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Thread: Most vocally challenging song (or note in a song) for Elvis?

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    Roustabouts paultoronto's Avatar
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    Most vocally challenging song (or note in a song) for Elvis?

    I've always been fascinated with Elvis' range... because I sing too, and have a very similar range as Elvis, it is interesting to see what songs really pushed his boundaries... for example, sometimes songs that have a difficult note, are really quite simple throughout otherwise.

    For example:

    Padre - to me, this is one of the hardest notes Elvis ever sang (The "Iiiiiii believe" part), because thoroughout, he's singing at a comfortable range, then reaches up for that note.

    Also, Love Me Love the Life I Lead... this song is all over the place vocally... a true workout... from deep to high and full throated.

    When Elvis came back from the Army, Surrender was a song that challenged him with his newfound vocal range (discovered by working with Charlie Hodge, etc).

    Hurt is one that I always think of as showing off his range, but strangely, it is not as difficult to sing as some of those like I quoted above because they change timbre so quickly to a high note.

    Songs such as Sylvia, American Trilogy, The Impossible Dream, If I Can Dream, I'll Never Fall In Love Again, Without Love, How Great Thou Art all of these showcase his impressive high range.

    Any thoughts welcome!

    Paul
    www.paulross.net

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    Cadillac King nashville cat's Avatar
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    The grace notes he hits on the endings of "Trilogy" and "How Great Thou Art" are a B above middle C. I think that's about the highest notes I can think of he ever reached in a non-falsetto range. Pretty impressive range.

    I'm not at a piano right now, so I can't comment on the others. On the last chorus of "Heart Of Rome" he hits a pretty high note, "in the heart of Rome....". "Sylvia" was high, and so were LMLTLIL and "Padre". He sounds very strained on the latter two, but I think he could've sung it better with a few more tries.
    "I can't see my reflection in the water. I can't speak the sounds that show no pain. I can't hear the echo of my footsteps. I can't remember the sound of my own name" - Tomorrow Is A Long Time

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    International Level Leroy's Avatar
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    And let's not forget the end of "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "It's Over", "What Now My Love" and the 1977 version of "Hurt". Most of the times he did that song twice.

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    International Level Cryogenic's Avatar
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    Let's also not forget fairly high notes in the songs "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "I Can't Stop Loving You" (the Aloha version of this is excellent). Elvis often hit a high note at the end of "My Way", too. His version of "Rags to Riches" is an overlooked powerhouse rendition of a jazzy classic. There's also the seminal recording of "It's Now or Never" which simply MUST be mentioned. "Just Pretend" is also an incredibly hard song to do right.

    When you really stop to think about it, there are literally dozens of songs that Elvis sang with power and gusto.

    I think the most vocally challenging song, however, is indeed "Surrender" - the amount of vocal hoops he had to jump through to pull that off is amazing! On a purely technical level, I think the highest non-falsetto note he hit in his career was his gobsmacking rendition of "Hurt" at Omaha. He blows the roof off the stadium there!

    One of my personal all-time favourite vocals is his falsetto rendition of "Crying in the Chapel". I just can't imagine ANYONE but Elvis singing that in the extraordinary way that he did.

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    As already stated there are many examples that you could name. Some, which i would mention already have been.

    I would say that How Great Thou Art fits very much...the Live versions are always awesome and i would imagine take some hitting The December '75 version on Just Pretend being a firm favourite.

    The Ultimate must be An American Trilogy. I can not imagine anyone singing that like Elvis did...absolute brilliance
    TCB Chris.

    ---------------------------------------


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    International Level Cryogenic's Avatar
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    "An American Trilogy" would have sounded melodramatic and trite if anyone else had attempted it. But it fit Elvis like a glove. Possibly THE definitive Elvis song.

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    TCB Mafia EnigmaticSun's Avatar
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    challenging

    Difficult to sing Elvis songs...?

    -It's Now Or Never (july '75 versions - and versions from 1977)
    -Surrender
    -Hurt (have others here heard the high note Elvis sang during his last concert?)
    -The high note Elvis hits at the end of the jazzy orchestra-solo during his last concert
    -Unchained Melody (The versions Elvis sang in New York in 1977 are the great)
    -Bridge Over Troubled Water (especially the last version from the last concert)
    -My Way has some demanding parts
    -It's Over
    -You Gave Me A Mountain (I like the '77 versions)
    -What Now My Love (Elvis did a perfect ending of the song, singing in front of Roy Orbison in Las Vegas in December 1976)
    -Rags To Riches (The version of december 31st '76 - January 1st '77 has a very challenging, operatic ending)
    -The last note Elvis hits during the last live performance of Can't Help Falling In Love during his last concert - kinda hard to do!!
    -How Great Thou Art (some very demanding performances in July '75 and of course I like the Omaha '77 version also!)

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    Cadillac King T_J's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nashville cat
    The grace notes he hits on the endings of "Trilogy" and "How Great Thou Art" are a B above middle C. I think that's about the highest notes I can think of he ever reached in a non-falsetto range. Pretty impressive range.
    It's an A above middle C on American Trilogy. On How Great Thou Art, surely he sings an A, moving down to G at the end, in harmony with the C hit by the backing singers? There is a top A in the 'God' part before the tempo change too. Perhaps there is a version where he joins the group at the end on the C, but I've not heard it.

    The end of Hurt is an A in the studio and on some live versions, but rising to B when he added the extra note. He also hit a top B on Rags to Riches in the Pittsburg 76 show. The highest note on What Now My Love is also an A.
    It's Over has been mentioned a few times, but that's not particularly challenging in terms of range. It is however challenging to sing the song as convincingly as Elvis did.

    The high notes in You'll Never Walk Alone are G above middle C, but superbly hit. G is also hit in My Way, The Wonder of You, Viva Las Vegas and many others. It's Now or Never is a G# in the original, but he sometimes climbed up to a B when singing up the scale at the end of live versions.

    The ending of Surrender is a top B flat. Whilst slightly lower than the ending of some live versions of Hurt, it's more challenging to hit than the Hurt note as the latter is hit by singing up, rather than nailing in isolation. For impeccable phrasing, diction, power and, where appropriate, subtlety, I think Surrender is the greatest performance of the most challenging song. It's funny that people never mention any of the rock 'n' roll songs when posing this question though. For example, Jailhouse Rock is far more difficult to sing than many of the ballads mentioned.
    Last edited by T_J; 04-18-2005 at 03:40 PM.

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    International Level Cryogenic's Avatar
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    Great post, TJ!

    To "Jailhouse Rock", I'd add "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" and "Trying To Get To You" from the sitdown sessions of the Comeback Special. Incredibly ferocious singing!

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    TCB Mafia EnigmaticSun's Avatar
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    rough

    Elvis was very much able to sing rough!

    Although I do think that the ending part of 'It's OOOveeeer - AHAAAAA' isn't all that easy to sing.

    I very much like the operatic voice of Elvis. But of course some rock songs aren't that easy either.

  11. #11
    Coming On Strong LeMond's Avatar
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    His '76 and '77 versions of Hurt and How great thou art blow me away every time I hear them. It especially amazes me how strong his voice was in the last months of his life considering his ill health.


    Adios !

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    Cadillac King
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    i am 14 and sing Elvis, and i probably almost have the range of Elvis in 1966, except for some songs. i cannot hit the last note of surrender and only get half the last note of now or never. songs like hurt, american trilogy,and how great thou art live are not possible. songs like moody blue and sound of your cry i can get , but are exhausting to go over and over with the notes

    Elvis's peak vocal ability would definitely been in 1977, his voice got better as he got older. i think beyond 77 he would have been absolutely brilliant! but he already was
    sincerely, Scott, a 15 year old Elvis fan

    prayers to Jackie my auntie in law, and R.I.P Charlie Hodge, both victims of cancer

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    Backstage Pass JohanD's Avatar
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    "Heart of Rome"..


    He sings on the top of his toes...
    JohanD

    "And i'm never gonna cease my wondering..."

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    Cadillac King nashville cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T_J
    It's an A above middle C on American Trilogy. On How Great Thou Art, surely he sings an A, moving down to G at the end, in harmony with the C hit by the backing singers? There is a top A in the 'God' part before the tempo change too. Perhaps there is a version where he joins the group at the end on the C, but I've not heard it.
    I'm pretty sure on the Memphis '74 version of HGTA and the EIC version he sings the A on the ending "Art"....then briefly pops a B note before going back down to G and holding it. Same thing with Trilogy. I think you can hear it on the Aloha version. I've never heard him go on up to the C.

    I'm pretty sure, because I've tried to sing along with him before and almost stripped my gears!
    "I can't see my reflection in the water. I can't speak the sounds that show no pain. I can't hear the echo of my footsteps. I can't remember the sound of my own name" - Tomorrow Is A Long Time

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    Cadillac King T_J's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nashville cat
    I'm pretty sure on the Memphis '74 version of HGTA and the EIC version he sings the A on the ending "Art"....then briefly pops a B note before going back down to G and holding it. Same thing with Trilogy. I think you can hear it on the Aloha version. I've never heard him go on up to the C.

    I'm pretty sure, because I've tried to sing along with him before and almost stripped my gears!
    I don't hear a B note on HGTA in EIC. I don't have the Memphis version handy to check.
    With Trilogy, the notes that are held are A and G, but yes there is a very brief B note thrown in before moving down to G

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    Cadillac King nashville cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T_J
    I don't hear a B note on HGTA in EIC. I don't have the Memphis version handy to check.
    With Trilogy, the notes that are held are A and G, but yes there is a very brief B note thrown in before moving down to G
    Thanks for checking. I don't have my CD's handy at the moment either. Maybe I was confusing Trilogy with HGTA. Those endings are very similar and they are in the same key.

    I think that B is probably the highest note he ever hit in his normal range. He didn't hold it for a long time though. He seems very comfortable holding a G for awhile. And you pointed out he sang a b-flat on the end of "Surrender". I was never sure what note that was. Amazing!

    Along the lines of non-ballad songs, stuff like "Too Much Monkey Business" are hard to sing with all that syncopated funky stuff going on.
    "I can't see my reflection in the water. I can't speak the sounds that show no pain. I can't hear the echo of my footsteps. I can't remember the sound of my own name" - Tomorrow Is A Long Time

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    Cadillac King T_J's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nashville cat
    Thanks for checking. I don't have my CD's handy at the moment either. Maybe I was confusing Trilogy with HGTA. Those endings are very similar and they are in the same key.

    I think that B is probably the highest note he ever hit in his normal range. He didn't hold it for a long time though. He seems very comfortable holding a G for awhile. And you pointed out he sang a b-flat on the end of "Surrender". I was never sure what note that was. Amazing!

    Along the lines of non-ballad songs, stuff like "Too Much Monkey Business" are hard to sing with all that syncopated funky stuff going on.
    He did hold the B notes at the end of Hurt for a reasonable length quite often, but as I said before, he's singing up to those notes so I still consider the Surrender note to be more impressive. There is another B flat that's rarely mentioned towards the end of Merry Christmas Baby, where he just shouts out the line out of the blue. A moment I think. Some of the earlier rock 'n' roll and blues songs are deceptively difficult to sing - at least to sing as well as Elvis. Much of I Wanna Be Free is sung pretty high and there is a top A in there, Stuck on You also has top A notes. Trying to Get to You is a brilliant performance, featuring real vocal gymnastics that are totally unforced. I think one of the reasons some people believe Elvis had a bigger range in the 70s was that more force had to go into the singing to achieve the notes that had come more comfortably when he was younger. That gives the effect of greater power. Trying to Get to You is a good example of that. More or less the same notes are sung (slightly higher in the Sun version - key of F, instead of E), but Elvis doesn't have to muster up as much force to deliver them in the 1950s.

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    Too Much Monkey Business Jumpsuit Junkie's Avatar
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    Not knowing anything about ABC's etc I cant contribute in that way

    What I do know is I WOULD KILL TO BE ABLE TO SING ANYTHING LIKE ELVIS..........

    Good or bad.

    Matt

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    TCB Mafia EnigmaticSun's Avatar
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    voice

    His voice was much higher back then, in the 50's.

    Although he did lose a little bit of flexibility towards the end of his life, his range always remained very impressive. Elvis trained a lot - not only working on his range, but also to be able to sing the more subtle and delicate notes - this is very evident in EIC from 1977 - his voice sounds very warm, unforced and soft. Try and listen to songs like 'I Really Don't Want To Know' and 'And I Love You So'.

    The special thing with Elvis' voice at the end of his career is that he is in fact singing like a bass, a baritone and a tenor altogether at once. It's one of the most unusual voices I have ever heard! The key to the voice of Elvis is not so much his vocal range, but the centre of gravity. There were a lot of singers from the Metropolitan Opera back then who were quite jealous of Elvis - our guy did things most opera-baritones would be afraid of.

    I think Elvis had the potential to become an opera singer. Although I don't think the Colonel would have allowed it to happen, the voice of Elvis was very much capable of doing it. Imagine Elvis singing in Mozarts 'Don Giovanni'!

    You know, he was able to sing the low sol of the baritone, but he could also do the high si of the tenor. The high sol's and la's he could sing made opera-baritones jealous. Kathy Westmoreland has said that Elvis sang a high si wide open, while most baritones aren't able to reach a sol without problems. Elvis also loved to listen to Mario Lanza, and while the highest note of Lanza was a do middle do, according to Charlie Hodge, Elvis regularly sang the high do on the podium!

    Although his vibrato didn't have the controlled sound of trained classical singers, it sounded very natural. During EIC his voice was better than ever, in fact - most singers reach their peak between their 40th and 50th birthday and Elvis was about to reach his peak in 1977. Too bad our man has died so young and didn't get the opportunity to show the world he was a fantastic singer.

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    Cadillac King T_J's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EnigmaticSun
    Too bad our man has died so young and didn't get the opportunity to show the world he was a fantastic singer.
    Oh I don't know. Anyone with functioning ears should have worked that out already

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