ARTIST OF THE MONTH: ELTON JOHN
We run down the colossal and breathtaking works by the genuinely excellent artist Elton John as he is our Artist Of The Month. Collaborating with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967, John is one of the most successful artists of all time, having sold over 300 million records in a six-decade career in music. We will run down four albums every post and go through his incredible catalogue. Enjoy!
Reg Strikes Back (1988)
After Elton John released his contract-fulfilling album "Leather Jackets" in 1986, his first album not to have any top 40 singles since the 1970s. Elton struck back, if you will, with his first album for MCA Records and a nostalgic trip back to the glory years with 1988's "Reg Strikes Back." Although the album received considerable hype upon its release, with the usual world tour planned, it simply did not live up to the 80s albums that he had done with Geffen Records. The singles are entertaining at best; "I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That" and "A Word in Spanish," but the sound of the tracks here seems a little forced, as if Elton was determined to go for a classic sound without effectively pulling it off. Reg Strikes Back is sadly one of the Elton albums taken up by filler, without any tracks to make for a memorable listen. "Mona Lisa's and Mad Hatters Pt. 2" emphasize the unnecessary image this record has. I actually forget this one exists between "Leather Jackets" and "Sleeping with the Past."
Sleeping With The Past (1989)
Many fans and critics would call 1983's "Too Low For Zero" Elton's best and most beloved album of the 80s; however, it can be argued that 1989's "Sleeping with the Past" is a close second to that title. In "Sleeping with the Past," Elton finally appears confident and mature enough to have a mind that nods to the soulful rock of his golden era while firmly grasping the new wave sounds that still made him a modern pop icon. "Sleeping with the Past" is full of the sentimental, dynamic songs that we all cherish Elton for, and here they teem with honesty and existential significance and relevance that we have not heard since 1976's "Blue Moves" album. This is evident in songs such as "Durban Deep," "Healing Hands," "Whispers," and "Club at the End of the Street," as well as the classic title track birthing one of his most compelling songs. The hit single "Sacrifice" amazingly became his first-ever number one hit in the UK and foreshadowed the maturer sound Elton would explore throughout the coming decade.
The One (1992)
Elton had emerged out of the new wave, a synth-drenched blitz of his 80's era, with his first album of the new decade, 1992's "The One." Elton claimed that he finally had perfect recollection of making an album because his mind was not clouded by drugs or alcohol. There is no reason to doubt this claim, as there is an immediate sound of renewed focus and energy on "The One." The album shines with a large scale of instrumental and synth overdubs, which all tastefully contribute to the atmosphere of what can be hailed as some of his best studio performances, simply put, Elton radiates more of his bombastic character than he had done on his 80's albums, which is deliberately measured by the mature songcraft of Elton and Bernie. Beautiful tracks like "Simple Life," "The One," and "Whitewash County" easily rank among some of Elton's most powerful latter-day work, and his bluesy duet with Eric Clapton on "Runaway Train" works perfectly. The album only falls short with filler tracks like "Suit of Wolves," "Last Day," and "Fat Girls and Ugly Boys." Elton and Bernie's songwriting would only improve during the 90s, demonstrated by the follow-up work of the Lion King soundtrack, and the tribute to Princess Diana.
Made In England (1995)
Many critics and fans consider Elton's 1995 effort "Made in England" to rank among some of his best albums. No one can deny Elton's stellar performance, nor the fantastic production of the whole album, turning it into more of a theatrical stage piece than a pop record. However, I feel that the work is weighed down by the very thing it was praised for; its overblown instrumental arrangements, the mix of musical styles, and the large-scale production. Not just that, but Elton seems to be more conscious of making songs that hold some social or cultural meaning instead of art for art's sake, which undermines the singer's approach to songcraft for the previous twenty-five years. That being said, there is still much to enjoy once in a while on Made in England; his worldwide success with his contribution to Disney's The Lion King; "Can You Feel The Love Tonight," "Circle of Life" influenced him to carry on these soulful, gospel-tinged sparks on such lovely songs as "House," "Cold," "Man," "Please,"