Saturday, October 08, 2011

Sleeping With the Past (1989)

This is the other Elton John album I pulled out of the slush pile the same day I picked up the Thom Bell set. It was officially the new one at the time, hailed by fast-talking PR types who called me on the phone as some kind of rapprochement and reunion of Elton and his long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin. Something about it certainly struck home for me as I played it quite a bit, used various tracks as staples on mix tapes I made for years ("Sacrifice," "Sleeping With the Past," "Club at the End of the Street"), and in general just had myself a real nice glowing Elton John renaissance over it. I don't hear much of that as clearly now—though the music has well-grooved associations with a momentous period of my life and so some value on that level. I had the whole thing on the side of a tape that I took with me on a trip to New York, playing it a lot on my walkman as I pounded the streets and stopped into stores such as the Strand bookstore, and it worked nicely in that context, surprisingly. But mostly it sounds ponderous and lumbering to me now, though with all the usual high production values and some occasional moments that whip themselves up to a fine spirit or to very lovely passages or both, much like virtually all of Elton John for 30 years or more. In the end, maybe Elton John has become a kind of Elvis Presley for me. I'm still mostly enamored with much of his early work and certainly all the hits when he exploded in the '70s. He has steadily ossified into nothing ever particularly surprising, let alone meaningful. "I'm Still Standing" indeed, career statement of purpose. I said before that people were grateful for his reworking of "Candle in the Wind" as an elegy for Princess Diana, but I wasn't actually one of them. On the other hand, I wanted to stand on a chair and cheer when he and Eminem pulled their little stunt. So I don't actually have anything against him or resent him his success the way I might some others. I'm glad he's around and still out there and it's even nice to hear this again once in awhile.

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