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Elton John / Leon Russell - The Union  (2010)

Un grande album, realizzato insieme a Leon Russell, suo idolo degli inizi, prodotto magnificamente da T Bone Burnet con il suo team di musicisti.   Questo disco la dimostrazione della via che deve seguire Elton, non per niente lo ha riportato nella Top 3 di Billboard trentaquattro anni dopo Blue Moves.   Un disco tipicamente "americano", infatti negli altri paesi non ha avuto un grosso riscontro di vendite anche se le criche sono state ovunque molto positive.  Il regista Cameron Crowne ha realizzato un film documentario sulla realizzazione dell'album, che stato presentato in anteprima al Tribeca Film Festival 2011 di New York.

elton john - the union

 principali edizioni su vinile

2010 USA DECCA 80014179 -08 gatefold
2010 UK MERCURY 2750575 gatefold

1. If It Wasn’t for Bad
2. Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes
3. Hey Ahab
4. Gone to Shiloh
5. Jimmie Rodger’s Dream
6. There’s No Tomorrow
7. Monkey Suit
8. The Best Part Of The Day
9. A Dream Come True
10. When Love is Dying
11. I Should Have Sent Roses
12. Hearts Have Turned To Stone
13. Never Too Old (to Hold Somebody)
14. The Hands of Angels

Mandalay Again
16. My Kind Of Hell  


note sul disco

In 2008 I was on the first episode of Spectacle, a music program with Elvis Costello that I produce with my partner David Furnish. I talked about three singer/songwriters that I thought had been forgotten; Leon Russell was one of them. The other two were Laura Nyro and David Ackles, who have both passed away. During that show I made up a kind of Leon Russell song at the end and thought no more about it. David, because he didn’t know about Leon Russell’s music or Laura Nyro or David Ackles, bought their CDs and put them on his iPod. Fast forward to January 2009 in South Africa on safari: David and I are getting ready for lunch, he’s playing his iPod, and he’s playing Leon Russell’s “Retrospective” and I’m sitting there listening to it and suddenly I burst into tears and I start sobbing uncontrollably. David said, ‘What the hell is the matter?’ and I said, ‘His music takes me back to one of the most beautiful and fantastic times of my life. It’s not fair that people have forgotten about how wonderful this man’s music was and that makes me angry.’
Leon Russell was my biggest influence in the late 60s and early 70s, from a piano-playing point-of-view and from a vocal point-of-view. I’ve been influenced by a lot of other piano players too, but Leon was my man; he was the master as far as I was concerned. And I got to meet him. He was in the Troubadour club on the second night I played there in 1970. I saw him sitting in the audience and I was petrified because he was my idol. You couldn’t miss him; he was such an incredible looking man with his silver hair and his dark glasses. He was so kind to me from the word ‘go’ and we did concerts together. We did the Fillmore East. We did other dates together and for me that was a dream come true to actually play with him, and for him to be so nice to me.
We were two people happening at the same time, being successful at the same time. He was the greatest bandleader of his era. He did Delaney & Bonnie and Joe Cocker with Mad Dogs and Englishmen and then his own records and then, of course, the Concert for Bangladesh, which was one of the best live concerts ever and probably the first charity record ever made from a charity concert.
Anyway, then I lost touch with Leon and our paths kind of went different ways. And until I did the Spectacle program, I never really thought about getting in touch with him even though I listened to his records constantly throughout the years that we’d been apart... I think 37 years. I phoned Johnny Barbis who is my U.S. manager and who has been working with me for about 30 years. He used to work with Leon Russell in the days of Shelter Records. I told him the story and I said, ‘You know, I’ve got to talk to Leon.’ So, he got a number for me for Leon, who was living in Columbia outside of Nashville in Tennessee. And I phoned Leon up and he was very sweet. He said, ‘Thank you for the Elvis Costello show, bless your heart,’ and I said, ‘What have you been doing?’ and he said, ‘I’ve just been writing, riding in my bus, playing shows, doing this and that, making my records and selling them on the Internet.’ I said, ‘When I come to America, I’d love to see you and catch up and have dinner,’ and he said, ‘Well, I’d like that too.’ So, I put the phone down and I said to David, ‘You know, that’s not the reason I called him.’ So I phoned Johnny Barbis back and I said, ‘Johnny, can you get me a number for T Bone Burnett?’
Now, T Bone Burnett is one of my favorite producers, but I’d never spoken to him. I called him and I told him the story, like I’m telling you now, about how I broke down and how he was my idol and I said, ‘Would you ever consider making a record with the two of us?’ And he said, ‘Well having heard that story, I’d love to.’ So that kind of got the ball rolling and then I phoned Leon back and I said, ‘Would you like to do a record?’ and he said, ‘Well do you think I can?’ and I said, ‘Of course you can.’ I said T Bone would do it and Leon said, ‘Let’s do it!’ So he was very excited and I was very excited.
He came to Las Vegas while I was finishing up the Red Piano show and we met and we talked and it was great to see him. And then Bernie Taupin and Johnny Barbis went to Austin to see him. And suddenly the seeds were being planted to make this record. We were originally going to make the record in January 2010 and start writing then as well, but in October of last year, Billy Joel got sick and canceled the northwestern part of the American tour, so I thought, I’m going to go to Los Angeles and go into the studio with T Bone, Bernie and Leon and start seeing if we could write some songs. Bernie had some lyrics ready and we came into the studio – The Village Recorder in Los Angeles – and we sat in the control room talking about music, and it wasn’t until T Bone played a video of Mahalia Jackson singing “Didn’t It Rain” at the Newport Jazz Festival that the ice was broken. Leon and I have a deep love of gospel music. I went out to the piano and started writing a song called “A Dream Come True,” and then Leon came and started playing with me and then the two pianos sounded so great, so we knew that would work. And then we sang together and all of a sudden, the ice really was broken. Not that it was ice in a bad way, but it was awkwardness. And suddenly the album was definitely on and it was just gung-ho from that point on.
During those four days, ten songs were written. Leon had already written one song with Bernie called “I Should Have Sent Roses.” Leon and I wrote a couple of songs together, so in that period of time we had ten songs written before we convened in January of 2010.
We came to Los Angeles to record but Leon had to have a major operation a week before we made the record; the operation lasted 51⁄2 hours and was very debilitating for him. He came into the studio a week later and would stay for two or three hours playing his part, singing his part, maybe writing a song here and there. And a week later, he was doing the Grammys with Zac Brown and we were doing the MusiCares concert for Neil Young and gradually people came into the studio and found out that Leon was in town. Ringo, Sharon Stone, Stevie Nicks, Grace Jones and LeAnn Rimes came by the studio. Brian Wilson came and sang on the record because Leon had played on a lot of The Beach Boys records. All of a sudden, this man who was very frail, because of his illness, and who had been forgotten about, suddenly got his confidence again and started to play the grand piano instead of the electric piano, and all his great piano playing came flooding back and we made this incredible record. When I say incredible, it’s incredible because the music I think is pretty fantastic, but more so, it’s the most poignant journey of someone who had been lost in the consciousness of American music and who is going to come back now into the forefront of American music; someone who was a giant, who had written so many beautiful songs, was a great composer, a great arranger and had played on so many people’s records, including all the Phil Spector records.
You know, his CV (curriculum vitae) is amazing and I’m here making a record with my idol and, to be honest with you, what happened was it brought someone back to life. It gave him the confidence and love from his people who were his peers (for instance, Jim Keltner, who played drums on the record used to be in Leon’s band). So, with the quality of musicians he was playing with on this record, he finally got the confidence and the love that he should have had for a long time. And I can honestly say, of all the records I’ve made – and I’ve made so many records with so many wonderful memories – this one stands out because not only was I making a record with my idol, I was also working with T Bone Burnett, who is also an idol of mine and my dear partner Bernie’s. And what ensued was probably one of the most personal and wonderful stories that you’re ever going to hear in music: someone coming back from not the dead, but more or less the dead, to become someone who is claiming his rightful place in American music, and I’m so proud of him for doing that. I just got to know and love this man so much and this album is the result of what went on.
And in March 2010, I’m sitting in the same room on safari, 12-to-14 months later, and I have the album recorded and it’s one of these things that was meant to be. From Spectacle and David playing his iPod, to me having the courage to go ask for his phone number and phoning Leon up, then T Bone, then Billy canceling; all these things lined up with the stars to make this record. I’m so proud of it, but most of all, I’m proud of Leon for coming back and proving to us all what a wonderful and incredible artist he is.

Stati Uniti:   3 posto
Inghilterra:   12 posto

anno/label 2010 - Decca (USA)/Mercury
produzione T Bone Burnett
arrangiamenti orchestrali
musicisti Jay Bellerose: batteria; Russ Paul: chitarra pedal steel; Robert Randolph: chitarra pedal steel; Marc Ribot: chitarre; T Bone Burnett: chitarra; Keefus Ciancia: tastiere; Mike Compton: mandolino; Dennis Crouch: basso; Booker T. Jones – B3; Joe Sublett: sassofono; Tom Peterson: sassofono; Jim (GasPipe) Thompson: sassofono; Ira Nepus - Trombone; George Bohanon – Trombone, corno; William Roper – Tuba; Maurice Spears - Trombone; Darrell Leonard: tromba; Bill Cantos, Alfie Silas Durio, Judith Hill, Louis Pardini, Jason Scheff, Tata Vega: cori: Leon Russell: piano; Elton: piano
note Il ritorno del "vero" Elton, in questo album anomalo realizzato in coppia con il suo idolo Leon Russell e prodotto magnificamente da T Bone Burnett, un grande album dai suoni classici.