Elton John and Bernie Taupin have enjoyed one of the most enduring creative partnerships in the history of pop music.
It has also been one of the most commercially successful, placing well over two dozen songs on assorted and sundry pop music charts, starting in 1970 with Border Song from John’s self-titled second record.
John and Taupin celebrate 50 years of making music together this year and to mark this milestone two special projects are being released simultaneously.
“Revamp: Reimagining The Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin”, sees some of the biggest names in contemporary pop music offer their take on classics from the John/Taupin songbook.
Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Lady Gaga and Sam Smith are among the artists tapped for this record, which features just over a dozen tracks.
I confess I had mixed feelings when I saw the word “reimagining” on the cover. Reimagining songs which people have such a strong emotional connection to can be a daunting task, and not everyone is up to that task. Even when the end result is a job well done, the artist in question can still take crap from fans who feel that artist took a song in directions it was never meant to go.
Fortunately for Elton John fans, most of the material covered here fared very well.
Most, but not all.
The opening track teamed Elton, P!nk and rapper Logic for a run at “Bennie And The Jets” in which there’s simply too much going on. P!nk sounds great and Logic’s rap is cool on its own, but where Logic comes into the mix it sounds at times as if two tracks were simply dropped into each other, that they were not properly edited or mixed. The track also has too much bottom end.
But that’s one of the only tracks that did not fare well.
Coldplay aced “We All Fall In Love Sometimes”, and Ed Sheeran did likewise with “Candle In The Wind”. Same could be said for Sam Smith’s version of “Daniel”.
No surprises there.
But there were some surprises, and they came from people you might not expect to find on this set. The Killers, for example, deliver my favourite track on the set, a version of “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”. Not far behind are covers of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Queens Of The Stone Age and “Tiny Dancer” by British indie rockers Florence And The Machine.
There are solid efforts here as well from Mumford & Sons, who serve up a great version of “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and Lady Gaga who gets on top of “Your Song”. I’m also partial to Mary J. Blige’s soulful cover of “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word To Say”.
Other artists in the mix include Alessia Cara, Miley Cyrus, Q-Tip and Demi Lovato.
(Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Released at the same time as Revamp is “Restoration”.
“Restoration” follows the same path as the previous entry, reimagining the songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, but this time out the songs were entrusted instead to some of country music’s biggest names who put a Nashville twist on them.
Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton and Dolly Parton were among the artists called upon for these sessions.
Also on deck was Miley Cyrus, the only artist to appear on both records. For this set, she took a pretty good run at “The Bitch Is Back”.
There are several prime offerings here.
The Brothers Osbourne’s “Take Me To The Pilot” has got some muscle to it and Miranda Lambert does a good cover of “My Father’s Gun”, but the prime tracks for me are a sweet version of “Sacrifice” that paired Vince Gill with Don Henley, Lee Ann Womack’s swamp blues cover of “Honky Cat” and the Rosanne Cash/Emmylou Harris duet on “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore”.
Chris Stapleton also delivers the goods on “I Want Love”.
Willie Nelson, Kacey Musgraves, Dierks Bentley and Little Big Town are also featured.
John has applauded both sets.
“It’s always a huge compliment when an artist loves your song enough to take the time and effort to rework it,” he says. “As songwriters, Bernie and myself are thrilled when singers we admire and respect as much as those on ‘Revamp’ choose to add their own unique twist in the process. It means that our music is still relevant and ultimately that our songs continue to reach new audiences. We’re humbled and thank them all for their generosity.”
(Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
- Elton John recently announced his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, which marks the finale of 50 years on the road.
- The tour will see the 70-year-old singer-songwriter play over 300 dates across five continents over three years, starting with five shows in Canada.
Canadian stops on the tour are as follows:
Sept. 25 – Toronto, Ont. (Air Canada Centre)
Sept. 26 – Toronto, Ont. (Air Canada Centre)
Sept. 28 – Ottawa, Ont. (Canadian Tire Centre)
Sept. 29 – Quebec City, Que. (Videotron Centre)
Oct. 4 – Montreal, Que. (Bell Centre)
“Revamp” and “Restoration” follow the release of Elton John’s ultimate greatest hits album, “Diamonds”, released in November of 2017.
Doug Gallant is a freelance writer and well-known connoisseur of a wide variety of music. His On Track column will appear in The Guardian every second Saturday. To comment on what he has to say or to offer suggestions for future reviews, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.