Peachtree Road

Elton John

Universal, 2004

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Ladies and Gentlemen: I would like to announce Elton John's return to form.

Elton John's output since 1976's Blue Moves has been spotty. On the one hand, he's churned out great LP's like Too Low For Zero and Made In England. On the other, you have records in the vein of Leather Jackets. Up until 2004, one could never tell what kind of Elton record you were going to here. Fortunately, after the critical success of John's 2001 back to basics effort, Songs From The West Coast, Elton said he had "drawn a line the sand" in terms of the quality of his albums. Peachtree Road shows us that the aforementioned line is still in good shape.

At this point, no one expects Elton John to be the creative force he once was. The days of Madman Across The Water, and Tumbleweed Connection are long gone. The greatest praise I can heap on Peachtree is that it is the closest thing to those masterworks we've heard from Elton in a while. What does that mean? Amongst other things, strong and catchy melodies, passionate vocals, and a "stripped down" sounds of sorts. Unlike some of Elton's work, such as The Big Picture, the sound of Peachtree Road is organic, even simple at times. A good deal of the tracks feature Elton just playing by himself for short periods of time. Helping out in that return to the classic Elton sound is Paul Buckmaster, the man responsible for most of the orchestral interjections on Elton's early albums. This provides a sense of continuity and remembrance with not only my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Songs From The West Coast, but the earlier albums as well.

Given that fact the songs on Peachtree are extremely personal (e.g. "My Elusive Drug"), there was little chance of Elton falling down on the job in terms of performance. This is his strongest vocal and piano work in recent memory. "My Elusive Drug" conjures up memories of "I've Seen That Movie Too." On "I Stop And I Breathe" Elton just belts out line after line with tremendous gusto. The vocals during "Porch Swing in Tupelo," and "Turn the Lights Out When You Leave," have a distinctive country twang to them, reminiscent of "Amoreena" or "Country Comfort."

Worthy of mention is the song "Too Many Tears". It is a brilliant new take on the classic Elton sound. There are the old elements, such as the wonderful harmonies of the backing band, and Madman Across The Water-like arrangements. What is different though, is the unusual piano work Elton displays, and the subtle yet effective synthesizers. One Elton fan decreed this song to be Elton's interpretation of the sound of bands like Radiohead and Coldplay, a description I find quite fitting.

Songs From The West Coast presented listeners with a negative and pessimistic view of life and love. Elton John and Bernie Taupin made a conscious effort for Peachtree Road to be more uplifting, and positive. Lyrically, Peachtree accomplishes its goal. Various songs, such as "Weight Of The World," "Answer In The Sky" and "All That I'm Allowed," paint a picture of a man who is comfortable with where his life is at the moment. Knowing the struggles Elton has gone through (drugs, alcohol, sex), these songs become all the more personal and touching.

Are there any missteps on the album? Yes, however they do not detract much from the overall feel and message of Peachtree Road. "Answer in the Sky," the US single, is a standard Elton single, nothing to write home about. "All That I'm Allowed" is a gorgeous pop song, and I love it a lot, but it just doesn't fit in particularly well with the other tracks. "They Call Her the Cat" is the closest thing to a rocker Peachtree has, featuring some great brass effects from the Chicago horn section. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much for me, and is the least effective song on the album.

This was a special album for me, as it was the first time one of my favorite classic rock artists released a new album after I became a fan. I was able to experience the anticipation, the questioning, the "first listen" Peachtree Road had a lot to measure up to in my eyes, fortunately, it more than surpassed expectations. This is definitely one Road I have enjoyed traveling on.

Rating: B+

User Rating: C+



© 2004 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Universal, and is used for informational purposes only.