Liner Notes: ‘Priscilla’ soundtrack has no King, but that doesn’t have to be a thing
Stars and Stripes November 24, 2023
It’s impossible not to look at this soundtrack in two very different ways. The first, of course, is The Soundtrack To The Elvis Movie With No Elvis Music In It. Admittedly the more cynical of the two options, it’s a valid frame through which the collection can be seen. Elvis covered a whole lot of songs throughout his storied life, and there are a whole lot of interpretations of those songs by other artists out in the world, so to settle on a group of tracks curated by the film’s director’s husband – who makes no apologies for Phoenix-ing things up – is certainly a choice.
The second way to view it, however, is far more forgiving. Because as a collection of songs, the set is interesting, nostalgic, carefully combed and, above everything, fun. Where else in 2023 are you going to get the Ramones faithfully covering the Ronettes’ “Baby, I Love You,” which follows the expressive, gorgeous 10-minute version of “Going Home” that Alice Coltrane concocted some 50 years ago? The mere eclecticism of the 17 tunes that paint this thing is worth the hour it takes to give it a spin by itself.
Even better is the toggling between the ethereal and the sugar. “My Elixir,” which puts a bow on the record, is performed with grace by Sons Of Raphael, who also do their best to give class to the Phoenix song, despite the original’s shoegaze-filled neon dance party where only the saddest of boys were invited. Throw that on the same set that includes The Orlons’ spunky, Motown-infused take on “Goin’ Places” and you have a soundtrack that is as much of a rollercoaster as the movie from which it was spawned.
In this case, though, that rollercoaster is one that moves slower than normal as it focuses more on breezy satisfaction than hard-hitting, nausea-inducing twists and turns. Once Tommy James and the Shondells show up early with their iconic “Crimson and Clover,” the monochromatic tone is set and in a lot of ways, the song ties together the joy, the heartbreak, the mistakes and the misuse of love that both the soundtrack and the movie so eloquently embodies.
It’s no Elvis, but it stands as a setlist that Priscilla almost certainly could have heard run through her head back when it was just her and The King. As such, when The Little Dippers sing, “Hold me, kiss me / Whisper sweetly / That you love me forever,” you can almost hear her wish for a different ending to the story she so briefly shared with one of pop music’s most important figures.