Saturday, February 26, 2011
A MORE PERFECT UNION?
Produced by T Bone Burnett, The Union marks the culmination of a musical friendship that began in the late 1960s between Elton John and Leon Russell. With songwriting collaboration between John, Russell and Bernie Taupin and a guest musician roster including Brian Wilson, Booker T, Don Was and Neil Young.
As he mentions in the liner notes, The Union is Elton John's acknowledgement of Leon Russell's profound influence on him as a pianist and vocalist, and on this release John collaborates enthusiastically with Russell, each sharing equal disc space.
The album recaptures the decades lost between these two musicians and puts Russell back into his element-southern-fried ruminations on haunted love and loss. It's great to hear some new material from Russell, and the two of them playing off each other makes for a much better duet than I was anticipating.
Producer T-Bone Burnett accommodates the partnership well, giving the songs (many of them ballads) a feeling of pain and longing. The production brings out the best of the singers' amazing voices and well-honed studio skills. Between these men is nearly a century's worth of practice and refinement of skill, and it shows here.
Elton John and Leon Russell should have sat down to record 20 years ago, but they make up for lost time on a collaboration that lives up to the promise.
The deluxe edition contains two additional tracks: "My Kind of Hell" and "Mandalay Again," as well as a DVD on the making of the album.