Restoration: The Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin – Album Review

Some songs live forever, are timeless and often have the ability to be redefined (reimagined) again and again across various genres and styles.

Restoration is more than just a covers album – it does exactly as the title suggests and restores some of the greatest music of our time with a perfect blend of modern and traditional Country.

Elton John and Bernie Taupin are two of the strongest, most remarkable and most diverse songwriters in the world and you would be hard pressed to find a more fitting, genuine and appreciative group of artists to retell their stories than those from the Country Music genre.

Country Music is finally getting the recognition here in the UK that it deserves. With typical established stereotypes of the genre still in existence, this album proves that it’s a genre full of some of the most gifted musicians in the industry today, whose craft is worthy of mainstream success. With each artist on the album being a well established songwriter in their own right, as well as an artist, there isn’t much of a gap between their writing styles and that of Elton and Bernie’s – after all, Country Music is all about the storytelling, the intelligent lyric, the emotion, the wit, the risks and the daring to be different that Elton and Bernie are so famous for. Elton has shown his affection for Country Music time and time again by praising Country artists across the years and more recently making an appearance on CMT’s TV Drama Series Nashville.

Restoration brings together some of the biggest names in Country Music from the past and the present, all of whom have put their own stamp on these much loved classics. Many of the country artists involved are Grammy Award Winners whether that be for their own material or for songs written for other artists.

Kicking off with the iconic Rocket Man – a song already covered so stylishly by Kate Bush in 1991 as part of the Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin album – Little Big Town’s exceptional harmonies are blended with sounds from Juno’s Waves radio instrument which bring a hauntingly beautiful and atmospheric feel to the track. Little Big Town worked with Chris Coleman and Dr Scott Bolton, the Principal Investigator for the Juno Mission, to help incorporate the Juno. Little Big Town make the track even more exceptional and with a very atmospheric, acapella start and sensational vocals throughout, it is as if this song was written for them.

Maren Morris, an artist who should be on everyone’s playlists, redefines the Country genre and challenges any artist with her slick, rich and soulful vocals. Morris brings a lot of sass to Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters and makes the track her own in a powerful jazzy style.

Another iconic track, which has also had a highly memorable cover from Sinead O’Connor, is Sacrifice. Don Henley and Vince Gill deliver a traditional Country style to this emotive and painfully beautiful ballad, which lyrically has all the makings of a classic Country song.

Brothers Osborne are becoming one of Country Music’s biggest acts and it isn’t hard to see why. The Brothers have brought a more modern Country Rock, guitar driven, edge to the 70’s track Take Me To The Pilot – which is a must with John Osborne’s phenomenal guitar skills – but they have still retained the original track’s timeless sound. What is great about the original is the attitude in Elton’s vocals – which TJ more than makes up for with his infectious rich baritone.

One of the biggest names in country music, Miranda Lambert, is a great example of how female artists are killing it right now – and that it’s not going to change. Miranda tells a story in both her vocals and lyrics and her fans will agree that My Father’s Gun could have easily been written by her, as it’s very fitting to her musical stylings.

Many will be familiar with Chris Stapleton, non country fans will especially be more familiar with recent collaboration with Justin Timberlake on the track Say Something. Vocally flawless, Stapleton’s vision of I Want Love, although not too dissimilar, is more emotional and stripped back.

Lee Ann Womack brings a Country Blues/smoky Jazz Club style to Honky Cat which is originally from Elton’s 70’s album Honky Chateau. Very much respecting the original in terms of a simple yet effective melody, it’s Lee Ann’s sensational vocal which makes this song gripping.

If you aren’t familiar with Kacey Musgraves yet, then get familiar. Having recently released one of the most important albums of 2018 – her fourth album Golden Hour – Kacey’s own music is the bridge between traditional Country and modern Country Pop. Kacey gives the 70’s track Roy Rogers a very strong traditional Country style, both vocally and musically.

Rhonda Vincent, singing with Dolly Parton, winds the energy up with their version of Please, which has been completely transformed into a Country song and could easily be mistaken for being their own track or for an Alison Krauss and Union Station song. A lesser known track to me, this cover by Rhonda & Dolly is the perfect example of taking a song and giving it a whole new identity and meaning – and with all the fantastic instrumentation, it could be argued that this is a preferable version.

Miley Cyrus’ distinctive and quirky vocal brings an almost theatrical style to the rocky The Bitch is Back. If there is a track off this album that would be stellar live, then it is this one. The use of traditional Country instruments really shows a different side to this song, which is really quite extraordinary and fun. Better known as a pop artist, Miley has roots deep in Country Music (her father being Billy Ray Cyrus and godmother Dolly Parton) and, much like Elton, cannot be defined by a genre. Is it better than the Tina Turner version? No, but it’s Tina Turner after all.

Dierks Bentley brings the 80’s tune Sad Songs (Say So Much) to a Honky Tonk vibe, making it sound as if the song is an old traditional Country tune from way back when.

What Country compilation would be complete without some of Country’s finest, traditional artists? Roseanne Cash and Emmylou Harris team up to reimagine This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore as a duet. Slightly more down tempo than the original, Roseanne and Emmylou have two of the most sensational voices in music history and have created a breathtakingly beautiful version.

A living legend – Willie Nelson closes the album in true Country fashion by making the Border Song almost unrecognisable in a great Willie Nelson way. Nelson, much like Elton, has no expiry date and his rendition of this song even challenges the Eric Clapton version.

Restoration is an exceptionally brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable album, which caters for fans of any genre. is created’

This album should also hopefully encourage Elton fans to delve into the back catalogues of the artists featured and bring a whole new fan base to the Country Music genre – as well as bringing a younger audience to the genius of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

For Country Music lovers, Restoration holds a great collection of Elton and Bernie’s tracks, some obvious choices, some not so obvious, which gives those not so familiar with their lesser known works a chance to hear and understand how diverse and unique their writing is. Say you’re not a fan of Elton John? There will be at least one song you like, but just not be aware of it yet.

Elton and Bernie are credited by many for the creation of many music trends, styles and sub genres. This album is the true essence and celebration of their well crafted song writing which has spanned several decades – so far!

Listen to Restoration here

Purchase Restoration here

Buy on CD here Restoration: The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin

Buy on Vinyl here Restoration: The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin [VINYL]

 

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