The biggest surprise is "The First Noel" that almost sounds like a completely different song. Gone is the boring organ, replaced by a much more interesting playing piano and some nice strings. Admittedly, Elvis' voice still sounds a bit strained, but the overall result is much better than the original one.
The same goes for "Winter Wonderland" where I've always thought Elvis sounds bored. But the driven arrangement gives his rendition of this classic Christmas song a push in the right direction, lending it a more fresh and enjoyable sound.
I've always liked "If I Get Home On Christmas Day," with its "bombastic Elvis sound" (strings, horns, heavy drumming and a lot of backing vocals) but judging by the snippet from the Duets CD we're in for a softer version with acoustic guitar and piano. Interesting.
When it comes to the duets, it's hard to form an opinion hearing only 30 second samples. But overall, I think the ones from the 70's work better than those from the 50's. Maybe it's because the songs from 1957 sound more dated, maybe it's something else. I don't know.
What I do know, is that every Christmas the past 30 years I've been listening to Elvis' Christmas songs featuring only Elvis, and that's the way I prefer it to be. It's hard to explain, but after listening to the duet samples I want to hear the originals.
Don't get me wrong, if Christmas Duets makes the public more interested in Elvis, I'm all for it. But on my turntable, Elvis' Christmas Album and The Wonderful World Of Christmas will be spinning.
PS: Remixes such as "The First Noel" are a much more interesting concept to me than the making of duets. As someone commented on ElvisNews.com: "Putting a new "Fresh of paint" on a classic is okay if its done well and staying close to the original."