Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The King (the 2012 tribute to Elvis Presley by Jose Feliciano)

The commercial process still continues though the intense creative journey has now been accomplished. For a year and a half Jose Feliciano awoke almost every morning thinking about his Elvis Presley project, musing over each title that could/should be included. It was truly a labor of love, for Elvis Presley has been an important thread interwoven throughout this elaborate tapestry that is the life of Jose Feliciano.
Never intending to exploit the King’s memory, but rather attempting torelive his own - that of a New York City childhood punctuated by the absolute thrill of Elvis’ music - Jose first heard an Elvis Presley song when he was just 11 years old. Like his classmates, he quickly became an avid follower and waited excitedly for each new record to be released. To this day, he is still able to list them in all in sequence.
For this project, Jose’s choice of material was an exacting process: “With which one can I best honor Elvis without sounding like I’m trying to re-do it, somehow?” “Which one can I turn inside out and put my own fingerprint on it, making it new again?” “How can I get across my own passion without appearing pompous?” It puzzled him, sometimes, but brought with it a studio experience that defies comparison.
Inspiration for Jose, in part, came in the form of a pilgrimage to Memphis in January 2012, with his buddy, Dan Boronico, to join in the annual remembrance of Elvis’ birth at Graceland. It wasn’t his first visit; he had been there twice before but it was remarkable for, along with meeting some of the people who shared Elvis’ physical life while he was on Earth, he was asked to lead Elvis Fans in singing “Happy Birthday” at the Birthday Cake Celebration. Imagine: Singing in honor to the King of Rock and Roll in his own residence to some of his most enduring Fans!
Jose’s life paralleled Elvis’ in that they were both born dirt poor; they both were blessed with a Mother whose faith in God and in her son was extraordinary; they each lived and breathed music from dawn to dusk and each young man fell in love with a teenage girl who offered an enduring love despite the craziness of show business.
Both artists were signed with RCA and had the pleasure of working with Rick Jarrard. Rick was assigned to a young Jose Feliciano and produced his first hits in the English market, including “Light My Fire” and “Feliz Navidad.” A few years later, Rick was asked by the Label to assemble a touring band for Elvis following his “68 Comeback Special.” Rick always had a finger on the pulse of extraordinary talent, so his efforts resulted in the live band that supported the King on stage for many years.
Perhaps unknowingly, Rick was also responsible for tutoring Jose, his “Little Brother” as he’s always called him, by showing him the ropes of studio work, offering him the opportunity to develop as a producer.
At home in his studio with engineer, Al Payson, Jose is at the helm and it’s where he commandeered this memoir in tribute to his King. All of the arrangements, instrumentation, background vocals and sequencing were first swimming around in his mind before laying it all out in the studio with Al. “I loved coming to work each day with the challenge of laying down what I heard in my head. Al played bass on one number, programmed the drums and mixed all the tracks with me. It’s been an experience that might be hard to top.” In light of the dynamics at play with this project, he might be right.
Dan Boronico also understood Jose’s dream and, having accompanied him to Memphis, reached out to two gentlemen forever associated with Elvis Presley. One of them is Johnny Phillips, who heads Select-O-Hits. Johnny Phillips is the nephew of Sam Phillips, the man who first recorded Elvis in 1954. Johnny has taken Jose’s project, packaged it and is distributing it throughout North America.
The other is George Klein. George was a long-time friend of Elvis; in fact, their relationship goes back to their school days. He traveled with Elvis on the road and they were so close that George even chose him to be his Best Man. George broadcasts his radio program from Graceland and is the Executive Producer of this album. “I couldn’t be in better hands. I feel my dream to offer this music in tribute to the King has come full circle with the participation of George and Johnny.”
After a lifetime of taking in all that Elvis’ music had to offer a young and impressionable boy, Jose will (soon!) give his gift: (to) “The King, by Jose Feliciano.”

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