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23 Jan 2010

Question 4 To The Experts Committee: Elton & Bernie's new project

Bernie announced months before the intention to record with Elton an album, as a "collaboration of old and new friends promises to represent a direction that has been fermenting for years in the heads of its perpetrators". This time, overseen and produced by Henry (T-Bone) Burnett, Elton will collaborate with one long time musical heroe: Leon Russell. It seems they will feature on a 50/50 basis writing and performing his own material for the project as well as Leon writing with both Bernie and Elton and performing and singing on the pairs own songs.

A marathon writing session in Los Angeles last November saw the trio pen a vast wealth of material that ranges far and wide and covers many musical genres. “Elton has written a bunch of songs then he’s going back in the studio in January and February, so I expect the album will probably come out at the back end of next year,” revealed David Furnish. What do our experts think about this project? What could we expect about this album? And about T-Bone Burnett as the producer? What did Bernie meant with the phrase “represent a direction that has been fermenting for years in the heads of its perpetrators”?

Hello experts, thanks for being here. Hallo, Ciao, Hola, to everybody. Please, silence. Let's we argument about this new project. Who's gonna start?

"Elton always said that Leon Russell was a hero and a huge influence to him. He explained how intimidating it was to play in front of him at the Troubadour Club (LA), in his US debuts. He even sang Leon's "Song For You" sometimes in concert" started the new welcomer Patrick Andrey, from Switzerland, thank you. It's true. Wim from Holland added: "Leon Russell composed some of my favourite songs including: Song for You, Superstar, Delta Lady, This Masquerade. Super songs. But…… unfortunately I think he is not a great singer. All the above mentioned songs are best known by other great artists, like Ray Charles, The Carpenters, George Benson and Joe Cocker". Anna from Spain, recognized: "Although I’m not really familiar with Leon Russell’s work, I’m quite excited about this new project". As Wim says: "The idea to combine two great composers together in a new project is very good".

But Ian, from UK, had it clear: "I am not a fan of Leon Russell and don't like his vocals very much. I would much rather hear that Elton and Bernie were working on a new Elton John album without Leon Russell". It seems he's not the only one to think this, eltonites: "Also, if I have to tell the truth, Leon is undoubtely a great composer and piano player, but I don't like his voice" explained Andrea Grasso from Italy. "Nowadays, Leon Russell is not a mainstream artist. I had to do my homework to have an idea of his music and I can now clearly understand why he was so influential on Elton. His piano playing is really close to Elton's and I think that the chemical reaction between the two artists would be interesting" continued Patrick Andrey with security. Ana, from Brazil, takes the new turn: "I still don't know exactly what to expect from this project, but I'm all for Elton to explore his creativity, new sounds and new challenges. I do not know Leon's work, apart from watching some videos on youtube. I find his vocals annoying, to be honest. It remembers me of Bob Dylan. On the musical side, the album can be an exciting project. Leon is a recognized composer, musician and it certainly one of the reasons Elton wants to collaborate with him. When two great composers/musicians get together, great things may come out".

And would be that a duet album, maybe, people? "On the vocal side, listening to Leon, it's hard to picture Elton making a duets album with him. Leon's voice is screeching, so performing with Elton, in my opinion it's like trying to mix water and oil. They will never blend. I may be wrong and be surprised in the end, though". Wow! I am with Ana. "Usually I don't like when Elton duets with someone else (unless the other is one of my favourite artists too! But this is not the case), so when I knew that his new album would have been composed entirely with duets with Leon I was disappointed" Andrea continued with resignation while saying: "But I have faith in what Elton do so I still think it might be a good album, hoping that the singing part will be 90% Elton and 10% Leon...". "So I hope when the idea is composing together some songs and let Elton sing, than it’s a good idea. If it turns out to be a duet album of Elton and Leon than I say definitively NO" agreed Wim. I didn't see so much enthusiasm on this project, really. "A new album is always a pleasure, but with Leon Russell perhaps we can expect for country music influences; I don't appreciate this sort of music so much. But with Elton John it will probably be different". Hope so Laurent, from France.

"Elton is often criticised for always staying in the safe side and never taking risks: he doesn’t change his set lists often, he locks himself in a recording studio every 2 or 3 years but most people never get to know about his new album, it's just another elton john album... so I’m thinking this might be a good thing for him to do, just do something completely different and have some impact on everyone. I don’t think this will be a huge commercial success, but it may help Elton get some credit and respect for his quality as a musician, which he really deserves!" Ah!! Good point of view, Anna. While Andrey added: "What could we expect with this album? It's a collaboration between three gifted musicians. It may result a lot of great songs. I don't expect something very "commercial". I think it's a dream project for Elton, let's hope it will become a dream album for us". "One of my mottoes is to not raise expectations too high – for anything – and that includes expectations regarding the next Elton John studio album" introduced our big boss Stephan, from Germany: "Frankly speaking, it is exciting to know that Elton and Bernie are working together on a new project, and throwing Leon Russell and T-Bone Burnett in the mix might give it an interesting flavor. But wether the end result will suit my musical taste or not I just don’t know. What’s important to me, however, is that Elton is writing and recording what he feels like writing and recording without any commercial pressure. In that regard the statement of Bernie is promising".

"But this can be a classical new album. Also with the producer T-Bone Burnett. But there are more rumours Elton would make a dance album? Elton always surprises me, every new album is a surprise, and that’s also what I like about Elton". Yes, Wim, thanks for introduce T-Burnett here as the producer. Do you experts like him as the producer? "T-Burnet is a recognized producer, so we should expect a great album, musically speaking. What I got disappointed is that Elton's band may not be involved in this project. All of the musicians in the Elton's band are extremely competent, but as a back up band there's only so much they can do. They do not have opportunity to explore their creativity. Guy Babylon for example was a huge talent, a so gifted musican that many fans are not even aware of his talent, but as an EJ keyboard player he couldn't show how much he was capable of in terms of musicianship and the other guys experiment the same situation. It's just a matter of Elton saying let's do something different and I'm sure he wouldn't be disappointed. The boys certainly would wecome new challenges with Elton and Leon and give their best to this new project", thanks Ana, muito grato. "T-Bone Bunett produced Elvis Costello's latest album, "Secret, Profane and Sugarcane". As you all know it, Costello in one of EJ's best friends and is co-responsible for the reunion between Elton John and Leon Russell. Elton explained: "That was a complete result of … ‘Spectacle’ (Elvis Costello's TV-Show) - by me talking about Leon, playing Leon, seeing him (on video) and then phoning him up, saying, ‘Listen, I haven’t seen you for so long, I just want to tell you how much I loved you,’. And he loved the show, and then I said ‘Let’s do something together.’ … I’m so excited about that" continued Patrick, introducing a new element. "I am not really a fan of country music, but T-Bone Burnett is a good producer, and his style is more blues based country and blue grass. When I heard that Robert Plant was recording an album with country artist Alison Krauss and produced by T-Bone, I wasn't too keen, but when the album came out I liked it" agreed Ian. "I've heard people saying that T-Bone is one of the best producer in the world; I know him very little but from what I read he has an integrity and way of working that doesn't allow synths and just select the best songs to be included, so I trust in him and I am keen to hear the results of his production" concluded Andrea.

So I could say that maybe this is not the album we could expected, we like that Elton and Bernie would be in the studio again, we don't like Leon's vocals and T-Burnett is a well-received producer. Ok, I see. Maybe this won't be a duet album, imagine that Elton and Bernie would write and compose only for Leon? Just for him? Without Elton doing nothing more than composing. That should be disastrous, really. Ok! Ok! Just an idea, please, silence!!! Well, what did Bernie meant about these criptic phrase of "years of fermenting the idea and so on?

Andrea started:
"Still that phrase is a bit of mystery to me: probably the "old friend" is Leon Russell (but as Elton confirmed in a recent interview, the idea to work with him came suddenly last year, it was not "fermenting for years"), but also Jim Keltner, and maybe there will be other musicians with whom Elton worked with (probably the classic EJ band won't play in this album). The "new friend" might be T-Bone Burnett, I don't think Elton has ever worked with him. The "direction that has been fermenting for years" might just be to do an album country/blues (at least it seems that this will be the genre), even without Leon... but maybe we will understand Bernie's line when we hear the album or maybe we won't never understand what he meant to say!". Great. Yes, Anna: "This is a project that seems to have been completely Elton’s idea. I have no clue what Bernie meant when he talked about “a change in direction that has been fermenting for year’s in the minds of its perpetrators”, but my guess is that they have probably realized that they will never have a hit album again, and they probably have bowed to concentrate on doing great music and enjoying themselves with whatever they decide to do...just my guess. As Elton said in a recent interview with Danny Baker in BBC radio 5, he came up with the idea of recording with Leon Russell while he was listening to some old records of Leon Russell when on holiday in South Africa. This is something spontaneous, and we all know Leon has always been one of Elton’s heroes". True again. "I imagine he meant to say that Elton and Leon have in mind an album different from everything else they have done so far in their career; a work they had in mind for a long while, but didn't have the opportunity of making it". Completely agree, Ana. "And with Bernie we always had good surprises, so it will be a new direction..." added Laurent.

"But let's wait and see, it may turn out to be a good album, let's not write it off until we have heard it" concluded Ian. "Just being there in the studio with one of his biggest influences is probably the spark to get the best out of him. Kind of like the recent live shows with Ray Cooper...he was like the spark that started the fire... I hadn’t heard such inspired versions of some of his songs for a long time. So, I think 2010 is going to be a great year…we have a lot to look forward to!"

Ahhhh!!! Anna that's a great close to our comitee of today. Thanks people for everything. We will reunite again next time with other discussion. I am really glad to having you all, so many thanks.

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