson said.