Elton John’s first studio album of the twenty first century, Songs From The West Coast, arrived on October 1, 2001. It got here after his longest-ever hole between common releases, 4 years on from The Huge Image. However the English knight had hardly been dragging his heels.
Throughout that point, John had recorded two musical rating albums, for the stage present Aida and the soundtrack album Elton John And Tim Rice’s Aida, then two movie soundtracks, for The Muse and The Street To El Dorado. If that workload alone would have crammed a decade for lesser artists, he didn’t cease there. Elton’s Madison Sq. Backyard live performance of October 2000 broke the report for essentially the most rapidly-produced stay album, when it got here out simply over three weeks later as One Night time Solely.
However now it was, so to talk, again to the day job – and, many felt, to the easiest points of the star’s signature piano-vocal sound. Songs From The West Coast was recorded, on analog tape, over a interval of seven months at London’s Townhouse Studios and no fewer than 5 recording amenities in Los Angeles, prompting the album’s title. The consequence was a raft of gold and platinum certifications, Prime 10 hits on each the UK pop and US grownup modern charts, and three Grammy nominations.
‘I’ll do my finest, Sir Elton’
Drummer Nigel Olsson returned to the fold for the album, which featured fellow long-servers Davey Johnstone on guitar and arranger Paul Buckmaster. The report had different weighty cameos, with backing vocalists together with Gary Barlow, Rufus Wainwright, and Tata Vega, Hammond B3 by the formidable Billy Preston and even an look, taking part in clavinet and harmonica on “Darkish Diamond,” by Stevie Surprise.
Manufacturing, this time, was by Patrick Leonard, the Michigan-born musician who had made his title in an extended affiliation with Madonna. His different credit thus far included Bryan Ferry, Bon Jovi, Fleetwood Mac, Carly Simon, and dozens extra; he had produced “Sometime Out Of The Blue” for The Street To El Dorado and co-written the track with Elton, in a uncommon departure from the latter’s unbreakable partnership with Bernie Taupin.
However the lyricist was effectively and actually ensconced for the brand new challenge, which featured 12 new John/Taupin compositions and a lead single with a few of Bernie’s most interesting, and most searingly self-analytical, phrases. “I Need Love,” launched every week earlier than the album on September 24, was a forcefully confessional narrative, with such memorable couplets as “A person like me is lifeless in locations/Different males really feel liberated.”
The track turned a considerable success on the UK pop chart, reaching No.9, and on Billboard’s Grownup Modern itemizing, at No.6. It was propelled by a putting video starring actor Robert Downey, Jr, who lip-synched the phrases, and directed by English filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wooden.
“I Need Love” has continued to reverberate, being coated by nation hero Chris Stapleton (at each John and Taupin’s request) for 2018’s all-star Restoration: Reimagining The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin. It then featured in a household scene from Elton’s childhood as depicted within the 2019 movie Rocketman.
‘You possibly can solely be like your self’
“I received a telephone name from Elton John, which was one of many strangest telephone calls you’re gonna get for those who ever get that telephone name,” Stapleton defined to Amazon Music. “Not unusual, splendidly unusual. In the previous few years of surreal moments, that was a surreal one for positive. He needed us to do that explicit track. What are you going to say if Elton John calls you up and asks you do to one thing like aside from, ‘Sure, completely,’ and, ‘I’ll do my finest, Sir Elton.’”
Ever the avid report fan and a beneficiant champion of rising artists, John advised VH1: “In recent times I’ve been too influenced by what I’ve been listening to. I’ve been making an attempt to do an ambient observe, or a dance observe, and that’s probably not what I do finest.
“I’m a musician, I’m allowed to experiment. I’m not competing towards myself, I’m competing towards the affect of so many different individuals and making an attempt to be like so many different individuals I can’t be. You possibly can solely be like your self.”
The album’s second single, “This Prepare Don’t Cease There Anymore,” continued the superstar video theme, with the looks of Justin Timberlake because the youthful Elton, to a Taupin lyric about advancing years. The track turned one other Prime 10 Grownup Modern hit within the States and was adopted by Songs From The West Coast’s remaining single, “Unique Sin,” a Prime 20 entry on that chart.
‘I’m singing higher than ever’
Elton’s work is sort of universally imbued with Americana flavours, however they have been particularly evident all through Songs From The West Coast, from the opening “The Emperor’s New Garments” onwards. Stevie Surprise’s look on “Darkish Diamond” revived reminiscences of his vivid contribution to “I Guess That’s Why They Name It The Blues,” some 18 years earlier. One other notable spotlight was “American Triangle,” written concerning the brutal homicide of homosexual school pupil Matthew Shepard in 1998. The album was devoted to his reminiscence, and that of Davey Johnstone’s late son Oliver.
Leisure Weekly mentioned that Songs From The West Coast was John’s “most nuanced, openhearted and headlong assortment in years.” Robert Hilburn within the Los Angeles Instances was much more expansive: “No album in years has captured the intimacy and coronary heart of [John and Taupin’s] endearing early work like this one.”
Songs From The West Coast debuted at No.2 within the UK and went on to double-platinum standing there. It went platinum in Italy and gold in lots of different international locations, and was nominated as Finest Pop Album on the Grammys, the place “I Need Love” was shortlisted for Finest Male Pop Vocal Efficiency (as was “Unique Sin,” the next yr).
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“I don’t assume I might have made a greater album at this stage in my life,” Elton advised VH1. “When Bernie and I talked about doing it final yr, we needed to do a way more easy album – piano, bass, drums, guitar, a bit little bit of organ and a few orchestra. It’s the identical line-up as all of the early albums. Due to expertise, I’ve been diverted musically on the previous few albums. There hasn’t been a circulation from observe to trace. On this album, there may be. It begins with piano and finishes with piano.
“Quite a lot of my vocals on this album don’t have any echo on them. I’m used to having rather a lot. I used to be sort of shaky at first, like, ‘The place’s the echo?’ They mentioned, ‘You don’t want it.’ I don’t. I’m singing higher than ever. Expertise slows issues down, [especially] within the studio. We tried to keep away from that on this album. We used simply our musical expertise.”
Purchase or stream Songs From The West Coast.