It's Now Or Never

Robert Gordon & Chris Spedding

Ryko, 2007

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Robert Gordon, for better or worse, will always be associated with Elvis Presley. His deep baritone voice has the tone and timbre of Elvis, and Elvis was a major musical influence upon his life. It helps that Gordon handle many of Elvis’ trademark songs with ease. Gordon cashed in commercially with a series of excellent rockabilly albums in the late 70s and early 80s. His out-of-print work with Link Wray on the Private Stock Label is well worth seeking out.

Chris Spedding has been a noted session guitarist for almost 40 years. He has also released about a dozen solo albums, but only 1981s Friday The 13th was issued in the United Statesmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 . Spedding played with Gordon for a few years around 1980, the only prior musical contact between the two as far as the public knew.

So what career path does Robert Gordon choose for his 2007 album release? He wisely reunites with Chris Spedding and releases an album of Elvis Presley covers. It was the safe path, the professional path and hardly the most adventurous path.

It’s Now Or Never presents mixed results. Elvis’ material has been covered thousands of times … do we really need more of the same? On the other hand, Gordon sings Elvis so effortlessly and reaches deep enough into the catalog that would, for those not already burnt out, would make this good listening.

Gordon fares best with the uptempo numbers. “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone” and “My Baby Left Me” are from Elvis’ Sun Label days and fit Gordon’s style well. While Gordon’s versions do not match Presley’s energy they are worth hearing; the former’s versions are refined and slick as opposed to Elvis’ rawness and seemingly one-take approach. Spedding contributes some good guitar licks but is professional enough not to tread on his vocalist’s territory.

“A Mess Of Blues,” “I Beg Of You,” “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and “Don’t Be Cruel” continue Gordon’s string of slick uptempo covers. Gordon even rolls out the Jordanaires, who provide some old-fashioned vocal backing on many of the tracks.

The slower-tempo songs create some problems. The lack of instrumental energy puts Gordon’s voice up front and exposes some of its flaws. “Don’t Leave Me Now” plods a bit and “Peace In The Valley” is a song that Robert Gordon just cannot pull off.

There is nothing offensive about It’s Now Or Never and at times Gordon delivers excellent interpretations of some classic material. For those still interested in Elvis,  rockabilly or these two musicians, It’s Now Or Never is a pleasant album worth hearing.

Rating: B

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© 2008 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Ryko, and is used for informational purposes only.