Revamp misses the mark but reminds us of how good Elton John & Bernie Taupin were at writing
Thanks for the music Elton but we didn't need this one.
Upon hearing that there was an Elton John tribute album on the way I’m pretty certain I just put my head in my hands and said to myself: “Is there nothing sacred anymore?” Then I learned that it wasn’t so much a tribute album more a remix album with Elton himself at the helm.
Still skeptical, I thought I’d give it a go being that he is music royalty, and after listening to Revamp: The Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin there are moments I’m glad I did and others I wish I hadn’t.
Whether it’s the decimation of “We Fall In Love Sometimes” led by Chris Martin - did we not learn anything from his God awful George Michael tribute at last year’s BRITs? - or Queen of the Stone Age’s bad impression of David Bowie singing “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, there are moments on this album that really have me scratching my head, more so because Elton would have had to have signed these off himself.
The one that hurts the most is the album’s opening track. “Bennie and the Jets” has long been my favourite Elton John song. From the moment I heard it as a youngster coming out of the speakers of my mother’s boyfriend’s hifi system I fell in love with it. Its simplicity, its steady progression, its nonsensical lyrical content, there’s just something about it - and don’t get me started on that gorgeous key arrangement, it’s simply transcendent.
So to have Pink! singing Elton’s vocals over what sounds like a discount hyphy beat (R.I.P. Mac Dre) whilst being joined by Logic, someone who I champion on the regular, delivering what feels like the laziest verse of his career, I just can’t do it. I get that it’s supposed to be a 2018 version but c’mon, there’s bad and then there’s this.
For a laugh you should read the write up Apple Music gives Revamp in the Editors’ Notes section. It reads: “While ‘Candle in the Wind’ fits Ed Sheeran like a custom Italian suit…” Are you kidding me? Unless Ed Sheeran buys his custom Italian suits from Oxfam this couldn’t be further from the truth. He makes what was originally a touching tribute to Marilyn Monroe sound like a camp fire clanger after a few beers.
There are moments on Revamp that actually work quite well. Florence + The Machine’s rendition of “Tiny Dancer” is beautiful, to say the least. I guarantee they could release it as a single and it would take off. With no tricks or leftfield production thrown into the mix, it’s just Florence Welch’s soaring vocals reciting an incredibly well-written song over a gorgeous backdrop.
Surprisingly Miley Cyrus’ version of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” is actually one of my favourite songs on the album. The only thing that’s missing is Elton John. He should have joined Miley so it could play out like the duet its predecessor was with George Michael. It’s a little jarring hearing Miley sing to herself.
Mumford & Sons’ “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and Lady Gaga’s “Your Song” are also solid moments on Revamp.
While Revamp: The Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin isn’t actually that good, one thing it does do is remind you of just how good Elton and Bernie were as a songwriting duo, they were phenomenal. They’ll go down in history with the likes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Ashford & Simpson, Hall & Oates, and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.
Revamp: The Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin is out now on Virgin/EMI.