Picks and Pans Review: Songs from the West Coast
Elton John (Universal)
In the ’70s he was Captain Fantastic, but in the ’90s Elton John morphed into the King of Schlock. During that decade his treacly output included songs for the Disney flick The Lion King, another collaboration with King cowriter Tim Rice for the Broadway musical adaptation of Aida and a new version of “Candle in the Wind” dedicated to Princess Diana. Impressive, but hardly a match for his work when he dressed like Donald Duck.
On his new disc John, now 54, tries to recapture some of his ’70s sting. And with longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin adding some bite to John’s pretty melodies, piano-powered tunes such as “Look Ma, No Hands,” “I Want Love” and “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore” hark back to the singer-songwriter’s glory days. Best are the homophobia-themed “American Triangle” and especially “Ballad of the Boy in the Red Shoes,” a poignant AIDS tale with political overtones. Still, John can’t resist all his schmaltzy impulses on cuts like “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which will only go over with the kiddie crowd.
Bottom Line: The sun hasn’t gone down on Elton