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Album Review: Elton John and Leon Russell – The Union

3 min read

This month marked a new venture for legendary glam rocker Elton John and his latest release, a collaboration with Oklahoma music veteran Leon Russell titled The Union, gives the singer his 30th studio album.

Russell met John after one of the Brits icons earliest US performances and the collaboration between the two has been a project long in the making.The musicians have worked together periodically over the past 40 years but had never committed to releasing such an album up to this point.

EltonJohnTheUnionWhile the bulk of the writing credits go to John and long time writing partner Bernie Taupin, Russell has added his fair share of the workload to create an album that can be generously shared by both artists. Saying this however the album is so drenched in the contribution by the longstanding partnership of John and Taupin that the record does sound like it could be an early seventies Elton John effort.

A merge of John’s famous piano skills and signature melodies with a soaking of Americana and the rustic vocal contributions from Russell creates a release quite like no other.

Though more of a fan collectors item rather than something with mainstream prospect, The Union is a sharp and bumpkin release for the pair.

The Union has been produced by T Bone Burnett who has worked his magic on artists such as Jakob Dylan and Willie Nelson so offers a great deal of expertise in hit records to the pair on a record that offers more that just a collaboration between longtime friends but a collection of diverse and memorable gems.

The ballad drenched, sombre-heavy Gone to Shiloh is a fine addition for the record with a sweetly played piano foundation drawn over Russell’s rough edged vocals that slur achingly throughout the track in a song scented with New Orleans brass. The track also sees a cameo by fellow music icon Neil Young.

The gospel pairing of The Hands Of Angels and the following Hearts Have Turned To Stone with its upbeat bounce gives Russell some scope for showing off his charming vocals as he swings through both numbers, particularly the latter with the smooth female backing of gospel tones and the occasional John harmony.

The records fronting single, If It Wasn’t For Bad, is full of John’s honky piano tinkering and his impressive skills on the instrument are showcased on the lead track more so than on any other. The number is a complimenting addition for both musicians as they pass and harmonize lines throughout the single.

Monkey Suit, a big band, gospel choir number seeps rock n roll from every pore as it swings and jives with the pairs simultaneous piano playing and waltzy vocal slurring. The track is a standout on the record and one of the more upbeat additions that adds a nostalgic yet diverse feel to the record.

The Union is a genuinly embracing release that infuses Elton John’s background of honky piano playing and wealth of famous glam rock songwriting skills with Leon Russell’s southern saturated vocal cool that creates a collaboration between two masters of the music industry.

Buy ‘Elton John and Leon Russell – The Union’ from Amazon