Soos albums gaan, it’s more like a party: Elton John duets with everyone from Glen Campbell to Lil Nas X and Stevie Wonder in The Lockdown Sessions
Elton John Die Inperking Sessions Out now
‘Don’t shoot me,’ Elton John once said. ‘I’m only the piano player.’ It’s a good line that has become less and less accurate.
By 74, Sir Elton is now a respected DJ, a formidable philanthropist and a canny businessman. With Rocket Music, he took a punt on a young busker called Ed Sheeran; with Rocket Pictures, he turned his addictions into a blockbuster film; with Rocket Sports, he represents athletes including the cyclist Laura Kenny.
And he’s still hungry for hits. Last weekend he returned to No 1 after a 16-year gap with Cold Heart, a mash-up of Rocket Man and other old tunes featuring Dua Lipa, the woman of the moment.
By 74, Sir Elton (hierbo) is now a respected DJ, a formidable philanthropist and a canny businessman. With Rocket Music, he took a punt on a young busker called Ed Sheeran
Now comes an album, bringing us 15 more duets recorded after the pandemic had the gall to interrupt Elton’s farewell tour.
Soos albums gaan, it’s more like a party. Daar is 22 gaste, enough to stage a football match. On the right wing is the late crooner Glen Campbell; aan die linkerkant, the gay rapper Lil Nas X; in between, everyone from Stevie Wonder to Stevie Nicks.
The variety comes from the heart. Elton, a musical omnivore, helps himself to a bit of country, gospel, hip-hop, rock and disco. In the space of two covers, he goes from the Pet Shop Boys to Metallica.
The trouble is that there may be only one person on Earth who’s going to enjoy all this. And while his enthusiasm is infectious, his quality control is patchy. About half the tracks feel more like B-sides, likeable but flimsy.
The highlight is Chosen Family, an anthem about finding your tribe, sung with feeling by Elton and Rina Sawayama. The runners-up are Finish Line, with Stevie Wonder (conventional but endearing), and The Pink Phantom, with Gorillaz (eccentric but effective).
Damon Albarn’s skill at straddling genres might have come in handy throughout.
There is one notable near-absentee – Elton’s lifelong lyricist, Bernie Taupin, whose words are heard only in Cold Heart. His long and winding metaphors can be maddening, but they’re distinctive.
Without him, Elton ends up singing: ‘Fire is hot, burn burn burn.’ Come back, Bernie, all is forgiven.