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Robert Gordon & Chris Spedding
It's Now Or Never
Rykodisc
www.robertgordon.dk


If you turned Robert Gordon, longtime cohort Chris Spedding and The Jordanaires loose on fifteen Elvis tracks, wouldn't you expect some blistering rockabilly? How is it then that there's no significant guitar work for the first ten songs? Spedding, who replaced Link Wray in the Gordon camp, is a world-class player with credits from Paul Mcartney and Elton John to The Vibrators and Nina Hagen. But here he lets the keyboard work from Johnny Neel overshadow him handily. Neel is accomplished and thrilling on boogie woogie piano and Hammond organ, but even though he shares top billing, Spedding doesn't even try to keep up. The Jordanaires' incredible harmonies feel warm, as tight as a virgin in winter.

Except the title track, which is accurate down to the arrangement, Gordon doesn't imitate Elvis, but does mimic the hiccupping style set forth by Carl Perkins, Johnny Burnette and Charlie Feathers. A fine line to the casual observer, but in many ways Gordon is a superior singer to the The King with a lower range akin to Johnny Cash. His rich tone and timbre feel more comfortable, where Elvis had the advantage when it comes to drawled delivery and vibrato. Gordon's pure version of "Peace In The Valley" is so convincing and convicting that you'll be looking for the altar, while Elvis presented it as a last-ditch recompense for playing the Devil's music. The Jordanaires are particularly enjoyable on this one.

"Trying to Get to You" finally showcases Spedding's prowess in nasty guitar manipulation so that he often sounds like two guys. Sick string-bending and clever phrasing plays off Gordon's chest-deep vocals. There are great interpretations of mostly lesser known Presley numbers on here - "It Feels So Right," "Don't Leave Me Now, " "You're So Square" are all immaculately executed. But the question arises, to what end? Elvis fans would rather hear it from the source. Robert Gordon fans will love it, but why not put the effort into originals? Chris Spedding fans get screwed. PS: Fix that pompadour, you look like a sleestak.

-Ewan Wadharmi

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