Music Reviews

Elton John

Reg Strikes Back

Sleeping With the Past

The One

Island

Elton John is re-releasing his library of music as a remastered collection. I have the pleasure of reviewing the last three in the series: Reg Strikes Back, Sleeping With the Past, and The One. These albums span the years of 1988 through 1992. Going into these albums as a fan of Elton John, I was not sure of what to expect (I do not own any of his albums except his first Greatest Hits album), but I know that I expect to bop.

My first observation is that if you are expecting the flamboyant Elton John that kicked out “Crocodile Rock,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Honky Cat,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” and “Philadelphia Freedom,” you may be disappointed. On the other hand, if you are looking for the Elton John that did the soundtrack to Disney’s The Lion King and DreamWorks’ Road to El Dorado, you will be very happy.

I am not sure of the entire series, but these three CDs I received are printed to look like LPs, and have a retrospective of the time period around when the album was created and what was going on it the artist’s life as his inspiration. I enjoy this inclusion, because it provides a small window into the life of the musician and allows you to appreciate the work just a little bit more. These CDs also continue the musical relationship of Bernie Taupin and Elton John.

Of the three, I pick his 26th album, Sleeping With the Past, as my album of choice. I found myself throwing this one back into the CD player as driving music as well as work music. Highlights on this CD include the hits “Club at the End of the Street,” “Healing Hands,” and “Sacrifice.” I truly enjoyed “Durban Deep” (even though I have no idea what that means), the title track, and “I Never Knew Her Name.” The reason I enjoyed so many of the songs on this CD is because they are tributes to the black musicians of the sixties and seventies (such as The Drifters and The Miracles). I found myself continuously “forwarding” through “Whispers” and “Stone’s Throw From Hurtin’.”

The earliest of the three, Reg Strikes Back, was also quite enjoyable. This album marks a pivotal point in Reggie Dwight’s career. This album came after he had throat surgery that may have ended his singing career. Luckily, it did not, and he came back as strong as ever. The other important fact about this album is that he discarded the flamboyant outfits, wigs, and glasses he is famous for and traded them for a more distinguished look. This old wardrobe decorates the front and back cover of the CD. The high points on this album are “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That,” “Heavy Traffic,” “Poor Cow,” and “A Word in Spanish.” The hit “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” is on this album in three different versions: the one we all heard on the radio in 1988, him and the piano, and a dance version. I happen to like the song, so it was not that bad, but I can understand the frustration of people who do not like remixes.

The newest album, The One, was a not as good as expected. It is from 1992, and I can tell you that I did not even listen to the entire album. It is a little more “artsy” than I like. The Elton John that wrote this album was trying to make a statement of “I’m still here and I am not going away.” Before making this album, he kicked his drug addiction and was taking the opportunity to display his emotions about AIDS in the song about a father and his dying son called “The Last Song.” I am not a real fan of the title track, either. I did enjoy the hit songs “Simple Life,” “Whitewash County” (very reminiscent of Jimmy Buffet), and “Runaway Train” (a duet with Eric Clapton). Also, it may be of interest that Elton’s close friend, the late designer Gianni Versace, created the elegant artwork that adorns the album.

One thing about Elton John, he always delivers an entire album of solid material. He does not normally put out an album with one or two hits and a bunch of crap. To quote “The Club at the End of the Street,” “Lord have mercy, You can’t sit still!” If you are a fan of his work, these are acceptable additions to your collection.

Island Def Jam Music Group, Worldwide Plaza, 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019


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