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‘Revamp and Restoration’ review: Elton John and Bernie Taupin reinterpreted

"Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John" is

"Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John" is the Nashville half of the two-record set. Credit: Universal Records


“Revamp and Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin”

BOTTOM LINE Taking inspiration from Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s amazing catalog.

When Elton John announced his upcoming retirement, he said he wanted to go out with a bang, not a whimper. As if there were any doubt.

In addition to the intense three-year farewell tour, John also planned to leave fans with new looks at his work. The first of those new interpretations arrive in a pair of new albums — “Revamp,” which finds pop acts such as Lady Gaga and Coldplay taking on his catalog, and “Restoration” (Universal), where country greats such as Miranda Lambert and Chris Stapleton find inspiration from him and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin.

Miley Cyrus, who has stepped into John’s platform-heeled boots to push the boundaries of pop culture, appears on both albums. And her versions of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” on “Revamp,” and “The Bitch Is Back” on “Restoration,” show the possibilities and challenges for the artists on both sets. When she takes risks, as she does at the beginning of “Don’t Let the Sun,” it is stunning. When she moves closer to John’s original, she ends up paling by comparison.

John and Taupin have built elegant, timeless songs that can withstand plenty of tinkering. So when Q-Tip and Demi Lovato completely rip apart “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and turn it into a funk number, it’s a thrill. The same goes for Lee Ann Womack’s sly, countrified deconstruction of “Honky Cat,” which is simply a marvel of down-home cool. Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris amp up the gorgeous melancholy of “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore,” while Dierks Bentley plays up the bluesiness of “Sad Songs.”

Sure, there are great performances that don’t change much, including Lady Gaga’s ultra-dramatic take on “Your Song.” But given the choice between Ed Sheeran’s nice “Candle in the Wind” and the original, it’s clear why John’s version will continue to bang on.

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