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Pop - Released May 2, 2019 | Black Barn Music

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Pop - Released February 14, 2019 | All Evergreen Records

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Pop - Released October 5, 2018 | All Evergreen Records

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Pop - Released October 5, 2018 | All Evergreen Records

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Pop - Released October 5, 2018 | All Evergreen Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Virgin EMI

Distinctions 3F de Télérama
On the inaugural episode of Elvis Costello’s talk show Spectacle in 2008, Elton John -- who just happened to be a producer on the show -- rhapsodized at length about Leon Russell, hauling out a note-perfect impression of Russell’s piano style and Oklahoma drawl. It was enough of a tease to whet the appetite for more but nothing suggested something like The Union, a full-fledged duet album with Russell designed to raise the profile of the rock & roll maverick. Like all lifers, Russell never disappeared -- he just faded, playing small clubs throughout the U.S., spitting out bewildering self-released albums of MIDI-synth boogie, never quite connecting with the spirit of his wonderful early-‘70s albums for his Shelter label. The Union quite deliberately evokes the spirit of 1970, splicing Russell’s terrific eponymous LP with Elton’s own self-titled record and Tumbleweed Connection. In that sense, it’s a kissing cousin to John’s last album, 2006’s The Captain and the Kid, which was designed as an explicit sequel to 1975’s golden era-capping Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, but thanks to producer T-Bone Burnett, The Union dials down Bernie Taupin’s inherent pomp and ratchets up the roots. Burnett had John and Russell record live in the studio, trading verses and solos, letting the supporting band breathe and follow their loping lead. This relaxed, natural interplay cuts through the soft haze of Burnett’s analog impressionism, giving the record a foundation of true grit. If there are no immediate knockouts among this collection of 14 original songs, the tunes are slow, steady growers, taking root with repeated spins, with the sound of John and Russell’s piano-and-voice duets providing ample reason to return to The Union after its first play. And even once the songs take hold, what lingers with The Union is that natural interplay, how John and Russell easily connect with their past without painstakingly re-creating it. Surely, it’s a revival for Leon Russell, who has spent decades in the wilderness, but it’s not a stretch to say The Union revitalizes Elton John just as much as it does his idol: he hasn’t sounded this soulful in years. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released January 1, 2006 | Virgin EMI

Ever since 2001's Songs from the West Coast, Elton John and his longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin, have been deliberately and unapologetically chasing their glory days of the early '70s, but nowhere have they been as candid in evoking those memories as they are on 2006's The Captain & the Kid, the explicitly stated sequel to 1975's masterpiece Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. That record was an autobiographical fantasia of John and Taupin's early years -- the days when they were struggling to make their mark, right up till their glorious success -- and the idea behind this album is to tell the story of those salad days, which not only isn't a bad idea at all -- it's clever and well-suited for John, the most self-consciously unautobiographical of all major rock artists -- but fits right into Elton's desire to make records like he used to; after all, if he's trying to sound like the way things used to be, he might as well sing about the way they used to be, too. And The Captain & the Kid is nothing if not a proudly nostalgic piece of work bearing no modern touches; even the synths that occasionally color this country-ish rock are old fashioned analog synths. It sounds like an dream project on paper, but like a lot of dream projects, The Captain & the Kid doesn't quite live up to its lofty ideals. Part of the problem is that John has patterned the music not after Captain Fantastic -- which lived up to its glamorama title through intense flights of camp and glitz that helped give its narrative a theatrical flair, not to mention a hell of a lot of color -- but after the stripped-down, country-tinged pop and rock of Tumbleweed Connection and Honky Chateau. That is the sound at the core of most of his best music of the early '70s, but it's not necessarily the best choice for this album, since it doesn't quite fit with the original Captain Fantastic or the gaudy story of their success; it's a tale that calls for bright neon colors, and everything about this album is muted and tasteful. It might not quite seem like what a Fantastic sequel should be -- in fact, it seems more like a sequel to its direct predecessor, 2004's Peachtree Road -- but that's hardly a bad thing. Like that album and Songs from the West Coast before it, The Captain & the Kid is a sharp, professional piece of work by sharp professionals conscious of their past and no longer wishing to rest on their laurels, so they're consciously evoking their best work without quite recycling it. They might not hit their mark directly, but they get close enough -- it may be a little self-conscious and the production is a shade too clean, but the performances are warm and intimate, so this music feels right even if it doesn't necessarily feel exactly like Elton's '70s heyday. And the more familiar this song cycle becomes, the easier it is to admire the craft behind it, particularly in individual moments like the slow build on "Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way (NYC)," or how "Tinderbox" hearkens back to "Somebody Saved My Life Tonight," or the lightness of "I Must Have Lost It on the Wind," or the lazy blues of "Old 67," or how "The Captain and the Kid" brings to mind not Tumbleweed Connection but Billy Joel's approximation of that album on Piano Man. So, no, The Captain & the Kid isn't quite the second coming of Captain Fantastic, but it's hardly a cash grab by an aging diva -- in other words, it's no Basic Instinct 2. John's intentions are pure and even if he doesn't quite make an album as good as his '70s work, it does stand alongside that work nicely -- it's clear that he and Taupin are really trying, and it's far better to have albums like this and Peachtree Road that fall short of the mark but nevertheless get close than to have an endless series of well-produced but empty records like The One and Made in England. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Virgin EMI

Elton John returned to the sound and aesthetic of his classic early-'70s work with 2001's Songs From the West Coast, finding critical acclaim, if not much commercial success. Not that the lack of sales greatly bothered Elton -- in many interviews, including one with Entertainment Weekly the week before Peachtree Road was released in November 2004, he claimed he was "disappointed" that it just barely went gold, but he was tired of making "uneven" records. John wasn't merely doing publicity: Peachtree Road proves that he's back to making good, solid records focused on songs, not hits, the way he did at the outset of his career. Since this is an album by a veteran, not an artist on the rise, it doesn't have the sense of discovery, or the hunger, that the early records still retain, and the production -- the first self-production by John with no collaborators -- is a little cleaner and crisper than the rich, warm sound of the late Gus Dudgeon (to whom this record is dedicated), who helmed such masterworks as Tumbleweed Connection. This means Peachtree Road is about craft, both in the writing and recording, which also means that it's a grower, with each song sounding stronger, better with each spin. While the sound of the record is bright and polished, this album makes few concessions to radio: this is certainly adult pop, but it never panders to adult contemporary radio, and the music is a little too rugged and sturdy to fit alongside the stubbornly sweet sounds of 21st century MOR. Which is precisely the point, of course: Elton has consciously returned to the reflective singer/songwriter template of the early '70s, both in his writing and production. Not that this is as lush as Elton John or country-tinged as Tumbleweed Connection -- "Answer in the Sky" recalls the high-flying disco of "Philadelphia Freedom" quite deliberately, and "They Call Her the Cat" finds a halfway point between "Honkey Cat" and "The Bitch Is Back" -- but it fits alongside those albums quite nicely because the focus is on songs, not trying to have hits. These songs may not rival his standards, but they're in the same tradition, and there's not a bad song in the bunch, resulting in a sturdy, satisfying record that proves that the comeback on Songs From the West Coast was no fluke and, hopefully, this latter-day renaissance for Elton will not be short-lived either. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2004 | Virgin EMI

Elton John returned to the sound and aesthetic of his classic early-'70s work with 2001's Songs From the West Coast, finding critical acclaim, if not much commercial success. Not that the lack of sales greatly bothered Elton -- in many interviews, including one with Entertainment Weekly the week before Peachtree Road was released in November 2004, he claimed he was "disappointed" that it just barely went gold, but he was tired of making "uneven" records. John wasn't merely doing publicity: Peachtree Road proves that he's back to making good, solid records focused on songs, not hits, the way he did at the outset of his career. Since this is an album by a veteran, not an artist on the rise, it doesn't have the sense of discovery, or the hunger, that the early records still retain, and the production -- the first self-production by John with no collaborators -- is a little cleaner and crisper than the rich, warm sound of the late Gus Dudgeon (to whom this record is dedicated), who helmed such masterworks as Tumbleweed Connection. This means Peachtree Road is about craft, both in the writing and recording, which also means that it's a grower, with each song sounding stronger, better with each spin. While the sound of the record is bright and polished, this album makes few concessions to radio: this is certainly adult pop, but it never panders to adult contemporary radio, and the music is a little too rugged and sturdy to fit alongside the stubbornly sweet sounds of 21st century MOR. Which is precisely the point, of course: Elton has consciously returned to the reflective singer/songwriter template of the early '70s, both in his writing and production. Not that this is as lush as Elton John or country-tinged as Tumbleweed Connection -- "Answer in the Sky" recalls the high-flying disco of "Philadelphia Freedom" quite deliberately, and "They Call Her the Cat" finds a halfway point between "Honkey Cat" and "The Bitch Is Back" -- but it fits alongside those albums quite nicely because the focus is on songs, not trying to have hits. These songs may not rival his standards, but they're in the same tradition, and there's not a bad song in the bunch, resulting in a sturdy, satisfying record that proves that the comeback on Songs From the West Coast was no fluke and, hopefully, this latter-day renaissance for Elton will not be short-lived either. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2002 | Virgin EMI

Throughout his songs for The Road to El Dorado, Elton John hinted at his classic sound of the early '70s, but it's still a refreshing surprise to find him largely returning to that sound on his 2001 album, Songs From the West Coast. It was easy to think that John wasn't interested in writing like this anymore, given not just his continued success, but the ease with which he was crafting pleasant adult contemporary records. There are still elements of that on Songs From the West Coast -- a few of the ballads are a little too even-handed, and since this is a modern recording, it lacks the resonant warmth of such classics as Honky Chateau and Tumbleweed Connection. Still, this is the richest, best record he's released in a long time, an album where it feels like a hit single is secondary to the sheer pleasure of craft, whether it's crafting a song or an album. And this is an album that flows easily and naturally, setting the mood with the story sketch "The Emperor's New Clothes" and then heading in a number of scenic directions. Of these, "American Triangle," his elegy for Matthew Shepard, will likely receive the most attention, but the most interesting are songs like the bluesy "The Wasteland," "Ballad of the Boy in the Red Shoes," which recalls the Tumbleweed epics, the neo-Captain Fantastic tune "Dark Diamond," the soulful closer "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore," and "Birds," a terrific, spare, rolling country-rocker. His songwriting hasn't been this diverse or consistent since the early '80s, and he hasn't made a record better than this in years. No, Songs From the West Coast won't make you forget Tumbleweed Connection, but it often recalls those peaks, which, frankly, is enough. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | Virgin EMI

It's hard to imagine the wondrous spectacles that were Elton John shows in the '70s. Decked out in the kind of campy dress that would make a drag queen call the fashion police, Elton pranced and danced across the stage like he owned it -- because he did. But, alas, the '80s and a monstrous coke habit came calling, and when they left John was never the same performer or singer again. What was once fun and camp somehow became tacky and the singer seemed hopelessly out of it. This CD, taken from a sold-out weekend stand at Madison Square Garden in October 2000, is his bid to capture that old live magic for the younger types who missed it the first time around. Through the course of 17 tracks the artist huffs, puffs, wheezes, sputters, and does everything in his power to find that once unbridled energy. Does he? No, not really. But he does play nearly every major hit he's had in the process which, when you realize how many there are and how good they are, is one hell of a consolation prize. The cover, which depicts John decked in a white suit and surrounded by bananas and the like, doesn't do much to nix the tacky tag, but the music is, thankfully, better than its packaging. He also pulls several rabbits out of his hat in the form of Bryan Adams (who guests on "Sad Songs"), Mary J. Blige (who duets on "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues"), and, most amazingly, Kiki Dee, who rips into "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" in a way that Rupaul could only dream of. No, he hasn't recaptured that '70s magic, but the melodies are still great and you'll still know every word. © Steve Kurutz /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1999 | Virgin EMI

The Lion King proved to be one of Elton John's most successful projects -- which is quite an achievement for one of the most successful rockers in history. Given its level of popularity, it's only logical that John would reteam with his Lion collaborator Tim Rice. Perhaps to some it was surprising that they adapted Verdi's Aida as their next project, but it made sense -- Rice's background was in showtunes and John's songs tended to sound like showtunes. Hence, they were a perfect pair to modernize Aida for the Great White Way -- at least in theory. In practice, their collaborations sound like soft-rock and adult contemporary tunes, especially the way they're presented here. None of the songs on Aida are performed in the order they are in the show, nor are they performed in character. However, they are performed by a variety of different vocalists, including John, Sting, the Spice Girls, Lenny Kravitz, Shania Twain, LeAnn Rimes, James Taylor, Janet Jackson and Tina Turner, plus Heather Headley, the only member of the cast to be featured on this record. As such, the album doesn't feel like a show -- it feels like an afternoon of adult contemporary radio. This isn't a bad thing, since John is a virtuoso of the form, and many of his contributions here are worthy (often better than his Lion King work) and all the featured players do them justice. Still, Aida feels incomplete, quite possibly because it is structured as a various artists album, not a cast record -- which is really what you want when you want to listen to cast record. © TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

Elton John began inching back into the mainstream with Jump Up, an uneven but strong record highlighted by "Empty Garden." Its success set the stage for Too Low for Zero, a full-fledged reunion with his best collaborator, Bernie Taupin, and his classic touring band. Happily, this is a reunion that works like gangbusters, capturing everybody at a near-peak of their form. That means there aren't just hit singles, but there are album tracks, like the opener, "Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)," that strongly (and favorably) recall Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. John hadn't been this engaging in years, not since Gerald Ford was in office. Why does this work so well? Well, the question isn't just consistency, since records like A Single Man were strong, but it's because each cut here showcases John at a peak. He's rocking with a vengeance on "I'm Still Standing" and "Kiss the Bride," crafting a gorgeous romantic standard with "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" -- songs that anchor this album, giving the hits context. While this may not be as rich as his classic early period, it's a terrific record, an exemplary illustration of what a veteran artist could achieve in the early '80s. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

After a dozen albums with lyrical collaborator Bernie Taupin, A Single Man (1978) represents Elton John's first full-length release away from their decade-long partnership. John's initial intent was to complete work on a Taupin-era remnant that had been on the back burner, titled Ego. However, he found himself with some interesting melodies and eventually teamed up with former Vigrass & Osborne member Gary Osborne. Also contributing to this album's different approach is producer Gus Dudgeon -- who had worked with John as far back as his debut long-player, Empty Sky (1969). The infusion of new musical associates takes notable effect on songs such as the opener, "Shine on Through," which John had previously worked up during the Thom Bell Philly soul sessions that produced the hit "Mama Can't Buy You Love." (That version is available as one of three previously unissued sides on the Complete Thom Bell Sessions EP.) Among the other standouts are the gospel-tinged "Georgia," the lengthy blues-rocker "It Ain't Gonna Be Easy," and the ultra campy, if not lightweight, "Big Dipper." The single "Part-Time Love" only made a nominal chart impact despite its catchy and danceable melody. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

Sandwiched between 1984's Top 20 hit Breaking Hearts and 1986's commercial disaster Leather Jackets, 1985's Ice on Fire is a forgotten Elton John effort. While it is hardly a masterpiece -- it isn't even up to the standard of such '80s efforts as Too Low for Zero -- it's still an enjoyable record, living proof of the power of professionalism. John was riding high on his comeback of the early '80s and ready to turn out another record. And that's what Ice on Fire is -- another Elton John album, in the best possible sense. Sure, it does mark the reunion of John and lyricist Bernie Taupin with producer Gus Dudgeon, who helmed John's greatest recordings, but you'd never know it from the sound of the record. Ice on Fire is pure 1985, heavy on synthetic drums and keyboards -- the kind of record where Davy Johnstone is credited with guitar, but it never sounds as if there's a guitar on the record, or any other "real" instrument, for that matter. That's not really a criticism, since John always made state-of-the-art records, so it should come as little surprise that this sounds like its time; it's sort of fun, in a way, since it instantly brings back its era. The biggest complaint is that much of the record never rises to the level of memorable. The two singles, the cold-war ballad "Nikita" and the George Michael-featured "Wrap Her Up," are the strongest items here, but even those are rather disposable. The rest of the album shares the same sparkling, canned production, and a few songs could have held their own on the Top 40, but much of it is just average Elton. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

The past Elton John has in mind is the era of soul music of the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, and although all the songs are new, he recreates it well here. The album's most notable selection is the ballad "Sacrifice," which amazingly became his first-ever number one hit in the U.K. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

The late '80s were wrought with equal measures of tremendous professional popularity and personal crisis for Elton John. As he would reveal later, this inspired double-LP live collection released in 1987 captures the artist at one of the best and worst times of his life. In fact, John cites the emotionally charged "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" as triggering what would become a "severe mental breakdown," the results of nearly a decade of substance-fueled decadence. On top of it all and perhaps most tellingly is John's tattered voice. So dire was the situation that literally within weeks of the concert he would undergo a surgical procedure that could have easily ended his career had it failed. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that at this precise moment John was launching his re-association with MCA Records via this live career retrospective, which was simultaneously broadcast throughout the entire globe. Keeping all of that in mind, Elton John once again proved himself as a consummate showman, performing at the peak of his abilities. John's comparatively small combo is augmented on these tracks by the 88-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under the direction of onetime bandmate James Newton Howard. There are a few surprisingly strong readings of early sides such as "60 Years On," "I Need You to Turn To," "The Greatest Discovery," and an edgy and soulful version of "The King Must Die." Other unexpected detours into John's catalog include the intimate desperation of "Tonight" from Blue Moves (1976) and "Have Mercy on the Criminal" from Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1973). There are also the hits and enthusiast favorites "Tiny Dancer," "Your Song," "Candle in the Wind" (which was issued as a single and topped pop music charts worldwide), the previously mentioned "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." The companion home video includes a few additional performances, such as the thoroughly inspiring "One Horse Town." While not entirely essential, Live in Australia is at its core an adeptly executed concert package. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

Elton John once claimed that he could remember The One among his latter-day albums because it was the first he recorded without drugs or alcohol. If true -- and there's no reason to doubt him -- that could be the reason why this has more character than most of his albums since the early '80s, holding together well in its deliberately measured, mature songcraft by Elton and Bernie Taupin. There's less gloss than on many of his late-'80s records, and John gives a fairly convincing performance throughout this set of pretty good songs. If there's any real problem, it's that the album just doesn't have many memorable songs. Though they're all reasonably melodic and well-crafted, none of the them have memorable musical or lyrical hooks and, if anything, Chris Thomas' production is too evenhanded. Still, even if it isn't memorable, it does represent a meaningful move forward, just because it does sound warmer and more considered than the records that immediately preceded it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

As Elton John's first album for MCA Records, Reg Strikes Back received a considerable amount of hype upon its release, but the results were considerably less inspired than his early-'80s records for Geffen. It's always a bad sign when an artist re-records or reinterprets one of his classics, as John does here with "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, Pt. 2," but what really sinks Reg Strikes Back are the colorless tunes. Apart from the clenched dance-pop of "I Don't Wanna Go on With You Like That" and the simpy "A Word in Spanish," none of the melodies on the record are memorable, and even those aren't particularly strong. Instead of recharging his career, Reg Strikes Back began a dry spell that ran for nearly five years. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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Elton John in the magazine