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Elton John’s “The Lockdown Sessions” Reviewed

The Lockdown Sessions came as a bit of a surprise but then what hasn’t come as a surprise after our world came to a sudden stop in March 2020.  While I imagined Uncle Reg couldn’t sit still at home for eighteen months without being productive in some way, and while releasing all the early unreleased material, B-sides, and rarities last year as part of his “Jewel Box” was equally unexpected, I did anticipate that should he make the most of his time at home, perhaps he would surprise everyone and drop an album he made by himself at home.  And if he did, perhaps it would have sounded like The Diving Board 2. 

Instead, ot is like a breath of fresh air and renewed inspiration.  No, it’s not really an Elton John album per se.  In fact, Taupin had little to do with it beyond receiving writing credit for lyrics written more than thirty years ago.  This is not to say that I don’t look forward to the next John/Taupin album.  This is more of a side project like he used to do with much less success.  Think Victim of Love.  But this time perhaps it will be equally unexpectedly successful.  And then what?

The music on this new collection is fun for sure.  “Cold Heart” is a smash.  Just watching that video of Elton presenting the song for the first time at a beach-side restaurant in the south of France was exhilarating.  Dressed casually in Gucci, it was “Elton in the house!”  And what joy for him to have a hit again, the latest in a string that runs an unprecedented six decades.  Older artists take note:  this is how you do it.

Standout tracks also include “After All” with Charlie Puth who Elton credits with inspiring the album, “Simple Things” with Brandi Carlile, “Finish Line” with the great Stevie Wonder and “Stolen Car” with Stevie Nicks. 

One wonders if Elton just set a new impossibly high bar for himself.  He’s nearly 75 but has the musical fascination of a teenager and the competitive spirit of a champion.  Had we not all had the world stop last year, Elton would have concluded his farewell tour and then released a new John/Taupin album with lyrics that had been written and were to have been set to music in Australia.  Does the potential success of this new project change that trajectory?

The surprise of all of this itself is equally welcome.  What was so great about Elton in the old days was how he constantly surprised the audience.  Over the last thirty years he’s been a bit predictable.  Maybe it’s just this renewed spirit that will propel him in new directions he could not have predicted.   I find that inspiring.

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