Two Rooms: Celebrating The Music Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/24/2005
There are certain songs out there that one cannot imagine being done by another artist. "Stairway To Heaven" belongs to Led Zeppelin, "Time" is Pink Floyd's, and so on. So here I am, a huge Elton John fan, listening to an entire album of his songs being performed by 16 different artists. Talk about a mind trip.
How much you really enjoy Two Rooms depends on how much the original songs mean to you. For the most part, the renditions are faithful; however, some bands go out on a limb and try something different. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of a few groups, this album is rather hit and miss.
Things get off to a promising start with Eric Clatpton's take on "Border Song." This is the one track I think actually outdoes the original. The whole affair has a bluesy edge that is total Clapton, with a suitably kickass solo to boot. But then things take a dive with Kate Bush's performance of "Rocket Man." Her warbling quickly grates on the nerves, and the reggae beat isn't exactly endearing. "Come Down In Time," with Sting on vocals, is another great pairing. I am not a fan of Sting, but his tortured vocals mesh perfectly with the track.
The next two songs fit perfectly for the bands that cover them; "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" for The Who, and "Crocodile Rock" for The Beach Boys. The former is not as frenetic as Elton's, but it's got that Who sound. To be honest, I got a real kick out of hearing Daltrey belting out the lyrics. The Beach Boys in turn pump out a harmony filled, warm version of "Crocodile Rock." Brian Wilson isn't involved, but it still sounds good.
Then things get a little spotty. A good deal of the remaining songs sound like they were recorded in the early 90's; drum triggers and electronic keyboards are all over the place. Wilson Phillips turns out some good harmonies on "Daniel," but it just sounds fake. "Levon" has always been one of Elton's more unsung hits, but here it is not done justice via the arena rock cover from Bon Jovi. Hall and Oates also are too sedated on "Philadelphia Freedom:" they must have gotten tired from singing so lackadaisically.
"Burn Down The Mission" gets the Phil Collins treatment, who sucks out any soul the song had. In contrast, "Madman Across The Water" highlights Bruce Hornsby's keyboard skills, but his vocals do not work with the lyrics. A tad bit of derangement would have done him some good.
Some of these covers make me cringe and really appreciate the quality of the originals. Others present an alternative to well-known and possibly overplayed classics, getting us a: