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Songs from the West Coast

Elton John

℗ 2001

Elton John  2001  Songs from the West Coast

The appearance of "Rocket Man"-era cohorts Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone as backing vocalists touches this CD with one of the trademark sounds of Elton John's 1969-75 LPs. John has acknowledged those records his most typically singer-songwriterish occasionally, if mostly to revisit audience favorites in concert (1987's Live in Australia, a late-'90s VH1 show). But on Songs from the West Coast, his admiration of Ryan Adams and Rufus Wainwright (a guest here) inspires him to recall the stripped-down, lyric-driven sensibility of his early days. The tone of the words Bernie Taupin feeds this notorious diva is elegiac, rooted in a wearier version of the romanticism that fueled oldies as diverse as "Your Song," "Love Lies Bleeding," and "Burn Down the Mission." West Coast sidesteps bombast with a couple of exceptions; only "The Wasteland," with its invocation of Robert Johnson, is enough to provoke a dismayed "oy." The standout track is "I Want Love," a Lennonesque rumination that's their most impressive writing, separately or together, in more than a decade. Rickey Wright.