Peace In The Valley: The Complete Gospel Recordings
Elvis - Peace In The Valley (The Complete Gospel Recordings) is a long overdue triple CD release from BMG. In 1994 we were treated to the excellent double album Amazing Grace and more recently to a number of good (if forgettable) mid-price gospel albums. However, the complete record of Elvis Presley's gospel songs is one of the most important BMG releases ever in that it showcases a genre of music that involved Elvis totally and utterly in strength of feeling and a sincerity sometimes missing from some of his other recordings. As a catalog of one type of music, Peace In The Valley represents Elvis at his best, a peak rivaled only by his seminal rockabilly and rock & roll recordings from 1954 to 1956 and the superb, eclectic output from his American Studio Sessions in 1969.
Many fans will be surprised at the breadth of tracks on this release, many familiar, probably many more unfamiliar. Standards such as How Great Thou Art and Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho are nicely complemented by the revivalist I've Got Confidence (a recording that would have fitted easily into Elvis's last narrative movie, Change Of Habit) and three of Elvis' lost singles: Life; Why Me, Lord? and Help Me. The soulful I Got A Feeling In My Body is an interesting inclusion while the '68 Comeback Special gospel medley is as fresh today as it was 32 years ago.
Fan favourites including His Hand In Mine and He Touched Me are complemented by An Evening Prayer and the searching Reach Out To Jesus. Forgotten movie tracks in the underrated Let Me Pray and the jaunty When The Saints Come Marchin' In sit well alongside arguably Elvis' most famous gospel recording (certainly his biggest selling gospel single) Crying In The Chapel. Songs like He Knows Just What I Need are so honestly sung by Elvis that you are virtually removed to another (spiritual) plane.
Listeners experience the strength of Elvis's bond with gospel music in songs such as I Believe In The Man In The Sky, while the inclusion of the technically inferior (due to the context of their recording), but nevertheless important home recordings, and the impromptu Million Dollar Quartet Session from the Sun Studios in December, 1956 provide a finely balanced and involving 87 track set.
The album comes with an attractive, atmospheric cover reminiscent of those from the Mario Lanza era and a booklet filled with fan pleasing photos and detailed liner notes by Cheryl Thurber.
Peace In The Valley will provide great solace to those whose spirits are low and reinforcement of beliefs for those with a religious leaning. Listening to the 87 tracks on this set it is clearly evident why Elvis received three Grammy awards for his gospel recordings during his lifetime. This set is a fitting testament to an often under-appreciated segment of Elvis's incredible musical legacy.
Postscript: Gospel music was the only music in which Elvis won Grammy awards and was the only time he overrode "Col." Tom Parker on what he would perform. Tom Parker backed down. History proved Elvis to be correct in his choice.