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Elton John performs during the first night of Sanremo Italian Song's Festival at Ariston theater in Sanremo on February 9, 2016. (Shutterstock/Andrea Raffin)
Some of Sir Elton John and songwriting collaborator Bernie Taupin’s hit tunes are reimagined by a number of the iconic singer’s favorite artists in “Revamp,” a tribute album that features contemporary pop, rock and R&B artists. It’s eclectic enough to capture the essence of the duo’s songs or, in some cases, reinvent it altogether with a different sound.
“Revamp” isn’t the first time the duo’s songs are given the cover treatment, however. Back in 1991, “Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin,” a 16-track compilation that included chart-friendly artists like Sinead O’Connor, Bon Jovi and George Michael, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton and Tina Turner, was released.
It reflects part of that diversity, although there’s none of the “old guard” in this 13-song album, save for John himself, who gets to collaborate with pop-rock diva Pink and rapper Logic in the trippy, sleek version of “Benny and the Jets.”
There are other standouts that make listening to the album worthwhile: “Your Song” gets a simple but energetic interpretation by Lady Gaga, initially accompanied by a piano and some strings. Meanwhile, the bittersweet “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” is given a soulful reshaping.
Ed Sheeran pulls off a folky, shimmery version of “Candle in the Wind”—the original Marilyn Monroe version, not the 1997 iteration that was rewritten for the late Princess Diana of Wales. The comforting “Tiny Dancer” is given a mesmerizing but saddening whirl by Florence + The Machine, as vocalist Florence Welch captivates with her impressive range.
And that focus on storytelling imbues the other songs with their respective truths. Coldplay gives its own haunting take on “We All Fall in Love Sometimes”; Sam Smith is slightly toned down, but still quite emotive in the heartbreaking “Daniel”: and Miley Cyrus, sounding Gwen Stefani-esque, competently contributes a stirring “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
Also catchy are Alessia Cara’s more contemporary pop rendition of “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”; and Mary J. Blige’s light, contemplative R&B remake of “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.”
It’s a small fraction of songs from John’s fruitful music career, just a handful chosen from over 30 studio albums. But “Revamp’s” collection of covers exemplifies just how inventive the John-Taupin collaboration is.
Some of the chosen covers and artists sound mismatched, initially, but each pairing grows on the listener. The album offers that balanced mix of reverence and experimentation, precisely how tribute albums ought to be.
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