07 May What We’re Reading Now – A Musical Take on Revamp And Restoration
By Grant T. Smith
About two weeks ago I received a note from my editor telling me that I had three articles due on May 1, which is the day after the last day of taxes. It’s also the day I learned to hate my editor. I knew I couldn’t read a book in that time and still finish your taxes. So, while driving between offices and listening to Tom Power on Q (a favourite of mine), the host was interviewing Bernie Taupin about two new albums being released. The first Revamp and the second Restoration celebrating the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It was then I decided that instead of reading a book I would listen to music for the next two weeks and do a review of these two new records.
The first album Revamp: The songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin opens with Benny and the Jets sung by Elton John, P!nk and Logic and I love this cut. It’s got new life with a rap stream and some great sampling. The sound is full, almost irreverent in its approach to the original with some amazing little keyboard tweaks harking back to the original long that comes in at the end. The album clearly opens with a bang.
The cut of Someone Saved My Life Tonight by Mumford and Sons is done with grace and devotion for the lyric that transformed it from a song I knew but didn’t hear, to a song that touches me every time I hear it. The percussions on this track are bang on. On this album, the songs that reach out and touch you are the ones that celebrate the lyric. They take the work of Elton John that I knew in the 1970s and 1980s and listened to as pop songs and reintroduce them as lyrical masterpieces. The Killers, perform Mona Lisas and Mad Hatter’s, which has quickly become my favourite cut on the album, because of the execution and the focus on the simplicity of the song.
To avoid boring you to tears, because this article could go on for pages, the album closes with four marvellous performances by four tremendous artists:
- Daniel by Sam Smith
- Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me by Miley Cyrus
- Your Song by Lady Gaga
- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Queens of the Stone Age
Smith shows marvellous frailty in his performance of Daniel that is very moving in its presentation. Cyrus, who is the only performer that shows up on both albums, does a fine job even if her depth pales in comparison to the strength, maturity, simplicity and straightforward production values that Lady Gaga brings to a version of Your Song, which eclipses Elton John’s original.
If you grew up listening to Elton John songs, this album will refresh old memories and open up songs to you that you know my heart, but have never heard like this before. Since getting the album I have shared it with friends and we are enjoying this little bit of magic. If you’re younger and didn’t know Elton John as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult, then you will more likely hear performers that you love – singing songs you don’t know that will open up new doorways for you.
The second album Restoration: The Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin has a mostly country flare and that makes it less approachable for me, but there are a few songs that are really worth mentioning:
- Rocket Man by little big town
- Take Me to the Pilot by Brothers Osborne
- Honky Cat by Lee Ann Womack
- Please by Rhonda Vincent
- Border Song by Willie Nelson
Little big town opens the album with Rocket Man and, much like on the other album, the first cut revitalizes the song with an attack and vigour that will make you sit up in your chair and take notice, this song is all rock ‘n’ roll.
Take Me to the Pilot is a fast-paced step-out kind of country tune that has a blues feel and bit of funk. Then we get really country as Honky Cat opens with a gentle guitar that becomes the lead accompaniment to Lee Ann Womack’s fun and flirtatious fantastic delivery, as the song continues there is some accordion and honkey-tonk magic. I also treasure the bluegrass banjo and fiddle that accompany Vincent on Please. But dear old Elton saved the best for last. If you listen to no other cut download Borders Song, it starts with a breath and then the simple clear raspy voice of Willie Nelson. And he takes you on a journey, holy Moses, I have been removed.
The goal here is to have listed a song or an artist that will inspire you to take a listen. I give my thanks to Elton John and Bernie Taupin and all the people who contributed to these two recordings.
Let me leave you with two thoughts, (1) I have the best editor ever and (2) the last lyric from the last song of the second album, ‘Holy Moses, let us live in peace.’