Tuesday 12 May 2020

Danzig - Danzig Sings Elvis (2020)

Country: USA
Style: Pop/Rockabilly
Rating: 5/10
Release Date: 24 Apr 2020
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The opening song on this album asks "Is It So Strange" and, for anyone who's been paying attention over the last few decades, it really isn't so strange that Glenn Danzig, the controversial lead vocalist for the Misfits, Samhain and Danzig, would release an all Elvis cover album. What's surprising is how traditionally he handles it. This really is an Elvis cover album rather than a Satanic Elvis cover album, however much reverb Danzig layers on.

Five years ago, Danzig released Skeletons, his take on David Bowie's Pinups covers album and, even though that focused almost entirely on songs from the sixties and seventies, there was also one Elvis number, Let Yourself Go. I'd bet that he's been aching to do more ever since, if not long before, and the result isn't bad at all, more than the novelty record it looks like, if not something we're likely to pull back out anywhere near as regularly as Legacy of Brutality or Danzig 4.

What's impressive right out of the door is that few of these selections are of expected songs. Whether you're an Elvis fan or not, I'm sure you'll know a whole slew of his hit singles, from Heartbreak Hotel to Suspicious Minds via Love Me Tender, Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock, among so many others that have become infused into modern pop culture. None of those are covered here. The only two songs that I recognised in the line-up are Fever and Always on My Mind, both songs already famously covered by others.

Instead, Danzig takes on a dozen much more obscure songs, most of them from the fifties and none of which I've either heard or heard of before. Lonely Blue Blue, for instance, was made famous not by Elvis but by Conway Twitty, though the King did record it first. It was called Danny then and would have been included in the King Creole movie if it hadn't been cut. It didn't see the light of day until the re-release of the soundtrack in 1997.

Some of them are probably obscure because they deserve to be. One Night and First in Line are routine crooners that I forgot as soon as they were over. There are a lot of crooners here, where the band does almost nothing and it all lives or dies on Danzig's vocal performance. I didn't mind Love Me, from the second Elvis album in 1956, though this parody of country music had been previously recorded as an R&B song by Willy & Ruth. Most of these songs left me dry though, all the way to the last few, which let the album peter out.

Others sound like they're ready for rediscovery. Baby Let's Play House is a rockabilly stomper that was originally released in 1955 as the B side of a song called I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone. It's five songs in but the first song to really try to kick it musically. Like everything else here, it feels soaked in reverb and it's the most evil number here. I dug the quirky sound of Pocket Full of Rainbows, taken from the G.I. Blues movie.

Fever is a highlight, as you might expect. Like Pocket Full of Rainbows, it unfolds through voice and gimmick, here fingersnaps. The band is so subdued that it could be recording in the next studio over with the doors open, even if it sounds neatly menacing, especially because of the bass. I wasn't quite as sold on Always on My Mind, even though it probably marks the closest that Danzig gets to Elvis. It's a more traditional song but still downtuned with a lot of reverb, though it does feature the only guitar solo on the album.

I wonder how well this will sell. If you work back through Danzig's career, an Elvis fetish is pretty obvious throughout, even on faster Misfits songs, but I'm not sure how much of his regular audience is going to dig this. I'd have thought they'd have been more interested if more songs rocked out like Baby Let's Play House, but there's not much here that has energy. And if an Elvis fan picks this up without having any notion who Danzig is, I'm unsure as to whether they'd even make it through it.

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