Elton John – Peachtree Road

On his stunning new album Peachtree Road (Rocket Records/Universal), veteran singer/songwriter Elton John does some serious soul-searching and he does it Southern style. In an almost genius act, the fashionable singer mixes a little bit of that Ray Charles “Georgia On My Mind” soul with his own shiny pop.

It’s a winning combination – to say the least. John never abandons his signature piano playing style. He just puts the slightest spin on it, making room for a shimmering vocal choir and a few well-placed guitar solos. It has been said that the “south will rise again”. This may not, thankfully, be what the good old boys of the Confederacy had in mind, but under the tutelage of Britain’s most flamboyant son – it may at least get up and dance for awhile.

Nearing his fourth decade of making music (his first album was released in 1969), Elton John, like other seminal rockers, seems to be interested in looking back over his life and career and taking stock of things. Peachtree Road’s first track “The Weight of the World” shows the singer to be at peace with himself. It’s a stripped down song that has a plain and simple message. “I’ve got the weight of the world off my back” sings John and you can sense his new-found energy and calm.

One of Elton John’s strengths as recording artist has always been his ability to write rock and roll songs as well as ballads without falling into Barry Manilow territory. There are some great love songs here. “Freaks In Love” finds the Rocket Man making full use of his choir as they hum along to the chorus of “Happy is the union of freaks and fools alike”.

A weeping guitar solo nicely caps off the song. “I Can’t Keep This From You” would have fit nicely on any of Elton John’s hit records from the 1970s. On this one, the vocals are plaintive, the guitar practically pleads and the drummer, playing just behind the beat, keeps it all swaying together.

“Porch Swing in Tupelo” is arguably the album’s best song. Elton John and his long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin are lyrically and musically at their best on this one. It’s an ode to the South, but not in a hee-haw “Free Bird” sort of way. It celebrates the peace and slowed down pace of life that John obviously became completely infatuated with.

As he sings about swaying on a porch swing in Tupelo and celebrates the land “from the Alabama cotton fields to a state of grace” you wonder why someone from one of the tourism boards down yonder doesn’t snap up the entire album for use in an ad campaign.

If you want to experience that classic Elton John style with just a hint of mint julep, than Peachtree Road is the album for you. Fans of the singer/songwriter will be happy to see that any talk of the musician’s retirement is obviously just that – talk. He’s still writing and playing at the top of his game and shows no signs of stopping.

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