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One of the most well-known collaborations in music is that of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Their list of hit songs is astonishing. They met 50 years ago - and two albums have been issued that honor their collaboration.
The release of these albums, "Revamp: The Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin" and "Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin" coincide – more or less - with the final days of Elton’s residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
What do you make of Elton John’s retirement?
I don’t know if I believe him – entirely. He wants to spend time with family but I don’t think he’s done completely. He said he’s done touring. So, I think he’s going to retire from touring but I don’t think he’s retiring from the business.
The cumulative effect of all those songs of his and Bernie’s it’s intoxicating. His music is really the soundtrack of the 70s and 80s and the soundtrack of so many of our lives.
What is the concept behind these records?
“Revamp” is one of them. And I think that is John’s pet project featuring covers of the duos back catalog mostly done by pop, rock, alternative and R&B artists.
Now, “Restoration” is more of Bernie’s baby and features covers by country music artists.
What caught your ear in these two albums?
There is so much to choose from. That’s what’s so cool about these albums. There are 13 tracks on both of them. There are amazing versions of “Bennie and the Jets” and “Tiny Dancer” and “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart.” “Mona Lisas and Madhatters” actually showed up on both of the albums.
I think one of my favorites has to be The Killers covering “Mona Lisas and Madhatters.”
How do the covers differ from the original?
When Elton John originally recorded these songs, a lot of time the production was over the top, but these covers they feel like they’ve really pulled back a lot, pared down the production.
So, not to distract you as much from the lyrics because the lyrics are really what made Elton John and Bernie Taupin so successful. The lyrics on these collaborations pop out much more than the originals.
What is another favorite?
A very sweet version of “Tiny Dancer.” That’s become a new standard but then a lot of Elton’s songs have become that but this cover by Florence and the Machine it just really moves me. I got goosebumps.
Is there a song from Elton’s catalog that stands out for you?
It is hard to pin one down to just one. I also share the love of “Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding.)” The long intro on that really sucks you in. But I’ve also been a fan of “Take Me to the Pilot” and “Your Song” some of the early stuff that still resonates with me as an adult.
What do you think is the lasting appeal of the Elton/Taupin’s songs?
When you listen to these new collaborations with current artists, you see why the songs are timeless. It really gets down to the lyrics. Bernie Taupin is probably one of the best lyricists in my lifetime.
I think when you focus just on the lyrics everything else just drops away and you realize why the music was so important growing up and why it is still relevant today and also attracting a whole new audience.
That new audience is evident in the cover version of “Bennie and the Jets,” featuring Pink and Logic.
That cover proves that Elton is still relevant and he has always spent a lot of time working with current artists. He has brought them all together in such a great way on “Revamp” in my opinion.
What is your opinion on covers in general?
For me, it is not really about the cover itself. It’s about the interpretation. That’s what’s so clever about these covers on “Revamp.” The interpretations by these current artists are spectacular. For me, I just love this entire collection.
Willobee Carlan, program director and afternoon host at NV89