Sleeping With The Past

Elton John

MCA, 1989

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


In 1989, Elton decided it was time to pay tribute to the sound he grew up with, the 50s and 60s rock that fueled so much good music of the 70s. But Elton doesn't pay tribute in a Billy Joel An Innocent Man way -- to me, it sounds like just another Elton album, albeit one of his better 80s releases.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Belive it or not, Elton's first number #1 UK single appears on this album, the pretty "Sacrifice." A gentle, flowing ballad with a effective vocal, it's not his strongest work but catchy enough to have been a hit. "Whispers" is a stronger track, establishing a clearer mood and containing a more natural performance.

After the musical extravaganza that was Reg Strikes Back, it was nice to see Elton get back down to basics with Sleeping With The Past. This record sounds much less 80s than its predecessor; a real piano even appears on "I Never Knew Her Name." Portions of the album actually come off as rather sparse; "Stone's Throw From Hurtin'" is driven by strong bass work and blues guitar, as opposed to Elton's keyboards.

He does get around to having some fun, though. "Club At The End Of The Street" captures that "Crocodile Rock" vibe, essaying the 50s spirit. The title track must have caught Elton in a good mood; the cheerful, upbeat vocals match the R&B nature of the music. There's even a touch of the falsetto to be heard, something that from this point on gets rare in John's catalog.

Elton's new pipes serve him well on Sleeping With The Past, and especially the blues/gospel/r&b numbers benefit greatly. "Amazes Me" reminded me of Ray Charles, with the scattering of gospel vocals thrown in. The pulsating "Durban Deep" sets a groove that doesn't let up, as does "Healing Hands." The latter has a knockout chorus that is not necessarily melodic but very powerful.

I'm not sure who Elton was trying to imitate here, but Sleeping With The Past is impressive and one of Elton's best "straight" albums. It's worth checking out.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



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