AUDIO JUNKIE: Baz Luhrmann, A-list acts salute King of Rock and Roll in 'Elvis'

'Elvis' OST cover

Baz Luhrmann’s musical film about rock and roll’s one and only king is an excellent tribute to the man and his music.

And while the movie paints a rather tragic picture of the life of Elvis Presley, mainly on how he was taken advantage of and eventually driven to exhaustion by his manager Col. Tom Parker (who was “neither a colonel, a Tom nor a Parker”) Luhrmann still gets to celebrate the music.  

And by that, we mean that Elvis Presley’s beloved hits are used to timeline his life. From his “Hound Dog” days when he was ‘discovered” by Colonel Parker (excellently played by Tom Hanks with snake-oil salesman slick and predator menace), to “Trouble” when Elvis (played with uncanny likeness and accuracy by Austin Butler) was being the epitome of rock and roll rebellion, to “Suspicious Minds” when the latter thought he was at the cusp of a breakthrough in his life and music, to “If I Can Dream” where he wanted his music to be relevant against a backdrop of political upheaval. It really is a compelling story played to revolutionary music.

The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack of “Elvis” is an equally epic undertaking. As expected, “the soundtrack features Elvis’s extraordinary body of work spanning the 1950s, `60s and `70s, while also celebrating his diverse musical influences and enduring impact on popular artists today.”

But the kicker here is that the songs get a reworking from a diverse pool of modern-day music acts. At 36 tracks, standouts includes Kacey Musgraves’ minimalist “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” soulful “If I Can Dream” by Maneskin, beautiful and moody “Suspicious Minds” by Paravi, and modernized rock of “Edge Of Reality” by Tame Impala and the blues-club mash of the Swae Lee-Diplo collaboration on “Tupelo Shuffle”

The latter two spliced the original vocal recordings of Presley alongside those of today's acts, and the result are Presley duets that wouldn't have happened under Colonel Parker's watch. And now you have the original Gospel “I’ve Got A Feeling In My Body” getting a funky rework from Stuart Price, Jack White getting a blues rock moment with the rock icon on “The Power Of Love,” and Rapper Nardo Wick reimagining “In The Ghetto” into “Product Of The Ghetto.” And we'll say that Elvis' voice sounds great singing with and over these different artists and styles. 

Austin Butler in his spot-on portrayal of Elvis, sings on the bluesy 1958 Presley hit “Trouble,” “Baby Let’s Play House” and "Hound Dog" and it’s here on the soundtrack. Try not looking into the tracklist and see if you can spot the real ones from the reel one.

These alongside previously released singles from Doja Cat (“Vegas”), Eminem and Ceelo Green’s “The King & I,” plus the Stevie Nicks and Chris Isaak cover of “Cotton Candy Land” (among others here) certainly make this OST more than a curious listen.

Then there’s the original on “I’m Coming Home,” emotional “If I Can Dream,” equally moving “Any Day Now” and energetic “Suspicious Minds” with that flawless blues and soul-drenched baritone and you have no doubt be convinced once again of his greatness.

He is the King of Rock and Roll, after all.