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Pop - Released January 24, 2020 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Pop music rarely mixes with politics, but in the middle of the Cold War, a Western star such as Elton John performing a rousing show in a Moscow concert hall is a joy to behold, a symbol of attempted appeasement between East and West. Elton John’s tour of the Soviet Union took place not long after he had announced a withdrawal from music, citing professional and moral exhaustion. Despite this, and although the production was rather understated (Elton John, his Steinway, his Yamaha CP80 and his percussionist Ray Cooper), the British singer genuinely electrified the Russian public with this performance in May 1979. Propelled by the fact that his album A Single Man (released one year beforehand) was the first official release of a Western pop album in the Soviet Union, the Rocket Man singer seemed to tap into the energy that he had been struggling to keep hold of. At the time, the Soviet government was reluctantly lifting cultural restrictions. This concert was broadcast by the BBC, and it is from original analog tapes recovered from the archives of the British radio that this disc was completely remastered by Elton John and Bob Ludwig. The delectable programme of the concert contains epic versions (12 minutes each) of I Heard It Through the Grapevine and Bennie and the Jets, a moving rendition of Tonight as well as a devilishly enjoyable mash-up of Crocodile Rock, Get Back and Back in the USSR. In fact, the Russian authorities had asked Elton John not to sing that last one. But that would be to underestimate the singer’s free spirit. Finally, this live album teaches us that music only temporarily cools tension as a few months later, tensions between the two blocs picked up again with the invasion of Afghanistan and the election of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States. © Nicolas Magenham/Qobuz


Elton John in the magazine