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20 Dec 2010

Happy Chrismas, Eltonites!!! And Thank YOU!!!

"Spreading joy to the world when Christmas is here" sang Elton duetting with Joss Stone in 2005. Christmas is a special time. It's happiness and sadness, all in one: happy for the people on my side; sadness for missing people and world unjustices. It seems a time to make stop, take a breath, make an effort and go on; all in one. That contrast between two sides of life don't allow to forget that a better place is possible. A better world is possible. We have to make an effort and be positive althought sometimes is so hard to reach.

If someone of you could help on my B-Day wish helping the EJAF reach my goal, I will be grateful. If you couldn't, please, don't worry at all, it's so understandable. Thanks anyway for your attention.

We have Elton, thank God, we have Elton. I couldn't imagine life without Elton. I was born in 1969, when he started his Empty Sky debut album. I became an eltonite in 1983, for "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" and since then on, I've trying to follow him with loyalty. I remember my first concert, in 1989, when a young Jack Rabbit took the train to the big City: Barcelona, instead of being school. It was the most incredible show I've been. First I was a kind of disappointed for seeing that the man I idealized was human (so naive). But I enjoyed the concert so much, as I said, but unfortunetely I loose the train back home and I had to call home saying: "Oh, didn't tell you? I am in Barcelona!!!". I'd been one month without permission going out!! But it was well deserved. Thank you, Elton!!! Thanks to former and current band members!!!

And specially, today, thank YOU ELTONITES. That is the third season of the blogsite and the most incredible thing happened to me is to meet you. Some of you, I am thankful enough to meet you in person, that's the most amazing thing of concerts: to share experiences with you. Others, I am fortunate enough to have a beatiful friendly without knowing personally. You are my family! Thanks so much for following this blogsite, the old rabbit and for collaborate with me. My only objective is to have good fun and spread Elton's name around.

So, Happy Xmas, people, have a wonderful and joyful 2011, a lot of Elton's music. By heart, me and old rabbit could sing to you: "

"Take care in all you do next year
And keep smiling through the days
If we can help to entertain you
Oh we will find the ways
"

Thanks so much for being there, I wish you all the best!!!
Love you so much!!!

Miquel

16 Nov 2010

Searching For Elton's Wax Figures Around The World

Hi Eltonites. I remember when I went to London years ago, how much I loved to see an Elton's wax figure at Madame Tussaud's Rock Circus. I reminded this when the other day I was looking at old pics I've kept in my Elton's box. Wow!!! It was the first time I sat at Elton's side on the piano, singin' the characteristic "B-B-B-B- Bennie And The Jetssssssssss". It came immediately to mind the following question: how many Elton's wax figures exists around the world, in the wax museums? So, I took old Jack Rabbit for a mission: looking for Elton's waxwork figures. That's what he could find. Enjoy the trip around the world: Old Rabbit Eltonin' Around the World. Yeah!!!

Madame Tussauds
Marylebone Rd. London NW1 5LR
www.madametussauds.com/london/

In 1976, March 7, Elton John's first likeness was added to Madame Tussaud's waxworks in London. He is the first rock figure so accorded the honor since The Beatles were first immortalized in wax back in March 1964. Madame Tussauds is the most famous wax museums around the world. It was set up by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud. Marie Tussaud (1761–1850), born Marie Grosholtz in Strasbourg, France, worked as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius, a physician skilled in wax modelling, who taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling. Tussaud created her first wax figure, of Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire, in 1777 and she established her first permanent exhibition on Baker Street in London in 1835. In 1842, she made a self portrait which is now on display at the entrance of her museum. The museum moved to its current location on Marylebone Road in 1884. In 1925 a fire destroyed many of the figures, but the moulds survived, allowing the historical waxworks to be remade.

Madame Tussaud's wax museum has now expanded with branches in Amsterdam, Las Vegas, New York City, Hong Kong and Shanghai, with additional locations scheduled to open in Hollywood and Washington, D.C. Today's wax figures at Tussauds include historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars and famous murderers.

On 2 July 2005 two major events occurred: Elton performed at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, London, and Madame Tussaud’s unveiled his wax likeness, which had taken over 1 000 hours to complete. Stroll through the glittery music room, where Jimi Hendrix and Elton John are right around the corner from Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. Also, a life size chocolate figure of Sir Elton had been made to celebrate Cadbury's Centenary.

London. Rock Circus. The London Pavilion
1 Piccadilly, Piccadilly Circus
London W1V 9LA, England


"ROCK CIRCUS IS WHERE THE SPIRIT OF ROCK
SPEAKS TO YOU, SINGS TO YOU, PLAYS FOR YOU, MOVES AND TOUCHES YOU". That sounded interesting! The attraction featured authentic hand casts from over 50 artists, running from established stars like Phil Collins to the up and coming like D Ream and Let Loose. Seated on his piano, beside Stevie Wonder, Elton's wearing one of his stage costumes from 1973. It was once home to a famous cinema and the venue for many star studded premieres. The Beatles made their last public appearance there at the 1968 premiere of 'Yellow Submarine'. Unfortunetely, The Rock Circus exhibition closed in September 2001. In 2000, the building became part of the Trocadero Centre, and signage on the building was altered in 2003 to read London Trocadero.

Blackpool Wax Museum
85-89 Promenade. Blackpool, Lancashire FY1 5AA. UK
http://www.louistussaudswaxworks.co.uk/

Louis Tussand was the great grandson of Madame Marie Tussand. He created this waxwork museum which is quite similar to the Madame Tussaud’s museum and is situated in Blackpool. You could join the stars of rock and pop in the Rock Factory and have a go at playing the drums or guitar, listening to the hits, including classics from greats such as Elton, Elvis and Freddie Mercury and most recent chart toppers, Robbie Williams and Madonna. In April 2011 the waxworks will re-open when it becomes the next member of the ultimate celebrity attraction brand of Madame Tussauds.

Musée Grevin
10 Boulevard Montmartre. 75009 Paris, France
http://www.grevin.com

At the end of the 19th Century, Arthur Meyer, a journalist and founder of the famous daily newspaper Le Gaulois, conceived the idea of showing his contemporaries 3D representations of the front-page celebrities in his newspaper. At a time when the press did not use photography he thought of creating a place where the public could at last “put a face” on the people in the news. To achieve this original project, he called on Alfred Grévin, who was a cartoonist, sculptor, and designer of theatrical costumes, and who became so involved that in the end, the project bore his name. When the Grévin opened its doors to the public on 5th June 1882, it was an immediate success! The museum now contains some 300 characters arranged in scenes from the history of France and modern life, including a panorama of French history from Charlemagne to Napoleon III, bloody scenes of the French Revolution, movie stars, and international figures such as Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, and Pope John Paul II.

Wax Museum Prague
Melantrichova 5, Prague 1. Czech Republic
http://www.waxmuseumprague.cz/

The first Wax Museum in Prague was opened at Rapid Palace in March 1997. Due to the huge number of visitors from home and abroad, a second museum was opened in 1999 near Karlstejn Castle and a third museum in 2001, at Ceský Krumlov. In 2002 the Wax Museum opened in Mostecka Street. In the following year they moved from Rapid Palace to be more centrally placed in Melantrichova Street. The renovation of the Melantrichova Street premises in 2003 provided the opportunity to divide the collection between the two Prague Wax Museums; Mostecka Street specialising in the early historical exhibits, whilst at the renovated Melantrichova Street museum, over 50 Czech and World figures of culture, sport and politics from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, who changed local and world history. At present it boasts 260 figures in all. The Prague Wax Museum also offers what it calls a multi media programme -a caleidoscopic film of Prague architecture through the ages -called Magical Prague.

Louis Tussauds Wax Museum
H.C. Andersens Boulevard 22, DK-1553 Copenhagen
http://www.tussaud.dk

A part of Tivoli is the Louis Tussaud Wax Museum opened in 1974. The museum is concentrating not only on famous international stars but on fabled figures from Denmark and legends, as well. Here are more than 200 wax figures, everybody from Danish royalties through Leonardo da Vinci to Boris Jelcin and Bill Clinton. There are several interesting sections to visit such as Hall of Kings, Statesmen, Art Masters, Snow Queen's Castle, Chamber of Horror, and many more. There is a particular emphasis on the ubiquitous Hans Christian Andersen and his fairy tales. The Wax Museum closes permanently on August 31st 2007. Wax figures have been moved to the Ripley's Museums (Radhuspladsen 57 and Ostergade 16).

The St. Petersburg Wax Museum. Russian Republic
191024, Nevsky Avenue, 156, office 1, Saint Petersburg, Russia. http://www.waxfigures.ru/en.phtml

The art of wax portraits in Russia dates back to 1698 when Peter the Great returned home from a voyage with a wax head modeled after his own. The first wax museum in St. Petersburg was opened in 1738 with portrayals of contemporary kings or high ministers. Soon, wax museums began appearing all over the Russian Empire from Moscow to Odessa. They became favorite attractions for all classes of people, until the fad melted away after the Russian Revolution of 1917. The museum opened its doors in the late 1980-s, when a bunch of enthusiasts turned on the heat on the idea to revive the wax plastic arts in Russia. The Show Business Stars collections is represented by the idols of modern show business, like Michael Jackson, Elton John, Madonna, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and t.A.T.u, among others.

Rock Legends Wax Museum
5020 Centre Street (at top of Clifton Hill/Victoria Ave) Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada L2G 3N7
http://www.rocklegendswaxmuseum.com/

From the early pioneers of Rock n' Roll to present day musicians, includes Elvis Presley, Hanna Montana, Shania Twain, Madonna, Cher, Michael Jackson, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, and more than 60 of rock stars. The presentation of the life-size wax figures starts with personalities of the '60s. Then it's on to the punk rockers, The pop section and the modern. At the end there's a section that shows Rap's influences on Rock. Posted by the figures you'll find information about the songs and albums that they are famous.

Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
6933 Hollywood Boulevard. CA 90028, US
www.madametussauds.com/hollywood/

Located right next to the famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre Star Handprints and Footprints on the Walk of Fame, the Madame Tussaud's Museum was opened in Augoust 2009. It allows you to get an up-close look at famous celebrity icons ranging from the silver screen stars of the golden era through to today's contemporary stars and movie makers. Step onto the green next to Tiger Woods, race cyclist Lance Armstrong, meet Spiderman crawling on the ceiling of an office, cozy up to heartthrob George Clooney, perform with Beyoncé and Elton John and mix and mingle among A-list celebrities including Justin Timberlake, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith, Jennifer Aniston, Penelope Cruz, Britney Spears and Zac Efron , to name a few.

For the first time in its 44-year history, the Hollywood Wax Museum auctioned 200 wax figures in May, 2009. Fans could bid on political figures, such as George Washington and Bill Clinton, and athletes like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. Musicians such as Cher, Stevie Wonder and the Fab Four, along with TV and film stars including Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, Will Smith and Charlie Chaplin. Elton wore a reproduction of one of his stage-worn outlandish costumes consisting of a black and white contrasting tuxedo, ruffled tuxedo shirt, and large sunglasses. The figure, molded by Leah DeLio, standed almost 6 ft. tall. Each figure came with a signed certificate of authenticity from the Hollywood Wax Museum. A portion of the profits would support efforts to preserve Hollywood's historic Walk of Fame.

Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
3377 Las Vegas Boulevard South, NV 89109-8911, US
www.madametussauds.com/lasvegas/

There are figures of famous political, music and film celebrities, and historical figures. You could walk up close and scrutinize the statues face to face. In addition to currently-popular actors and actresses, you'll find wax counterparts to film's famous flixters from days gone by. Wax replicas of actors from the golden era of film at Madame Tussaud's include Bob Hope, George Burns, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne. Noted musicians with statues at Madame Tussaud's include Elvis Presley, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, etc.

Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
1001 F Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20004-1412, US
www.madametussauds.com/washington/

Located in the heart of downtown, there's an interactive attraction that brings historical figures and events to life through wax figures that visitors can touch, see and hear. But it is not just about politics and history. In the Glamour section, you can mingle with celebrities such as Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez and Carrie Underwood. In the Sports section, you can interact with lifelike sports idols such as Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield and Tiger Woods. Also, the famous New Presidential Gallery and the Behind the Scenes' trade secrets used in creating the wax figures through experiences like testing your hand-eye coordination in the “Feel Like a Sculptor” interactive test. Kids and adults are fascinated when they compare their hands, feet and eyes to those of lifelike wax figures of celebrities and world leaders.

Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
234 West 42nd Street New York, NY 10036, US
www.madametussauds.com/NewYork/

Launched in October 2000 in Times Square, Madame Tussauds New York displays a collection of more than 200 painstakingly created wax figures of celebrities, historical leaders and cultural icons. The politically themed Gallery features figures as ideologically disparate as Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Historical and cultural figures draw the civil rights movement (Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X); royalty, real or de facto (Princess Diana and Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis); and modern art (Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Gaultier). Stars of the Pop, TV and Sports pantheon, grouped in the VIP Club and Pop Culture areas, run the gamut from Simon Cowell and Susan Lucci to Elvis Presley, Beyonce, Madonna and Derek Jeter. Hollywood is represented by Marilyn Monroe, Julia Roberts, among others.

Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum Presented "The British Royals" exhibition in 2006 with huge success. Prince Harry waxwork was placed alongside his brother William and the rest of the Roayl Family. Also it was included other British celebrities like Robbie Williams, Elton John and David Beckham. The figures were on loan from Madame Tussauds London and would be in NY until January 15, 2007.

Museo de Cera
Calle Londres, 6. Mexico City, México
http://www.museodecera.com.mx/

The Wax Museum of Mexico City was inaugurated in 1979 in a beautiful turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau house. It exhibits more than two hundred wax figures of political leaders, actors, artists, footballers, athletes, and other personalities from around the world, including Michael Jackson, Mother Teresa and the Wolf Man, or historic figures like Emiliano Zapata and Frida Kahlo. The collection "lives" in a fantasy concoction of a house, next to the "castle" that houses the Mexican "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" museum next door. There's a café between the two museums, with at least 20 tables.

Dreamland Wax Museum Gramado
Av das Hortensias, 5507, Gramado/RS, Brazil
http://gramadosite.com/turismo/ondeir/id:21035/open:1

On December 3rd, 2009, the Dreamland Wax Museum Gramado was opened. It was the first project of its kind in Latin America. Seventeen scenarios presents wax replicas of international celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Demi Moore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lady Di, Bill Clinton, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Mel Gibson, James Dean, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Jodie Foster, Antonio Banderas, Tom Hanks, Charles Chaplin and Elton John, these are some of the highlights, most of them coming directly from the Hollywood Wax Museum in Los Angeles, but also from London and New York artists.

Ahhhh Jack Rabbit, great journey yours. Although you did a long time research, maybe you miss some of the wax museums were Elton is, I am sure Eltonites will notice you in case. Yes, yes, it's true. We mailed all of one of the museums asking for info and also, for the photo credits. I am sure you have more surprises for the Elton's figure Week. Stay tunned!!!

13 Nov 2010

The Eltonite's Day With... Steven Betts!!!

Hi Eltonites!!! Today is a very special date because we have here a very special people, a very special friend. Me, a fan since 1984, I always have dreamt how it could be being a fan in the mid-70s, with Elton on the top, with the outrageous customes, and things like that. This is the ending week of "The Union", Elton has reached high in the US music charts again, so I sent old Jack Rabbit to Scotland to find out someone who is a fan since that mid-70s, someone who knows everything about Elton, he has a great collection of tickets (don't touch them, Rabbit), and he kindly agrees to be the guest. Ladies and gentlemen, the doors of AllSongsList are all wide-open to receive the fantastic... the one and only... Steven Betts!!!!!!!!

Hi Steven, so nice for me to have you here, really an honour. Thanks for the acceptation. First... Could you tell us, please more, who are you and where are you from?

Steven Betts (50 years old) from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Thanks! When did you became an Eltonite? Remember the first time you heard Elton's music and what moves you to buy his music?

1972/73, Back then here in the UK we had “pop” bands/artists like Slade, T Rex, Bowie that I was well aware of, think it was the summer of ’72 that I became more aware of Elton, I had heard of "Your Song" and "Rocket Man" but then in ’73 with the release "Crocodile Rock" I probably started to sit up and take more of an interest, although the first album I bought was GBYBR and not Don’t Shoot Me, as a 12/13 year old then I was more into singles than albums. It was that purchase of GBYBR that really got me hooked.

So understandable!!! And what was it like seeing Elton for the first time and how many concerts have you been?

First time was unbelievable, I remember sleeping out from about 10pm the night before tickets went on sale, it was a freezing cold February night (13th) for a concert that wasn’t on until 21st May.

Will never forget the night of the concert looking back seeing the whole place swaying back and forth to "Bennie And The Jets", sadly never see that now. Everyone was into the music back then.

I have been fortunate to have attended 44 concerts to date, upcoming I have Dublin in December, London in January and Glasgow in June.

Wow!!! Throughout the mid-'70s, John's concerts were enormously popular, until 1976 when he revealed in an interview in Rolling Stone that he was bisexual. Many fans reacted negatively to John's bisexuality, and his audience began to shrink somewhat in the late '70s. You were on the Festival Popular Music show. How he was received? What you most remember from that show?

To an amazing response, to be fair I don’t think it hurt him as much here in the UK as it did in the States.

What I remember most is Elton slowly getting drunk, giving away the piano stool and drinks to the audience, singing DGBMH himself, standing on top of the piano with a tartan scarf around his head like a bandana, and a great setlist, this was the original solo gig and was filmed for TV, this is one show that really needs to be put out officially on DVD

Really? Upps!!! Which could be a great set list, in your opinion? Is there any song that Elton hasn’t played yet, and you think that he should do it?

My 30 song set list.

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy
Grow Some Funk Of Your Own
Club At The End Of The Street
Elderberry Wine
Little Jeannie
Island Girl
Skyline Pigeon
The Greatest Discovery
High Flying Bird
Salvation
Teacher I Need You
Indian Sunset
Ballad Of A Well Known Gun
Better Off Dead
Sweet Painted Lady
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
High Flying Bird
House
The North
It’s Getting Dark In Here

The Captain And The Kid
Mansfield
Rocket Man
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Healing Hands
Dirty Little Girl
The Bitch Is Back
Saturday Nights Alright
Pinball Wizard
We All Fall In Love Sometimes/Curtains

Would like to hear “On Dark Street” live.

Davey? Take a note!!! And you prefer the Elton’s solo tours or better with band? With the same musicians as his current band or you miss someone of the past? And what size of venues do you most prefer to see a good Elton’s show?

Having been lucky enough to have seen most combinations of tour/bands (except with Eric Clapton and Leon Russell) I don’t really have a preference, if pushed then band, as for venues I am not keen on the outdoor gigs we have had here the last few years in the UK, reasons being unpredictable weather, atmosphere (lightshow) think with these outdoor shows in the UK we have people coming along for a event, not your normal Elton concert goer from years ago, people now come to see the guy who played at Lady Diana’s funeral, he’s become an icon and rightly so, but these people come for other reasons, don’t think they come to hear a 13 minute version of "Rocket Man".

For me I would love to see Elton go back to playing the small UK venues like he did on the 1976 UK tour, 3 to 4 thousand venues and this was at the height of his popularity.

Funny thing is, look at the crowd at Dodger Stadium, everyone having a ball, that blows my outdoor gigs reasoning out the water. Mind you that was California and not Carlisle.

Right. Scottish Davey Johnstone recognizes that “I always get a great reception when I come back to Scotland”, his homeland, and even he celebrated his 2000th concert with Elton at Glasgow's SECC in 2009, after a relationship that has spanned almost 40 years. Were you at this show? And what does Davey means for you, scottish people?

Yeah, was at that show, just makes you really proud as like me he’s from Edinburgh. And of course we also used to have David Paton in the band also from Edinburgh.

David Paton, yes! What would you do if you meet Elton sometime? What would you talk about and which question would you like to ask him?

I have been fortunate to have met Elton backstage in Kilmarnock on the 26th June 2005.

I thanked him for the last 33 years (that was how long I had been a fan up till then)

Now I would ask him when’s he going to get back playing small venues and a little less greatest hits. Thing is with Eltons back catalogue he could change the whole set list and casual fans would still know the songs, "Little Jeannie", "Club At The End Of The Street", "Island Girl" etc etc, so many singles that were hits never get played live, change it around a bit to keep it fresh.

Agree!! What do you think about the new project with Leon Russell? The reviews of the album were so good but the sales disappointing, again. We could be in front of one of Elton’s hits of the century but that isn’t reflect on the music charts. Are people tired of Elton?

Interesting, as the last 3 albums I had heard most of the songs on them before they came out and was determined to not listen to anything from The Union until the day of release, and to be truthful wasn’t looking forward to it with Leon Russell, now having heard it I think it’s a good album, although it’s not in my top 10 (yet), maybe it’s me but I just don’t get some of the hype I keep reading or hearing about it, it is a grower and a few tracks I really love, and maybe a few months down the line I will have a totally different view. From the last 4 releases I prefer Songs From The West Coast.

I think Joe Public is tired of Elton album wise but they will still go to concerts to see a legend, the die hards aint and will always purchase the albums.

So what kind of place do you see for Elton John in the History of Rock Music?

I think he will be up there at the top table with the greats.

You’re a great collector, so: which is your Elton's item that you really appreciate, for being hard to get or for the happiness you've got to have it?

I do like the items that I have had sent back to me signed, bottom line it’s all about the music.

What's your favorite bootleg ?

To be honest I really don’t know, don’t even know how many I have now, but it is over 800. A few of early one’s that have surfaced recently are excellent (setlist and sound wise)

Oh, we’ve got Elton in cadbury’s chocolate figure, Elton in rag, and the beatiful dolls on Elton. What could it be next?

What about Elton pasta, if it’s good enough for Mickey Mouse. LOL

Apart from music, which are your interests? What you like to do with your off time?

Football (Soccer) I follow Hibernian F.C., holidays to America.

Finally, could you tell me your five favourite Elton's songs in running order, for my AllSongsList, where I tried to find the bests of Elton’s songs ever?

Here’s my 5 below, but choosing only 5 is so hard and my list could have been 105!

We All Fall In Love Sometimes/Curtains
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
High Flying Bird
Indian Sunset
The Greatest Discovery

Special mention for Shine On Through and Sugar On The Floor

Thank you. Would you want to add some observation or suggestion, or something you want to say to other eltonites?

Although us long time fans moan about too many greatest hits at the concerts, I think we should just appreciate that he does still go out on the road.

Elton has shown in other “special” concerts that he can and will play some forgotten gems, look at the Captain Fantastic shows, the 60th Birthday show, nearly playing the whole of Peachtree Road in '04, and the latest Union tour.

Oh, once you said: “I am disgusted with some of the comments on here regarding Elt cancelling gigs, Yeah, it's the worst I have known re cancelling gigs, but do you really think Elton wants to cancel them, of course he doesn't”. People don’t have patiente enough?

Just couldn’t believe some of the comments / attitude of some people last year when he was cancelling gigs, we all get sick / have off days, he has cancelled 2 shows I was going to over the years (Leeds Castle and Glasgow) have had hotels booked flights booked, nothing you can do, the man was ill end off.

Well, thank so much Steve for being here. I am so proud of your interview and for me it was a pleasure to dedicate the day to someone like you. But please, before you go, wait a minute because I hear somebody's knocking the door. Come on, guy!!!

Hi Paul Purcell, welcome to the Steven's Day. You know Steven, right? How could you define him, as an eltonite?

"Steve is the most generous and genuine Eltonite I know. A real man for the music. I could talk to him for hours and hours and often do!" Right. Do you enjoy his interview, right? Anything to add? "He is always telling me about the olden days of being an Eltonite and how he has followed Elton through thick and thin. Once or twice over the years he has told me about him being at the solo show in Edinburgh in 1976. I think he may have mentioned also that it was the first solo show...EVER!!".

That was a great experience for you, Steven. We remember our first concert as something very special, and being in 1976 seeing Elton not everyone could tell. Thanks Paul for joinin us on Steven's Day. Anything more? "I'm delighted that he has been added to the roll of honour and has joined a very exclusive club". Yes, he deserved it and for me it was such a pleasure to learn more from him. Bye People!!!

pictures courtesy by Steven Betts

6 Nov 2010

Question 6 To The Experts Committee: Elton John & Leon Russell's The Union

Hi there!!! Welcome to a new edition of the “Comittee of experts”, the sixth this time. The comittee was created one year ago, we have 18 experts from differents countries of the world (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina). And we have new experts for the comittee, that’s amazing, we’re growing, you see, dear Rabbit, we’re not alone.

The most important: we have the album out, we have the album on the charts, a lot of reviews have been published everywhere, and we had on this blogsite a prologue with four of a kind expertises. It seems now that “The Union” impact is done, the calm is down, now it’s our turn to discuss and review the album on the comittee. Why now? Well, we’ve been listening the album more than once (for sure), we have passed the first-time listening era, so it’s time to analyze different aspects of the record.

So welcome dear experts, welcome to the new members, 7 new members this time, 2 new countries. A joy to have you all here, Jack Rabbit will try that you feel comfortable talking, discussing and arguing (not fight, althought it’s Saturday) about “The Union”.

First, a general view on the album. What do you think about “The Union”? Who’s gonna start? Ok! Ok! One by one!!!

“The Union is fabulous for me! hearing Elton in new songs is always a great and delightful moment for an Eltonite”. Welcome Daga Lakomi, from Poland, so proud to have you here. Ana Ćup, new member from Serbia, agrees: “The Union is a great album”. Thanks so much for joinin’, Ana, really joyful for the comittee to have you. Daga Lakomi has it clear: “It is amazing that every Elton's composition is truly unique. And this time with Leon, who has a very funny and original voice, Elton has done it’s magical again. Their Union is a treasure for me!”

Now it’s turn for the greatest Richard Georgeou, from US: “After listening to the tracks for the first time my initial impression is: a 5 star product from Elton, Leon, Bernie, session musicians, back up vocalists, T-Bone Burnett. A master piece in my opinion. Elton has the creative juices flowing again thanks to the inspiration of his mentor/idol Leon Russell.” Yes, Thomas Wali, from Austria: “I really like the album. I think it is at least as good as Eltons last 3 records from the 2000s ("Songs From The Westcoast", "Peachtree Road" and "The Captain and the Kid"). What makes it more special than the other three is the high quality of production and the story behind the album and how it came together”. Thanks.

“I was lucky enough to receive my CD on Monday - one day ahead of the official US release. I was - and am - so excited. Let's just say that the pre-reviews (like Rolling Stone's 5 stars) got it right! It is such an amazing collaboration!”. Ahhh, that wonderful Kimberlee Kemble, from US too, thanks for being here too, as well as Richard and Thomas, of course. Anybody else?

“I am very impressed with "The Union". The vocals sound so great. Was not sure what to expect from Elton and Leon. But they came through with flying colors.” says Patrick Mcinnis, from US, a gentleman who kindly agrees to be part of the comittee. So she did my absolutely admired Vera Rio, from Brazil: “I'm really in a state of grace! Listening to tracks from "The Union" moved me to the "oldies" when a new work by Elton left me totally enchanted! I went to sleep and woke up with the songs in my mind and that was synonymous of a great start to the day for me. Now all that atmosphere is back (thanks God !!)”.

And Rabbit and I could not forget the fantastic italian cavaliere, Beppe Bonaventura, your thoughts dear friend: “Back to the roots! (T Bone Burnett and his team forever ...). The best album of Elton since the Seventies, a fantastic production by T Bone Burnett. The work of Burnett and his musicians, on this album, is really a masterpiece, a dream for me.”

“We all know that Elton heard Leon’s music in Africa on Davids iPod and then called Leon and asked if he is ready to make an album with him, although they didn't talk to each other for 35 years. Leon accepted the offer immediately and things started rolling” explains Thomas Wali about the concept idea of this project, while adding: “That's enough said about the short history how this came together”.

But not everyone is agree, and that’s the enrichment of our comittee: we are fans, but we could discuss Elton’s projects objectively. And that’s good to see, not everyone of us has to be agree: we are a big family!!! So I would like to thank you next expert, on the comittee since the beginning, always ready to be in, and a very clever people: thanks Ana Sousa, from Brazil: “As an Elton fan for over 30 years, I’m passionate about his work. When I buy an Elton John album, it’s him that I want to hear; no one else. So, after four years without any Elton new release, a duets album is not what I was looking forward to”. Most eltonites were surprised about this project really, that’s true. “Leon Russell is a musician that before The Union was totally unknown to me, except for the his name mentioned as one of Elton’s many influences. After listening to some snippets of his performances on youtube, I must confess I couldn’t get into his style of music, performance and especially his voice. I respect Elton for having chosen to do this album with Leon, someone he respects so much as a musician, but Leon’s just not my cup of tea. Music is very personal, it’s about feelings. It’s something you cannot be talked into. You either love or hate. Obviously many may have a different opinion, but I know I’m not the only one that share this feeling about Leon Russell and The Union.” Thanks so much, Ana.

Thomas Wali has another point of view:
“We are talking about two legendary composers, singers and piano players. Both of them wrote some of the most beautiful songs in the history of modern music. And both working together formed this perfect "union" and album. Moreover we have one of the best producers, T-Bone Burnett, of this time and legendary studio musicians and also one of the best lyricists, Bernie Taupin. Also a lot of guest stars, like Brian Wilson and Neil Young worked on it”.

Ana? “Elton's fan base had never been so polarized over an upcoming Elton John album. When Elton released an album there was always this feeling of excitement and anticipation shared by all the fans. With The Union this changed dramatically. The album totally split the community up in two groups: those that love this project and those that don't!”. Thanks too. There’s several eltonites that didn’t like the album, I have to tell. But hey, we are all eltonites at last!

Now, please, Richard Georgeou, could you read us your review song by song? That’s very helpful:

“There's no Tomorrow”: “This imo is a funeral dirge after the south went down in defeat. I close my eyes and see a procession with horse drawn coffin and people walking behind it with a bleak outlook. Homes destroyed, farms burned, soldiers wounded, the south's economy crippled”

“‎$800 dollar shoes”: “It could be about both Elton and Leon. Aging star, the posters are frayed, his youth and innocense long gone. Memories of the 70's when he ruled the music world”

“Hey Ahab” is clearly about Captain Ahab chasing the elusive dream (the white whale) Moby Dick. We all reach for the stars and some settle for the clouds. Great rocker, soulful backup vocals, strong piano work, T Bone Burnett on electric guitar, lyrics by Taupin. Best rocker for Elton in 3 decades. A+”

“The Best Part of The Day”: “It’s getting sober and enjoying nature, a return to the simple life. Elton enjoys seeing daybreak rather than sleeping til late afternoon. The best things in life are free. 'We shared our crazy ways in younger days'. This sums it up for...”

“When Love Is Dying”: We are usually the last to know. Love gone wrong. However, it is better to have loved and lost love, than to have never have loved at all is my philosophy. Pining away at what could have been. This applies to both Leon, Elton, and Bernie. Plus, everyone that has lost love. A+”

“I Should Have Sent Roses”: “I hear the song covered by Elvis and Willie Nelson, 'You Were Always On My Mind'. 'Maybe I didn't love you quite as much as I should have'. This led to you leaving me. The heart is a lonely hunter. A+”

http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=UxkQKG2GguU&feature=related

“Gone to Shiloh”: “Without question American Civil War revisited. Vocals: Elton, Leon, and Neil Young. Civil War saga as Union Soldiers descend upon the city of Shiloh, Mississippi. “Heaven help the South / When Sherman comes their way”. I love this song. Both the studio version and Elton playing it live with piano intro”.

(silence), everybody’s listening the masterclass.

“Never Too Old”: “You are never too old to fall in love, hold somebody, we are nothing without someone to love and share our life with. Brilliant song. A tear jerker. A+”

“A Dream Come True”: “A haunting melody reminds me of Elvis Presley’s ‘Mystery Train’. Leon ‘s chance at redeeming his music career with the help of Elton’s influence. The music has brought him back Gonna have some fun And the blues are through”.

“The Hands of Angels”: “This one's for Leon who cheated death before going into the studio for this project. Brain surgey and convalescense. He considers he was saved for some purpose through the hands of angels. A”.

“Hearts have turned to stone”: “Leon wrote this, about his music career nearly going unnoticed, bringing on depression, forgotten, and looking for the sun to shine on him once again. A”.

“Monkey Suit”: “I envision John Dillinger, going down south with his 3 piece suit, shooting up the banks. A great upbeat song,one of his best in many years. Another Elton and Bernie classic. A+”

“If It Wasn’t For Bad It Would Be Good”: “Written by Leon Russell, he was disillusioned by the recording company, that failed him as an artist. He was treated like some vagabond musician, lacking promotional input to keep his career on course. A”.

“Jimmie Rodgers Dream”: “Written by: Elton John, Bernie Taupin, T Bone Burnett: Now I pop a top and stay up late with Gideon / And fall asleep to visions of Meridian - drinking beer, and reading the bible, Dreaming of Meridian, MS. Life on the train, heading west, and seeing the landscape. A big blue canvas painted by the Master's hand. A”.

(everybody’s clapping). Thanks so much, Richard. Experts: Your favourite songs from the album, then?

Thomas? “I really like all of the songs on this record, but there are some I like more. I couldn't tell you which song is the best.

My favorites (in random order) are:

Mandalay Again,
The Best Part Of The Day,
If It Wasn't For Bad,
In The Hands Of Angels,
Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes,
I Should Have Sent Roses,
When Love Is Dying.

It's not easy to choose my favs, because I really like all of them. Those are the songs I listen to the most”.

Ana Sousa, it’s your turn: “From the snippets I’ve listened to, the only songs that caught my attention were “Hey Ahab” and “Monkey Suit”, that coincidentally seems to be the only up-tempo songs on the album. “I Should’ve Sent Roses” is a typical Leon Russell song. Needless to say not what I would pick as one of my choices. “Never Too Old” and “Gone to Shiloh”, performed live by Elton are fine, but way too slow in my opinion. “Never Too Old” is repetitive and for this reason gets a little boring. “Gone to Shiloh” has a beautiful melody, which gets enhanced by Elton’s fabulous deep vocals. It reminds me of Lestat, with its dark mood. The live solo version is a treat for Elton’s fans, as on the album the vocals are shared with Leon and Neil Young. I listened to Gone to Shiloh performed by Elton in Taormina, Italy, and to this day he’s still able to impress me. Against all the odds, he gets better and better with age. He's passionate, powerful. And it was a live version, unpolished, raw, as what is without any studio production on.” Thanks so much, Ana.

Daga Lakomi adds her list:
“I love every song ... but I think that the most could be "The best part of the day" now ;):) but it might change because I hear all these new songs pretty often and I love each more and more:).

Others? Patrick? “The songs I love the best are "Hey Ahab", "The Best Part Of The Day", "When Love is Dying" and "Hearts Have Turned To Stone". I believe the lyrics are so good. Nice... to hear those great Bernie lyrics still sounds so good.” Yes? “It's great to hear new music from Elton, learn the lyrics, try to discover the story behind each one.” Oh, yes, Vera Rio!!! That’s amazing! Your favourites, then? “" Hey Ahab", "Monkey Suit "," Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody)", "The Hands Of Angels," "When Love is Dying," "Jimmie Rodgers 'Dream" immediately "glued" in my ears”.

Kimberlee? “There isn't a song that I don't like, but I especially like Going to Shiloh (very haunting piano line that I can't get out of my mind), Hey Ahab (classic EJ rock), Monkey Suit (fun!) and In the Hands of Angels (just beautiful). I've listened to it 3 times already - and will listen to it many more times in the coming days and weeks. I'm going to listen with headphones soon because I heard that EJ's piano is recorded on one track and Leon's on the other, and that it really comes through when you listen with headphones.” Hahahaha right!.

Beppe, yours?
“My favourite songs: “Gone To Shiloh”, “Hey Ahab”, “Hearts Have Turned to Stone”, but all the tracks are excellent. Less favourites? “The Best Part Of Day”, not a great song, without the production of Burnett, it seems a standard track from “The Big Picture””. Thanks. Yes, sorry Kimberlee, didn't see you: “I'd add "Mandalay Again" to my favorites list... I don't understand why it wasn't on the basic CD. Beautiful, beautiful song - and even my 15-year old daughter said she liked it - does that mean it could actually get airplay? I WISH!!! I really like the way that Elton's and Leon's voices blend in this song... most of the songs don't do that, they have Elton sing a verse and Leon sing a verse (which is very nice), but it's like a perfect fit on this song - their voices, their pianos, their styles... and Bernie's lyrics are amazing, too.”

And what could we say about Elton and Leon singin' together?

“Sir Elton is in good company: Leon is great, the backing vocals are wonderful (especially on "Hey Ahab" and "Monkey Suit")” starts Vera Rio. “Elton is singing better than ever on this record and Leon as well as he can. I'm one of the few Elton fans who really like Leons voice. I heard a lot of bad things about his voice from other fans, but I have to say that I love it!” continues Thomas Wali, and adds: “Eltons voice is perfect, as always. I think their voices fit and complement each other very well”. Beppe? “The mix of Elton and Leon, of the two pianos is really a surprise, Burnett is really one of the better producer of this era.” Ana? “I like many artists, different styles, like country music, but Leon's rendition/vocals, I just couldn't make them work for me”.

Thanks. Any comment about the non-involvement of any member of EJ in the studio sessions?

”It's a pity that none of the band members were involved, but it is not making the album worse” starts Thomas Wali. “If I was the producer, I would've "used" them as background vocalists or arrangers of backing vocals, as they really did an extraordinary job on earlier records and of course are still doing an AMAZING job at live concerts. I heard that they didn't know anything about what was going on at the time when Elton and Leon were in the studio, but Davey Johnstone got to listen to the whole album after the recording sessions. I think they will be playing some of the songs live on the tour together with Leon and at Elton and Band only shows”.

“The musicians are of the best quality (but I must confess that I'd love to hear Davey, Nigel, John, Bob and Kim playing and singing all these wonderful songs ... ok, I'm also a fan of the Elton's Band!)”, hahahaha thanks Vera! “I'd love to hear "When Love is Dying", "Hey Ahab" or "Best Part Of The Day" live with the band. I think that this is not unimaginably that they'll do one or two songs with Elton on tour”. Oh, who knows, Thomas?

“The band on the album is really fantastic (and live too!), Elton with these musicians is back to the top after all these years” disagrees Beppe: “Elton, please no more Johnstone on guitars! You need a real guitar player such Marc Ribot. And no more the terrible sound from electronic keyboards, the real Elton needs an acoustic sound of high level. The Beacon Theatre show was really a top act with top players, when I think to the standard Greatest Hits shows of the last years, with his old band, I have no words, only sadness”.

Oh, will be that a success?

”I don't only think that it will be a success, it is already a huge success in the USA. It stepped into Billboard 200 on #3 which is Eltons highest entry in the US-Charts since the Blue Moves album in 1976”, yes Thomas, that’s true. “I believe this is one cd that will be talked about for years to come. I will give it an A” follows Patrick McInnis, and Richard Georgeou bets: “I predict platinum record sales, a Grammy, and hopefully a follow up album from Elton and Leon. 'Thank God My Music's Still Alive'.......Bernie Taupin. Elton, and Leon are back at the pinnacle of the music world.” Hahahaha we are all expecting!

How well is received the album in your country?

Italy? “In Italy, great reviews about the album, and I hope a good place in the charts in the next days”. Thanks Beppe. Austria? “I heard and saw a lot of news in the radio and also in the TV and read some good articles and reviews in magazines and newspapers in Austria on "The Union", but it is not in the album charts yet. I hope that it will be very soon”. Yes, it is, recently it is. Brazil? “Here where I live the radios still aren't playing the new songs (but I'm working for this to happen soon! I'll send requests via web, of course!)”. Hahahaha, great Vera Rio.

“I live in southern Serbia, Kosovo province, I suppose you have heard of Kosovo”, yes Ana Ćup. “Everything related of Elton's new album, I gonna know it in mid-November, then I gonna go to Belgrade to buy the album. The only thing I know, a friend has informed me, is that the album just arrived in my country. Finally :o) I hope people will buy it. LOL It is strange of Elton's new album can be bought only in the Serbian capital Belgrade.” Oh, that’s sad, Ana, but you will have your album, sure!

Well, dear experts, we’re finishing. Thanks so much for your knowledge, your interest and your collaboration. Rabbit and me are extremely happy you joined to our list of experts. 26 now, is it right, Rabbit? Oh, no dear, not you,you’re not an expert ;-) How could we conclude everything we chat on? Your rates, Beppe?

“The album 8,5/10
Elton & Leon 9/10
The tracks 8/10
The production 10/10
The band 9,5/10”

“There's a smell of masterpiece in the air (the same feeling that I had when I heard "The Captain Fantastic ..." for the first time). My note for "The Union"? Of course, could only be 10! And with praise”. Thanks Vera Rio, agree with you.

“Anyway, a long-winded way of saying the album is FANTASTIC!!! And I really can't wait now until I go see Elton and Leon on November 20th and 21st!” oh, great Kimberlee.

Daga? “I would like to say THANK YOU Elton and Leon!!! You have done a wonderful job!!! I ask Elton for another new Album;) I want new songs haha”

Hahahahaha. I would love to announce you a new fan site, from Serbia. Ana Ćup has done a great job and needs all of our support. Right, Ana? “I have the fan page in order to collect as many members as I can and thus show the organizers of concerts in my country that Serbia is interested in another Elton's concert.”. Go for Serbia!!!!

Bye experts, since other time. Jack Rabbit would like to thank efusively and enthusiastically the collaboration of ours experts. Six reunions with this, and growing more and more. Eltonites’ voice must be heard! I am devoted to all of you:

The master expertises: Claude Bernardin, George Matlock, Liz Rosenthal, Jim Turano.

Experts: Midnight creeper (UK), Stephan Heimbecher (GE), Thomas Wali (AT), Paul Purcell (IR), Andrea Grasso, Beppe Bonaventura & Giorgio Aquilani (IT), Wim Greven (Holland), Ulrick Garde (DK), Anna Montras (SP), Patrick Andrey (SW), Laurent Bonnore (FR), Daga Lakomi (PL), Ana Ćup (SE), Richard Antoine & Shea Forster-Helms (CA), Richard Georgeou, Patrick McInnis, Jack Suslak, Missy Gyms & Karen Rooney (US), Silvines Palmer & Isabel González (AR), Kissybissy, Vera Rio & Your Song (BR), Patty Perrin (MX).

If other eltonites are interested in being part of the comittee, or wanted that their country must be heard, just mail me. Eltonites around the world, join us: without you, me and Rabbit are nothing.

23 Oct 2010

The Master Class Series About "The Union"

Poker Of Expertises!!!!

Hi Eltonites, this is a very special weekend for me. Yes, I know, I don’t use to tell about myself because here what’s really important is Elton (obviously!!!). But this time let me explain something about me, but, please, don’t go away, it will be short. ;-)

Everybody knows this is the week of the release of “The Union” in America, and the pre-release week in Europe and other parts of the world. I know there’s a lot of reviews out there:

“Rolling Stone” regarded the album from a mystical point of view, “John and Russell share the resurrection. Each goes back to what he first did best. Then they do it together”. Rated with 5*

“The Mirror” remarked that “The chemistry between the two piano-playing titans is energising. Also, the album's 'bringing it all back home' feel reflects the old America explored both in Russell's work and the early Elt/Taupin classics such as Tumbleweed Connection and Honky Chateau”. Rated with 4*

And more and more reviews. You may know that my comitee of experts are preparing a session analyzing the album, that will take place as soon as the europeans have the album.

So, here’s my story. I remember the pre-internet era, when finding news related to Elton was so difficult, specially in my country. I remember being on a fansites meeting in Barcelona, I was maybe 21 years old, more or less. When finally I thought I couldn’t find nothing about Elton, an “Hercules” issue came to my hands. Everything about Elton. God, could it be possible?

Another story, and the last one, I promise: I remember being on a cue in one concert, waiting my turn for buying the Tour Book of “The Big Picture Tour”. Oh, in one page it was info about “East End Lights”, a fansite related to Elton. God, “I have to be a member” I thought.

Since I became an Hercules and EEL member, Elton released “Aida”, “El Dorado”, “Songs From West Coast”, “Peachtree Road” and “Captain And The Kid”. I enjoyed every issue of both fanzines, every article, everyone of concerts’ reviews, but one thing, more than others, I absolutely adore, and I could read it time after time: the reviews of new albums. Fantastic!!! I couldn’t explain how plenty I was with that. Both fansites had good writers, most of them are continuing writting, and some made that a profession.

Five people, five reviewers, excelled from the rest, in my honestly opinion, for sure. And I remember how great Liz Rosenthal explains the meaning of every song; I remember how Jim Turano analyzed every album, every song (his “tete-by-tete” with Tom Stanton first, and then Mark Norris, discussing the new album to come, is the best I’ve ever read); I remember how George Matlock interviewed the artists and how easily he explained his feelings on the albums to come; and I remember how Claude Bernardin with his good sense of humour reviewed everyhting on Elton.

Now I have a confession to make: I absolutely adore those people. They are kind of idols for me. I read everything I could by them, always spending good time, and thinking: “How they could do it this way?”. God, I don’t know where I am, but these people are on a high level, impossible to reach (poor me!!!).

When “The Union” project came out, I thought inmediatily in doing a comitee of experts. As I told before, we will have the experts all together discussing the album. But this time, as a prelude, I thought about the possibility to reunite those idols, my reviewers idols, on my side, an objective quite difficult to reach, I supposed. So I mailed Claude, Jim, George, and Liz. Oh, I mailed another person but unfortunetely he couldn’t collaborate this time, but vey kindness agreed to do it other time.

And all four said yes. YES! Anyone could imagine what does it meant to me? Those one who I’ve always searched when I need some info or review about Elton, this time together with me. A dream come true. They kindly approached “The Union” to us.

So, I bring you this time their reviews of the album, their thoughts, in alphabetical order. But don’t think that’s another review on the way most of them are posted somewhere else. This four people are true eltonites, they are ones of us. So left on a side the typical magazine/newspaper review, let me suggest you, and take their reviews. Exquisité!!!!

I would like to thank publicly to Claude Bernardin, to George Matlock, to Jim Turano, to Liz Rosenthal for doing extra work (forgive me for that, please), for collaborating and for doing such useful and incredible articles.

Eltonites, hope you enjoy it as much as I am doing. Thanks for let me explain all of this. The “Week Of The Gov’nor and The Master” will continue a week on with other surprises. Thanks for being there!!!

Jack Rabbit

The Master Expertises (I): Claude Bernardin

You CAN Make History Young Again:

Back in 1970/71 some albums just demanded that you had to go out and buy them. “Four Way Street”, “Deja Vu”, “Tumbleweed Connection”, “Music For Bangladesh”, “Leon Russell”, “Mad Dog’s and Englishmen”, “Elton John”. You would hear of them, everyone was a buzz, and you just knew the music was going to be great.

Do you really need a review of this album before you get it? Two “Talking Old Soldiers” of Rock’n’Roll are back together again after 38 years! And the ivories are singing louder than “Romeo Angels in the roof above...” That’s not enough? Ok, well then, It’s an Extraordinary, Epic album. Easily In Elton’s top 15, “Without Question” ( pun intended! ).

The music on this selection is infused with vigor and a haunting organic spirit, reminiscent of John’s “Tumbleweed Connection” and “Honky Chateau” days of Old. Gospel-gritty snatches of God almighty, foot-thumping Rock’n’Roll. This album is in a class of its own, totally “unique”. This first-rate material will most certainly further burnish these Piano Legends gold star status. A fresh Southern cross-pollination of two musical Giants. Elton John, the lush-craftsman, and Leon Russell, the innovator. These Giants are now in a place where only a handful of songwriters dwell, and judging from the material on this new CD, it is with some justification.

If the last 40 years tells us anything, it tells us that these two very hard working musicians have not lost their passion for all things Rock. One only needs to get to track 3, “Hey Ahab”, and 23 seconds in, the song kicks in like the Furnace in my basement! As well, wordsmith Bernie Taupin cannot be easily ignored here. Taupin has handed John and Russell some of his best lyrical work since 1971. A perfect example of this is on the stand out cut, ”The Best Part Of The Day”...

There’s a Canyon where an echo hangs
Like the ancient bells of Notre Dame
It’s beyond the hills out of sight
Thought I heard’em ringing all last night
Hear the mating call of the morning Dove
Like Romeo Angels in the roof above
Rains will come sweet and clean
Let the tears of God keep the Mountains green
.”

It is clear, Taupin’s brisk, Hollywoodesque storytelling has evolved way past the Mid-70’s, “She’s got electric boots and Mohair suits, you know I read it in a magazine...Oh, Oh, Benny and The Jetssssssssssssss!”.

Lyrically the album seems to sometimes hint at Leon’s declining health, “Roll back the covers, and raise the shades...” and “wheezing like a freight train....you never drew a decent breath.” But Taupin and Elton obviously stood by him, as Bernie writes, “Don’t think you’ve gone out, Don’t flicker and fade...”

The material on this selection seems to suggest his health has since improved.

To me personally, we in America, have adopted this Poet, lyricist - Taupin...yes, he was born in England, but Bernie Taupin adopted America in 1970/71 when he began writing songs like “Burn Down The Mission” “Tiny Dancer”, “Indian Sunset” and “Talking Old Soldiers.” He does not let us down on this new Project, and in fact may deliver one of the best lyrics he’s written in nearly 40 years, with the Epic Ballad, “Gone To Shiloh”. This might be Taupin’s lyrical high spot of the album:

April’s come and the air smells fresh with rain
They watched his shadow fade around the bend
He’s headed for a different kind of thunder
Than the stunned surprise in the eyes of dying men...


Hey, guys, I get it, I’m a fan, I’m supposed to like them....but seriously, anyone alive who has not heard Elton’s live solo version of this track in recent weeks, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR...NOW!” The song is one of Elton’s strongest melodies in 30 years.

The album version, holds together elegantly. No, it is not the dramatic reading a solo Elton John performance can garner, but I almost prefer this version already. It is slower. But there’s so much going on in it, from the Brass instruments, to the thundering drums, to Neil Young’s silvery, fragile vocal harmonies....the song soars! And come on! Having Young on this album singing those poetic words ? Are you kidding me? How cool is that?!!!!!!!!!!! Can you JUST imagine a Neil Young, Leon Russell, and Elton John album?

As I listen for the “fifth” time now, I begin to think of such Elton songs as “Border Song”, “Slave”, “Hercules”, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and “Indian Sunset” and suddenly I realize, we are perhaps in a whole new field here. We truly have an album of the caliber of 76’s “Blue Moves” or “Caribou”.

It has been a pleasure to listen to the music these two men have created for the last 40 years. I am a fan of the piano, and that’s exactly what you get on this CD. Beautiful, catchy Notes picked out of the atmosphere of T. Bone Burnetts, earthy roots oriented arrangements. This is good’Ol Boy, Blues and Gospel, with a touch of Texas and Oklahoma twang. But it’s music to make you smile, it’s music to lighten the burdens of the day. So you say, perhaps, you’ve heard it all before, a fan, telling the World this album or that one is another masterpiece.

Well then I challenge you to do as I did, give “When Love is Dying” five listens, and then let’s talk. My first listen of this track I wrote the following,” Ok, so I get it, it’s supposed to be the album’s Big Ballad, The Classic Elton ballad, so why am I not convinced?” I then wrote, “Everyone will love this song to death, why do I hate it?”

And then I listened again, and again, and again, and suddenly I couldn’t get the damn thing out of my head. Suddenly I was looking forward to it. And then it hit me, “Holy God, I can only think of 3 songs like it...”Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, “It’s Getting Dark In Here” and “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”. Was it possible it was that good? The answer after 6 listens now? YES!!!!!!!!!! It’s a classic! Best big love ballad from Elton John and Bernie Taupin since 1974’s, “Caribou” album. So what would you say if I also suggested this album just might also have the Best rocker since 1974’s “The Bitch Is Back”? Well it has two! “Monkey Suit” and “Hey Ahab”.

But Leon Russell is in no way to be lightly brushed aside here. Russell, suffering from a brain hemorrhage, and only days out of the Hospital, hands in one of his best piano and vocal performances in the last 30 years. I can get it down to one track, “Hearts Have Turned To Stone”. Here Leon gives his younger buddy Taupin a good swift lyrical kick in the behind, when Russell writes...

Now the sun is rising higher in the sky
The morning light is crawling
From the darkness of the night
The raindrops keep on falling
There is no light of day
The sadness deep inside me
Doesn’t seem to go away...


and we feel his pain and sorrow. It’s both Poetic as Wordsworth, and honest as the day is long. Elton’s sneaky, but amazing backing vocals, and Durio, Hill, Vega, and Witherspoon dominate this song with brilliant additional vocal elements. Which by the way, is there any other performance by backing vocalists in Elton’s recording History, that has the power these ladies emote on this album? The song chugs along like a freight train. And besides that, it’s “CLASSIC”, “VINTAGE” Leon Russell. Hey if you don’t get the title reference to 1971’s “Roll Away The Stone”, you need to go take a course in Rock Music History 101.

But seriously, the song is a perfect return to form for Leon. And God I missed this man in Rock Music. There was nothing like him then , or now. I love how everyone tries to figure his style out, but they never get it down to “Gospel”!!!!!! Thus the wonderful backup singers.

For me personally, it means more than I can express in words that Elton John, woke up to his roots, returned, and found Leon Russell, who was hopping from small Town America to small town America, and pulled him back into the ring. These two are Legends. And that they are now writing and recording together after all these years, it is my personal dream come true. It is more than Christmas Day for me. I am sure this album will always be in my top 15. as I write this I am reflecting on sitting fifth row the last six years at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pa. watching Leon perform “Roll Away The Stone” and “Hummingbird” and thinking to myself, “How, ? How do we get Elton to stop doing the Hits thing, and help out this guy? The music they could make! And Leon so needs a helping hand right now.”

And then the news broke! You can hear Elton’s passion, you can hear his enthusiasm and respect in every note. Russell is also in fine form through out this project, with such musical gems as “If It Wasn’t For Bad”, “I Should Have Sent Roses” and the gorgeous Hymn like tribute to Elton John and T. Bone, “Hands Of Angels”.

The pair blend almost effortlessly on the skiffle-inspired, “A Dream Come True”. This was the first song/piano jam that the two ever played on for these sessions, according to Leon Russell in an Interview for Yamaha Pianos. And when Leon sings ...”And the music’s sweet....” and Elton answers with....”Now I feel the beat of the dancing drums and now I know we’re gonna have some fun....” yes, just like the Chorus suggests...”It seems like “The both of you...” can chase the clouds away...” I can’t stop my foot from tapping, and I just smile! and to further quote the song -
“And all my blues are through....” . Amen, gentleman, Job well done!

Throughout this album, one can easily hear all the Love, Faith, compassion and stronger sense of Life’s values.
And perhaps Taupin delivers the album’s ultimate Motto:

I could bet on a horse
But I’m betting on you
You ( both ) still got what it takes
You’ve got nothing, nothing to prove.


I could go on and on about each song. I will let that for another. Suffice it to say, this “IS” the Music I grew up on in 1971, and it is simply lovely to hear again. I love this album, can’t stop playin’ it, and won’t for months.

I must also take the time to say that T. Bone Burnett did what NO other Producer, since Gus Dudgeon could do, he returned us to the “Sound” of Elton John. Yes others stepped up to the plate, and a few, managed some brilliance, but through and through, Burnett has hit the ball out of the Park! I bow to you, Sir, you ...are the man! Give him a Grammy now for this project!

I have only one final heartfelt plea....Elton, Leon, don’t let ten years go by without bringing everyone who made this album, back into a studio and do it all again. You guys got your feet wet with this one. I give it 9 out of 10 stars. I know you guys have even more to offer. But more importantly this friendship needs to grow, musically. Get back “Honky cats, Better get back to the studio!” :)

P.S. –

It’s 7 A.M. on Thursday, October 14th, the morning after I wrote that review....I’m driving down the freeway tapping the steering wheel to a new song. Elton and Leon dueling away on machine gun piano, and the sun’s still not out –
“But the music’s sweet makes me feel brand new...”

7:15 I’ve stopped at a local Mart, gassing up and I’m stirring a cup of warm coffee behind a counter as I hear this song playing on the ceiling speakers, “Roll Over Beethoven”, but it’s not The Beatles, It’s not Chuck Berry either.....and then I hear the piano and that twang...and I chuckle to myself, “ Ahhh, the World has suddenly learned there just might be a great album coming out to go buy....so we better play some songs by that guy...Ole’what’s his name.?..Oh, yeah Leon Russell!” LOL!

35 years ago in another time and place, everyone knew that version of “Beethoven”. And this morning, as I laugh to myself, it’s good to know, the Music Industries wheels are still in spin.

A Few Personal Stand Out Cuts For Me:

800 Dollar Shoes” –

I am now in love with this song. Just classic John/Taupin. The Chorus is gorgeous!
The song reminds me of only three others, “I’ve Seen That Movie Too”, “Roy Rogers” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, not bad company huh? - 5 Stars

The Best Part Of The Day

Classic John/Taupin. The opening Leon vocally inspired line is brilliant...”I hear you singin’ I Shall Be Released” like a chainsaw running through a masterpiece...” The Chorus is a melody I can’t stop singing, can’t get the melody out of my head. Leon’s vocals are brilliant. The words, sweet, prose. Lovely. I love the bridge, the words the melody, the shift....It is one of my favorite Elton John songs in 25 years. Maybe it’s not “Empty Garden” but God it’s damn close! – 5 Stars

Your My Kind Of Hell

First listen, immediate “Classic” Elton, “Wake Up Wendy” Part 2! Fun, and the lyrics are some of the best on the album. Fun stuff! This is the sound that I did not want to admit was missing from the album up to now, do yourself a favor and go get the deluxe disc it’s worth it JUST for this great track, and the dueling piano battle in the center, which reminds me of Daffy Duck and Donald in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

After more than several listens there is a melody line and a sound that has been seeping into my consciousness and it finally hit me! The melody..."No I can't say i ever liked you much....but you're my kind of hell" then there's the horns...so ask yourself what IF ....we slightly slowed down "Elderberry Wine" - "No I can't help thinikin about the time....You were a wife of mine...." :) hmmmm. LOL!!!!!!!!! Is this a bow to a fan favorite after all these years? It has a great hook. Prefer it over “A Little Peace” from Peach Tree Road sessions. – 5 stars

Mandalay Again

“Back when we could throw a rope around the moon....” Has that great line, has a catchy melody. Very Pretty song.
Great lyrics. It reminds me of only one album session, “Blue Moves”. And so, I love it! It is “OLD” Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Simply Lovely. Touching lyrics. What “Return To Paradise” should always have been! – 5 stars

Jimmie Rodger’s Dream” –

I am not a fan of this style. “The Trails We Blaze”, “Captain and The Kid”, “The Drover” haven’t we had enough of it? Is it truly “Old” Elton or just country/folk? But I have to say after 10 listens, it has grown on me. I dunno, the song seems to be garnering its fans. It has my attention now, just maybe it’s not the strongest track on the album. – 3 1/2 stars.

There’s No Tomorrow” –

I absolutely love this song, if “ONLY” for the chorus. If only for the fact that Elton’s background vocals have guts and darkness. His voice works well here. I love the back and forth bluesy vocals of the chorus, the dark melody. Just Lovely! And Ms. Stone and Witherspoon and all are brilliant on backing vocals! Then there’s that tremendous guitar solo. It’s a deep but very interesting album cut. And could have easily been on “Madman Across The Water” right after “Rotten Peaches”. Sticks in my mind daily. – 5 stars

Oh, I give up, this album is a 5 star album! Just deeply rich, wonderfully produced, wonderfully written, perfectly recorded, and Leon and Elton together, I am not worthy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Outstanding guys! And thank you both for still caring and finding that passion still after 40 years!

AMEN!

Claude W. Bernardin

Claude Bernardin attended Great Valley High School and learned his most serious profession there, studying as a young artist under Chester County Watercolorist Lawrence H. Kuzmin. His first major Professional Painting exhibition in 1986, was in Gramercy Park, Manhattan, NY at the Salmagundi Art Club, upon invitation after receiving the President’s Award for his watercolor, “Work Bench”. Claude has had a successful painting career ever since. And has been a High School Art Instructor, on the High School level in the Philadelphian Archdiocese. He teaches Painting, drawing, graphics, photography, film, Pop Culture, The History Of Pop Music, Art History and much more.

The Master Expertises (II): George Matlock

When I was approached to write a review, I was honoured by the invitation. But I was also a tad apprehensive that my first Elton album review in nearly 10 years might not sound too loyal. Well, to make matters "worse" I now run a radio station, ORLA.fm, and I get a lot of music to review for the playlist. Am I still an Elton fan? Yes. But am I going to let Elton have an easy review? No. I hope you will appreciate my honest appraisal of the new album and I thank you for reading it:

The Union
Elton John & Leon Russell

The inaugural track starts off a bit self-indulgent, as the concept of a hero-linked album might. But within 10 seconds, you realise the boys have done well to choose this as the first single from the album, which we hope is indeed the first of many.

If It Wasn't for Bad is a superb lively track which endorses the piano heavily and brings the best Elton and Leon into one song.

The second song, Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes, is a country ballad like many from Elton. Here the twist is that Elton might not have it all his own way, as Leon has something to say. Alas not nearly enough. Elton fans may extoll the virtues of this track and others but I feel it is rather disappointing that Leon's vocals are not even second fiddle. They are buried behind Elton's dominating voice. Elton, give the man a chance to sing too!

The third track Hey Ahab is a nice, well-paced track. It does not veer from the "feel" and vibe of the album. But this time introducing some fine belting female vocals too. The ending is, however, a bit chaotic....like someone crashed in on the gig.

Gone to Shiloh. Nope, I would rather go to the shops and buy this album! The fourth song has that title however, so here goes. It is a beautiful ballad which allows Leon to introduce and lead. The man still has a fine bluesy voice. And he sings in harmony "pretty good company" with Elton.

By this point, a third of the way into the album, I get the impression there is still something self-indulgent about the project. Elton has enjoyed duets over the years, more recently with the legendary French (Armenian actually) crooner Charles Aznavour. What is nice as I travel through the audio channels of this album is that Elton has not succumbed to that "let's do a jazz swing album" the way Robbie Williams, Rod Stewart or more recently Sir Cliff Richard have. This is a good gritty album so far, and I can imagine Americana-inspired lyricist Bernie Taupin must be seriously pleased with this.

Jimmie Rodgers' Dream. It has a touch of Latitude, for those who remember Made In England from 1995. For those who don't this is just a hum drum if rythmic track.

The next track is a bit heavy melodically at first. Elton has always had a panache for writing sad songs which "say so much". He is the Melancholic Master and few artists can compete with him on that. Remember the almost-tortuously sad "American Triangle"? There's No Tomorrow is a strident weeper. Lots of wailing and reflection from both Elton and Leon. Lovely guitar makes this a nice track. But would this make radio play? Nope. And not because it doesn't have the happy-go-lucky feel that much of radio requires. It simply is too heavy for a radio airplay.

Monkey Suit. When I saw this, I dreaded what it will be. First through my mind went the account I remember Clive Franks gave me about the time in 1972 he had to wear a Crocodile suit on stage during a U.S. gig for "Crocodile Rock". But once the track starts playing, I think more the 1960s hit (not from Elton) of The Monster Mash. This a nice rocker, and I think it could work on radio nicely even if the title of the fun song is a bit absurd. Well, it's more Strongest Suit for me than Big Man in a Small Suit. Well done Elton and Leon!

The Best Part of the Day is best part of the album. A superb ballad that gives both singers equal footing and brings the best out of their vocals. I would definitely place this on our playlist if it is released as a single, or even if it is not. There is a touch of “This Train Don't Stop There Anymore” so I am easily won over to this bluesy track. Contains a nice piano bridge which has Elton written all over it.

A Dream Come True. Does anyone else sense a touch of ELO's “Don't Being Me Down” in this track? It is a tub-thumping recital which we can dance to. But like many dance tunes unmemorable – if you excuse the ubiquitous “Lambada” from 1989!

When Love Is Dying. It's always a bit dangerous to compare a new song to someting you have heard, although every fan does it. This particular song is reminiscent of “We All Fall In Love Sometimes” and the latest recording seems, from the title, like the sequel. It's a fabulous broad ballad. We would have a song like that on late night airtime. Very satisfying track. It may not make a single, but fans should thank the boys for bringing this one to our ears. I can seriously see Elton doing this song as a solo in concert. Perfect.

I Should Have Sent Roses. We have all been there, when we regret we didn't handle a situation or a gesture better. But the song is flat. It does nothing for me, like a wilted Rose.

Hearts Have Turned To Stone. It is like I Should Have Sent Roses. It does nothing for me, alas.

Oh yes, Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody)

The final track is The Hands of Angels. Rightly Leon is given the stage for this track and he appears to be enjoying this as Elton accompanies him on piano. But it is a filler song, something to close the album. Maybe with time it will grow

Elton is singing this album taking account of his years. He might enjoy producing Scissor Sisters but Elton is more at home now with this genre of music. In terms of album theme, the songs are cultivated from the same style. I would say that is perhaps the album's main drawback – nothing on the album is experimental. Nothing stands out as different. Even if some of the songs are indeed better than others and a few are already on my favourites list.

In terms of the production, it is difficult to tell because the sound was from a legal online vendor. I would rather reserve judgement on the sound of the album until I hear it on CD.

Favourite songs:

If It Wasn't for Bad
Gone to Shiloh
The Best Part of the Day
When Love Is Dying
Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody)

George Matlock

George Matlock is the news editor of ejw.com and he was Hercules UK manager and commercial affairs manager between 1993 and 2001. He mastermind many of the products which made Hercules a brand name, and which helped to accelerate the introduction of eltonjohn.com official website. He has been a professional journalist since 1990, and worked in public relations. In 2006 George launched his own anglo-polish radio station, Radio ORLA for the UK, Ireland and Poland (www.radio-orla.com/en)

The Master Expertises (III): Liz Rosenthal

Let’s get one thing straight. The Union is not a “comeback” album, a “swan song,” a last gasp, or a crass commercial exercise. It’s not a misguided effort at authenticity, or only 50% good (based on who you’re a fan of), or too ballad-heavy, or not piano-driven enough. It is what it is, and what it is, is a joyous collaboration between two giants of popular music, one who faded from the limelight but never lost his inspiration, and one who’s been in the limelight almost continuously for 40 years and, likewise, has not lost his inspiration.

How can you not love the premise behind The Union? What a great reason to make an album – to return a musical idol to public attention and appreciation, as well as solvency. And true to form, Elton didn’t try to dictate how the songwriting or the recording should turn out. He didn’t try to make Leon into something he isn’t. But dictating a creative outcome also would have been against Elton’s natural inclination to defer to the talent of others, to afford colleagues free rein to do what they do best. Were Elton so inclined to be a meddler, though, it would have been a curious exercise given the influence Leon has had on Elton’s melodic and pianistic styles. (Reflecting on the halcyon days of 1970-72, one realizes how much of Leon’s down-home, funky vocal phrasings Elton adapted to his own creative sensibilities. Elton’s singing on “Can I Put You On?,” “The Cage,” and even “Honky Cat” are tips of the hat to Leon’s inspiration.)

This project, then, works so well one is tempted to think that Leon might have written Elton’s songs and Elton Leon’s songs, although the first track, “If it wasn’t for Bad,” would have been one of the quirkier efforts Elton has ever pulled off. (Though he’s been known to be quirky. Think “Madman” or “Better Off Dead” or, yes, “Bennie and the Jets.”) The point is that our two heroes, who have been dubbed the “Master and the Rocket Man,” are among the most obvious of duos that have never happened until now. Looking back on some of Elton’s other collaborators, one is almost painfully reminded of what could have been, and been a lot sooner, if Elton hadn’t gotten sidetracked by certain other people. Eric Clapton? Too much wailing guitar. Billy Joel? Too New York schtick. George Michael? Too stuck on marijuana.

The thing is, even if Leon is known for southern rock, only the uninitiated (or perhaps willfully ignorant) assume that this sort of music is alien to Elton. Even if Leon leans toward country, we know that Elton has featured, more often than not, at least one country track on every album he’s released since the beginning. Even if Leon incorporates jazz riffs in his playing, anyone with at least one working ear drum knows that jazz forms are second nature to Elton. Even if Leon shows an affinity for secular gospel, Elton does, too, from “Border Song” to “Where’s the Shoorah?” to the latest live piano intro to “Take Me to the Pilot,” and beyond. Soul? Sure. Sad balladry? Certainly. Love songs? Ditto.

Today, in The Union, when Elton and Leon sing on each other’s songs (or just supply backing vocals on the other’s tunes), their voices complement each other. Leon sounds like a rough-edged, down-on-his-luck Willie Nelson. He can express the essence of a melody convincingly despite his lack of a conventional singing voice. Conversely, the power, richness, and tonal flexibility of Elton’s vocals have progressed so dramatically since Reg rendered a boyish, tinny sound to “Come Back Baby” that it’s hard to see how he can ever interpret a rocker or a ballad any better than he does now. Thus, Leon takes the vulnerable, weathered, uncertain side of a song, while Elton comforts or provides backbone, as the case may be.

The different voices of the Master and the Rocket Man blend to afford any given song an alternate perspective. But these two must have their significant differences, mustn’t they? Well, yes. Elton almost never writes his own words. Leon does. And Leon’s thick, lustrous, flowing hair demonstrates more follicular fortune than Elton has ever enjoyed. In fact, each musician’s dramatically different capacity for hair production could be said to symbolically illustrate the difference in their personas. Leon, generally media shy, seems hidden behind a mask; Elton is out there for everybody to see, all the time, bright as the noontime sun.

So what about those fabulous new songs? Here we go:

If It Wasn’t for Bad: Leon’s witty, weird, magnetic draw to the adventure that The Union is. Quizzical piano chords splash their way through the song. Simple yet clever, Leon’s lines are an entertaining collection of opposites, as he bitingly reflects on how he’s been snookered into entering into what he thought would be a promising relationship: “If it wasn’t for you I’d be happy/If it wasn’t for lies you’d be true/I know that you could be just like you should/If it wasn’t for bad you’d be good.”

Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes: One of Elton’s typically melodic country waltzes featuring cinematic lyrics from Bernie: “You came like an invasion, all bells and whistles blowin’/Reaping the rewards of the fable you’d been sowing/…Oh you came to town in headlines/And eight hundred dollar shoes.”

Hey Ahab: Among the most addictive, visceral, in-your-face rockers of Elton’s career, with its basis in explosive boogie-woogie. Leon provides a sort of buzzy vocal undercurrent that gives the song an almost sinister edge. Elton is at his most vocally funky here, strategically inserting grunt-hums wherever the lyric’s syllables cut short.

Gone to Shiloh: A U.S. Civil War tale which, through its military march tempo, gentle percussion evoking distant cannon fire, foreboding melody, and perfect use of Neil Young’s eerie, high-pitched voice to share in the verses, is one of the most haunting of recordings ever found on an Elton John album.

Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream: Breezy homage to the Father of Country Music, a native of Meridian, Mississippi, who alternated between showbiz and railroad work (sometimes as a brakeman) before his untimely, Depression-era death. One may hear hints of “The Trail We Blaze” and “Wicked Dreams,” but also “Country Comfort,” “Look Ma No Hands,” and “Postcards from Richard Nixon.”

There’s No Tomorrow: This funeral dirge may be only a semi-original effort, given that it’s built around The Mighty Hannibal’s “Hymn No. 5,” but it offers the most dramatic combination on the album of all available studio voices. Elton, Leon, and a backing, gospel-style chorus belt out grim lines with such force that you might have hope for the future after a couple of listens, despite what the singers contend.

Monkey Suit: Another boogie woogie-based rocker with a dash of Chuck Berry thrown in, it’s a notch less gripping than “Hey Ahab” - but it would be hard to match “Ahab”’s vein-popping aggressiveness. Watch out, though, as this track may cause you to bellow “monkey suit!” incessantly, while driving in traffic, even if people are looking your way.

The Best Part of the Day: Is this really a reflection about best friends, or about lovers who fit each other like a pair of old gloves? I vote for the latter. “Grab the bottle and slide my way,” Bernie writes. “Roll back the covers and raise the shades.” Elton and Leon’s performance captures the dreamy, relaxed satisfaction of the song’s two soul mates who watch the morning unfold as they marvel at their blissful circumstances. An ideal sing-along song, it’s the most folksy of the album’s tracks.

A Dream Come True: The tune that grew out of a jam between Elton and Leon at the start of recording; perhaps the song presenting the greatest “toe-tapping” potential. This fast-paced Fats Domino-inspired string of staccato piano phrases makes you hope the track will go on for a while, and it does, until there’s nothing left but a couple of rolled piano chords and a stray tuba breath.

When Love is Dying: Some might accuse Elton here of re-working “The One,” which has been unfairly denigrated as an exercise in overblown pop balladry, but one need not insult “The One” nor “When Love is Dying” to praise one or the other. Instead, their significance can be recognized with an open mind and welcoming heart. “The One” is a celebration of new love – so why shouldn’t it sound like a celebration? – with a soaring melody harkening back to “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” which Elton has said was influenced by The Beach Boys. Coincidentally or not, Brian Wilson guests on “When Love is Dying,” providing back-up singing and vocal arrangements. By his very involvement, he anoints the track with his approbation, as well he should. Thematically, it’s the flip side of “The One,” once the new lovers have spent their passion and, before they know it, can’t get it back. What is more, Elton’s soaring melody oozes a desperation that makes the song an heir to some of the love laments of late 50s, early 60s doo-wop ensembles. Wow.

I Should Have Sent Roses: Speaking of dying love, here is Leon’s take on the phenomenon, as he assigns a moody, almost gut-wrenching, jazz-inflected melody to some of Taupin’s saddest lyrics. As with “When Love is Dying,” Elton and Leon trade tragic reflections, and their harmonizing on the chorus (“I never sent roses/I never did enough/I didn’t know how to love you/Though I loved you so much”) is spine-tingling. You feel rotten after listening, but in a good way.

Hearts Have Turned to Stone: Written and sung by Leon with Elton only providing a few choice backing vocal phrases, this is an infectious, snappy, blues number that is made more so by Leon’s arrangement for the back-up singers, who echo or punctuate bits of the lyric lines as he sings: “I’m out here in the darkness (yes!)/I hear the howling wind (wind!)/Sometimes I sit and wonder (yes!)/Will I ever see love again (‘gain!).”

Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody): Though written by John and Taupin, the sentiments apply equally to not only the songwriting pair of 43 years, but Leon, too. All have “been there and done that” and seen things they wish they hadn’t, bearing scars to show for all of it. Yet they are still entitled to pursue new goals and enjoy happy companionship in their later years. It is not just a young person’s world anymore. The Master and the Rocket Man sound at their most intimate here, Leon’s singing sounding appropriately weary, Elton’s reaching a new level of loveliness, as the backing chorus eventually chimes in for an anthemic build-up.

In the Hands of Angels: Just knowing the reason for Leon composing this song (music and lyrics) is enough to coax tears from the eyes. “Angels” tells the story of Leon’s resignation to Twilight Years of obscurity and ill fortune when, lo and behold, Elton reenters his life, and proposes getting together for an album. Referring to Elton’s U.S. manager, Johnny Barbis, and the Rocket Man himself, Leon sings: “Johnny and the Governor/Came and brought me to my senses/They made me feel just like a king/Made me lose all my bad defenses/And they knew all the places I needed to go/All of the people I needed to know/ They knew who I needed/And who needed me.” It’s a secular gospel number, despite the reference to “angels,” and is the only track on the album on which Elton neither sings nor plays. But his absence is only fitting, as “Angels” is Leon’s gift to him. What a way to close the album.

Fans of Elton and Leon can thank T-Bone Burnett for bringing out the best in both men and surrounding them with such capable, spirited musicians and singers.

Liz Rosenthal

Elizabeth J. Rosenthal's first book, His Song: the Musical Journey of Elton John, was published in fall 2001 by Billboard Books. It's the first Elton John biography to be sold in Russia. After graduating magna cum laude with a journalism degree in 1982, Liz attended Rutgers-Camden School of Law, from which she graduated With Honors in 1985. She has been a civil servant, writing regulations for New Jersey state government. In 2002, she became bewitched by birds, since then reading everything about them that she could get her hands on and going on field trips whenever possible. Her current book, Birdwatcher: the Life of Roger Tory Peterson, is publicized on her web site: http://www.petersonbird.com.