It's Now or Never (feat. The Jordanaires)
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Robert Gordon was one of the few major rockabilly revivalists who came on the scene before Elvis Presley died, albeit by a slim margin — Elvis passed only four months after Gordon's first album was released in April 1977 — and while Gordon rarely seemed to be emulating Presley in his glory days, the King was clearly a major influence on him, both as the man who disseminated the hepcat ethos to the world at large, and as a gifted singer whose talent went beyond the strict confines of the rockabilly genre into pop, rhythm & blues and gospel. On It's Now or Never (once announced for release under the title "The King and I"), Gordon teams with one of his best instrumental sidekicks, guitarist Chris Spedding, and records 15 songs made famous by Elvis Presley with the Jordanaires, the vocal group that backed up Elvis on many of his RCA sessions, adding harmonies on several tunes. While Spedding follows the teachings of Scotty Moore in his guitar work and the rhythm section similarly aims for a sound that recalls what Presley did with these songs so many years ago, Gordon strives hard to give his recordings a personality of their own, and while Elvis casts a pretty long shadow over this disc, Gordon actually manages to sound like himself on It's Now or Never. It helps that he has a lower voice than Presley, and that his instrument doesn't seem capable of the same gymnastics as Elvis', which forces him to rethink the vocal lines a bit, but there's an undertow to this album that suggests Gordon respects this music too much to simply imitate Elvis. While Gordon brings the same sort of romantic brio to "It's Now or Never," conjures up a similar lovelorn passion on "Trying to Get to You" and even approaches the spiritual conviction of "Peace in the Valley," he finds a way to spin them his own way, and if he isn't the most original sounding vocalist in creation here, he approaches some of the best known songs in the rock & roll canon and interprets them on his own terms, no small task for any singer, and he does so with a healthy dose of heart and soul. Against all odds, It's Now or Never ranks with Gordon's best work since his heyday in the '80s, and finds him singing with strength, confidence and imagination, partly because he's rarely had material this good: maybe he should consider an Eddie Cochran or Buddy Holly homage sometime in the future.
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