Recording information: Abbey Road Studio 2; RAK Studios, London; Shine Studios, UK.
The Wonder of You is a sequel in the truest sense: it delivers more of the same thing that made the 2015 album If I Can Dream into a surprise hit around the globe. The gimmick behind both of the albums is taking original Elvis Presley vocal performances and setting them to brand-new orchestral arrangements from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The Wonder of You isn't as splashy as its predecessor, lacking duets with Michael Bubl? and Il Volo (the bonus track, "Just Pretend," does feature Helene Fischer), and it also doesn't contain quite as many rockers as If I Can Dream. All this means The Wonder of You is thoroughly middlebrow, largely consisting of ballads and soft pop tunes, all given pompous pops arrangements. Occasionally, the new versions aren't too far away from the originals -- usually, this would be for such '70s Vegas showstoppers as "I Just Can't Help Believin'" -- but there's still a disconnect between Presley's vocal performances and the cheerfully cheesy orchestrations, particularly on numbers like "Kentucky Rain" and "Suspicious Minds," recordings that benefited from the interaction of Elvis and the musicians in Chips Moman's American Sound Studio. To the creators of The Wonder of You, all that matters is the power of Presley's performance, which the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra accentuates. It, like If I Can Dream, is executed well -- the separation between the old tapes and new performance is seamless. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine