‘Restoration’ Gets The DISClaimer Treatment

And now for something completely different.

Restoration is billed as Nashville’s re-imagining of the stellar song catalog of living legend Elton John. In most publications it is being reviewed alongside Revamp, which is the pop/rock community’s similar effort. And in every case, the Nashville record comes out on top.

Credit the great Frank Liddell, who executive produced with Paul Kremen and lyricist Bernie Taupin. Also credit a stunning lineup of artists. From Rosanne Cash & Emmylou Harris’ thumping kiss-off “This Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore” to Miley Cyrus’ stormy rocker “The Bitch Is Back” to Kacey Musgraves’ twinkling waltz “Roy Rogers,” the set is loaded with jewels.

Since radio airplay is doubtful, this is going to be a press-driven project. Here are 10 reasons why you need to own it.

LITTLE BIG TOWN/Rocket Man
Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin; Producers: Frank Liddell/Mike McCarthy; Publishers: Universal Songs of PolyGram/HST/WAB/Dick James/Rouge Booze/Cow Dog, BMI/PRS/ASCAP; MCA Nashville
-As good as their performance of this was on the ACMs, it pales next to the recorded version. Jimi’s lead vocal gleams. The harmonies here are double and triple tracked to make the foursome sound like a massive heavenly choir. The outer-space production touches are sublime. Essential.

 

MAREN MORRIS/Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin; Producer: busbee; Publishers: Universal Songs of PolyGram/HST/WAB/Dick James/Rouge Booze/Cow Dog, BMI/PRS/ASCAP; MCA Nashville
-This longtime fan favorite from 1972’s Honky Chateau LP gets a yearning, stately reading here. I like the way she alternates whispery passages with soaring blasts. The spare, r&b flavored track leaves her plenty of room to emote.

 
DON HENLEY & VINCE GILL/Sacrifice
Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin; Producers: Henley/Gill; Publishers: Universal Songs of PolyGram/HST/WAB/Dick James/Rouge Booze/Cow Dog, BMI/PRS/ASCAP; MCA Nashville
– Pretty, but kinda disappointing. Elton’s gorgeous 1990 original had a certain soulful, behind-the-beat tenseness. That’s gone, and the song is transmogrified into a wistful Eagles ballad.

 

BROTHERS OSBORNE/Take Me To The Pilot
Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publishers: Universal Songs of PolyGram/HST/WAB/Dick James/Rouge Booze/Cow Dog, BMI/PRS/ASCAP; MCA Nashville
– When this tune appeared on the flip side of 1970’s hit single “Your Song,” Elton served notice that he was a rocker as well as a troubadour balladeer typical of that era. The Osbornes’ version turns up the song’s temperature by spitting out the lyric and adding blazing guitar solos and a sizzling rhythm track.

 

MIRANDA LAMBERT/My Father’s Gun
Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin; Producers: Frank Liddell, Glenn Worf & Eric Masse; Publishers: Universal Songs of PolyGram/HST/WAB/Dick James/Rouge Booze/Cow Dog, BMI/PRS/ASCAP; MCA Nashville
– Miranda mourns masterfully with revenge on her mind in this eulogy to a fallen Confederate soldier. Dripping with Southern nostalgia, it also has the “edge” of grinding guitar work in mid song. The chestnut is from 1970’s Tumbleweed Connection.

 

CHRIS STAPLETON/I Want Love
Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin; Producers: Dave Cobb/Stapleton; Publishers: Universal Songs of PolyGram/HST/WAB/Dick James/Rouge Booze/Cow Dog, BMI/PRS/ASCAP; MCA Nashville
– Stapleton is characteristically searing and soulful on this blue-eyed soul ballad. As such, he is arguably the collection’s closest vocal approximation of Elton John. Dating from 2001, the song is the most recent of Restoration’s revivals.

 

LEE ANN WOMACK/Honky Cat
Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin; Producers: Frank Liddell/Mike McCarthy; Publishers: Universal Songs of PolyGram/HST/WAB/Dick James/Rouge Booze/Cow Dog, BMI/PRS/ASCAP; MCA Nashville
– We all thought this 1972 hit was a country song in the first place, right? Now it is.

 

RHONDA VINCENT & DOLLY PARTON/Please
Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin; Producers: Frank Liddell/Mike McCarthy; Publishers: Universal Songs of PolyGram/HST/WAB/Dick James/Rouge Booze/Cow Dog, BMI/PRS/ASCAP; MCA Nashville
– Sublimely pleasurable listening. Even on a collection as loaded with spectacular performances as Restoration is, this track stands out. The lilting bluegrass instrumentation is awesome, and these two singers simply take your breath away. This 1995 Elton outing has one Taupin’s most straightforward lyrics, requesting a love that lasts into old age.

 

DIERKS BENTLEY/Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin; Producer: Jon Randall Stewart; Publishers: Universal Songs of PolyGram/HST/WAB/Dick James/Rouge Booze/Cow Dog, BMI/PRS/ASCAP; MCA Nashville
– Of all the revivals here, this one perhaps sticks closest to the arrangement of the original 1984 hit. Enjoyable, if a little pedestrian.

 

WILLIE NELSON/Border Song
Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin; Producers: Frank Liddell/Eric Masse; Publishers: Universal Songs of PolyGram/HST/WAB/Dick James/Rouge Booze/Cow Dog, BMI/PRS/ASCAP; MCA Nashville
– It is nearly forgotten today that this 1970 gem was Elton’s first American charting single. Willie is here to remind us of what a cool, gospel-y song it is.

Comments

Powered by Facebook Comments

Follow MusicRow on Twitter

Category: Artist, Exclusive, Featured, Reviews

About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

View Author Profile