REVIEW: Restoration – The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin

A bunch of some of the highest profile country acts of the modern era coming together to recreate the songs of one of the most iconic songwriters of our generation… what could be better? This is a real treat for both country fans and Elton fans alike. Don’t think for one moment that this is a run-of-the-mill covers album; it’s a stunning collection of completely re-imagined tracks, where the artists have created their own spin and made them their own.

“It’s always a huge compliment when an artist loves your song enough to take the time and effort to rework it. As songwriters, Bernie and myself are thrilled when singers we admire and respect as much as those on Revamp choose to add their own unique twist in the process. It means that our music is still relevant and ultimately that our songs continue to reach new audiences. We’re humbled and thank them all for their generosity.” – Elton John

Little Big Town’s rendition of ‘Rocket Man’ kicks off the album in style, with a beautifully crafted production that leaves you wanting more. Of course, it’s packed full of those signature LBT harmonies that could turn any song into a masterpiece, but it’s the atmospheric, ethereal instrumentation that holds the track’s appeal. It’s completely different to the original; creative, imaginative and classy – exactly how a cover should be done.

The uber-classy melodies don’t stop there. Another personal highlight is Don Henley and Vince Gill’s collaboration on the Elton classic ‘Sacrifice’, which has such an Eagles-esque soulfulness to melt the listener. Two simply iconic voices coming together for a universally-loved composition – sublime.

The refreshing thing about the ‘Restoration’ collection is the choice of songs. Aside from a few fan favourites like the two previously mentioned, you’ll find some slightly more unfamiliar tracks and singles that didn’t quite become smash-hits. ‘I Want Love’ is a perfect example, covered wonderfully by the one and only Chris Stapleton. How a song of this sheer quality didn’t top the charts is an absolute travesty, and it’s so great to see Chris giving it a new life and new exposure. There’s some stunning utilisation of strings here – just drift away with it and lose yourself!

Miley Cyrus is the surprise name on the credits, with her rendition of ‘The Bitch Is Back’, an Elton concert standard. Whilst being the outlier in the ‘country’ category here, Miley’s raspy voice works really well here without detracting too much from the appeal of the original. Lee Ann Womack’s song ‘Honky Cat’ will also raise eyebrows; definitely the most different track on offer, and it becomes undeniably infectious after a few listens.

The album comes to a fitting end with one of the fathers of country music, Willie Nelson, with an emotional take on ‘Border Song’ from all the way back in 1970. A very raw but equally classy, quality recording to complete a thoroughly enjoyable project. You won’t find many better communal tributes than the ‘Restoration’ album – each and every one of these artists has done Elton extremely proud and they’re doing their bit to introduce such fantastic music to new audiences. Well worth checking out!

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan