More than 17 years after Two Rooms, a pair of new albums reinterpret Elt and Bern with a new generation of A-listers. Taupin is behind Restoration, featuring Nashville stars countrifying the catalogue, while John invited his showbiz pals to fill Revamp.
When it’s good, Revamp is very good. When it’s bad, it’s awful. And in between there’s the requisite amount of anonymous competence. Sad to say, the track with Elton’s involvement is the worst – an extremely state-of-the-chart version of Bennie and the Jets led by Pink, with a wholly unnecessary rap from Logic (“Serving food and writing rhymes / For Elton John, the greatest of all time”).
The very good songs might come as more of a surprise. Ed Sheeran takes Candle in the Wind and plays it as a gentle country lope, with luscious backing vocals. The phrasing is sometimes odd, but it makes something wildly familiar sound fresh, a triumph in itself. Alessia Cara’s I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, driven by a Fender Rhodes, loses the blowsiness of the original and becomes a convincing piece of country soul. And Q-Tip and Demi Lovato give Don’t Go Breaking My Heart a compellingly bouncy, funky reinvention, proving that melodies as good as these really are hard to ruin.
Into the pointless pile go the Killers, whose Brandon Flowers sounds uncannily like 70s Elton; Lady Gaga, who seems determined to erase all hint of subtlety from Your Song, and Queens of the Stone Age, who let their 70s fixation get the better of them and are simply too reverent, which may be the first time one could say that of Josh Homme.