First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12
Written by John Metzger
Although he gradually drifted towards crafting formulaic, nondescript pop, the songs from the early portion of Elton Johnís career frequently were embalmed with a myriad of Americana- and Southern-tinged embellishments. In the wake of his move to Atlanta more than a decade ago, it was, perhaps, inevitable ó or at least hoped ó that he would return one day to the gospel, soul, and country flourishes that graced his self-titled sophomore effort as well as its equally astounding follow-ups Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water. With the release of the critically heralded 2001 set Songs from the West Coast, John began reconnecting with the finer aspects of his lifeís work, and the resurrection of his past continues on his latest endeavor Peachtree Road. Indeed, there are bits of Madman-style orchestrations that envelop Porch Swing in Tupelo; smatterings of Tumbleweedís western flair that encircle Turn the Lights out When You Leave (a touching ode to his long-time friend, the late producer Gus Dudgeon); and blasts of Philadelphia Freedom-style, disco-heavy strings that flash through Answer in the Sky. Yet, the overriding ambience of Peachtree Road is one which firmly entrenches Johnís standard fare within the Southern-bred textures of his new surroundings. Drenched in horns, They Call Her the Cat is an update of Little Richardís swinging R&B; Freaks in Love delves into Al Green-inspired soul; and Weight of the World is colored with a chorus of uplifting vocals and subtle shades of dobro. However, where Songs from the West Coast was stuffed full of well-crafted gems, Peachtree Road scatters only a handful of nuggets amidst a blur of tepid torch songs and confessionals. True, the near perfection of the arrangements helps to lift a sizeable portion of the collectionís contents far above the most egregious missteps from Johnís otherwise remarkable canon, lending to them an organic elegance that keeps the tunes from drifting into the Disney-fied regimen that, for far too long, had been his stock-in-trade. Yet, for all of his wistful reflection, much of the album falters by either recycling his prior hits or becoming mired within the meandering moments of the present, and while Peachtree Road is certainly a must for Johnís biggest fans, itís not likely to excite more casual observers.
Peachtree Road is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box