ALBUM REVIEW: Elton John's The Lockdown Sessions offers something for young and old

UNMASKED: Nobody could ever accuse Elton John of being stuck in the past.
UNMASKED: Nobody could ever accuse Elton John of being stuck in the past.

UNLIKE many of his contemporaries, who often give the impression they stopped listening to new music after 1990, Elton John has remained engaged in the modern pop world.

The Rocket Man is a ravenous buyer of new albums and he's used his profile to champion many younger artists.

Newcastle's Catherine Britt and Canberra's Tate Sheridan are two such Australian examples.

So when John was forced to cancel the final stages of the Australian leg of his gigantic Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour due to COVID, he started collaborating over internet platforms like Zoom.

The result is The Lockdown Sessions, possibly the strangest and most diverse collaboration a major league artist has released. It's a mixed tape on steroids.

Where else could you imagine hearing Nicki Minaj and Lil Nas X rapping next to '70s west coast queen Stevie Nicks or Pearl Jam's grunge legend Eddie Vedder?

The Lockdown Sessions' eclecticism is both its strength and weakness.

There's so much variety it would be impossible not to enjoy something, but by the same token, even the staunchest Elton fan would struggle with the dramatic left-hand turns.

The first half focuses on modern pop sounds. The highlight being Orbit, where English producer SG Lewis delivers a propulsive slice of electro-pop for John to provide a disco-influenced melody.

But Always Love You is jarring in the extreme. John opens with an attractive piano ballad that's ruined by auto-tuning, before being completely hijacked by Young Thug's sexually-charged freestyling.

The rollicking heartland rock of E-Ticket, featuring Vedder singing over John's boogie-woogie piano is great fun and the funky soul of Finish Line brings together the dream union of Steve Wonder and John.

Stolen Car sees John unite with Stevie Nicks, but unfortunately the Fleetwood Mac singer's voice can't match the quality of the uplifting melody.

The Lockdown Sessions has something for the whole family, but parents and kids might be listening to different halves.

3 stars

This story Elton John's broad taste delivers smorgasbord first appeared on Newcastle Herald.