EJ.com: EJ & Ray Go To Shiloh; Gnomeo & Juliet Clips

Be sure to check outEltonJohn.com. There are some new clips with two being of special interest in my humble opinion.

One is a clip clip of Elton and Ray Cooper performing Gone To Shiloh. The other is the trailer for Gnomeo & Juliet. Gnomeo & Juliet is the long-awaited feature-length animation from Dreamworks.

Check them out!

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Elton & Leon in Tulsa: “I Knew This Would Be A Historic Event”

[ S P O I L E R ]

Words can’t even begin to describe how great this concert was!!!!!!

I’ve seen Elton 12 or 13 times and this ranks as one of his best ever!!! Not that I have ever been to a bad EJ show but this was definitely one to remember. I was lucky enough to see Elton at Dodger Stadium in 1975 and this concert with Leon ranks right there with it. Elton still amazes me, 63 and still pounding the piano like he did when he was 20, he never missed a beat and did numerous solos.Ellton’s vocals were great and the band sounded incredible!!!

And then Leon. I had never seen him before and knowing he was from Tulsa, I knew this would be a historic event, Elton and Leon performing in his hometown. Incredible!!!!

First Leon performed with his band for about a half our, playing all his hits. Then Elton with his band played for an hour or so and then Leon joined Elton to perform probably 3/4ths of The Union CD. Absolutely beautiful to hear them perform live together!!!!!

Complete with four backup singers who did an incredible job. I can only hope and pray there will be a DVD of one of these limited shows they did together!!!!

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“The Union” Ranks Up There With Anything In The Last Two Decades

Long time Elton John fan here.  It’s a given that I will purchase any new Elton John release.  That being said, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say the early 70s were close to unparalleled no matter the artist or the time; the late 70s still saw some classic albums produced; the 80s, well, I have all the albums but I’ll just say I listened to much more U2 in the 80s; the 90s were better and the new millennium even better.  My opinion of “The Union” as it has been distributed is that it ranks up there with anything Elton and team have produced in the last two decades.  Obviously, we should never expect anything again as good as the early 70s.  Young-adult angst is an irreplaceable ingredient.

But, as another poster said, sometimes less is more.  I believe I’ve created a play list that,  to my  taste, results in an “album” that is as good as just about anything I can pull from my ~500 album collection, just by eliminating some of the songs.  I don’t feel bad about this at all since I watched one of the Elton interviews where he said they just made the decision to include all the songs that they recorded in the sessions on the album.  To me that just means they didn’t put any thought into setting a standard for the album and having the songs either make the cut or not.  So, why can’t I, given modern technology?  I give the producers the benefit of the doubt that they put some thought into the ordering of the songs, so I didn’t change that.  I just eliminated the ones that after a few listens I felt more inclined to skip to get to the next song.  I like all of the songs, even the ones I removed from my The Union play list, but 16 songs (1 hour 15 minutes) is too long anyway, in my humble opinion.  My resulting play list is 11 songs and 52 minutes.  That’s two more songs and seven more minutes than Madman Across the Water.

Here it is:

  • If It Wasn’t for Bad
  • Hey Ahab
  • Gone to Shiloh
  • Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream
  • The Best Part of the Day
  • A Dream Come True
  • I Should Have Sent Roses
  • When Love Is Dying
  • Mandalay Again
  • Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody)
  • In the Hands of Angels

We Elton John fans are so fortunate to be able to procure new material from our favorite artist even all these years on, aren’t we?

Rene from Boulder

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A Foreign Review of “The Union”

First of all, it’s absolutely great to see The 22nd Row back! Please, don’t go away again, we all EJ fans miss this piece of info too much!

On to a foreign review of The Union, from Brazil:

This album is still on “pre sale” (for Dec 6) here. So, once again, EJ gets ignored in Brazil. I was lucky enough to get my deluxe edition copy shortly after its release in the U.S. and had a very positive feeling about the whole album. Elton’s voice is in sharp contrast with Leon’s and has remained a lot more in shape after all these years. But it is OK, as someone pointed out, change is good and I can’t ignore this was Elton’s first album to reach Top 5 in over 30 years. And please forgive me fr sinning but Elton’s voice today is MUCH BETTER than its younger “version”.

My first impression of  The Union was “Hmm, Tumbleweed Connection revisited, seasoned with bits and pieces of Peachtree Road.” This overall impression quickly faded, as the album production stood out more and more. The backup singers shine and the dueling pianos are just lovely to hear.

If It Wasn’t For Bad is one of my wife’s favorite tracks and I like it too, but it doesn’t really rank too high with me. Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes makes me think of EJ’s shoes, but that’s not the point of the song.  Hey Ahab could have received more attention and creativity, as it repeats the chorus way too much and the backing singers do exaggerate a little in their “shrieking”.  Gone To Shiloh had me flying to Wikipedia to learn what it was they were singing about (no, U.S. History is not a regular subject here, sorry…).

I won’t bother you with a track-for-track review, but must mention that When Love Is Dying is definitely my favorite track and that it SHOULD be released as a single and to radios all over the world – even if just to mean some money for the EJAF – as it is EJ the baladeer right at home.

My second favorite is Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody). Yes, I DO like EJ’s ballads and easy listening songs.

The tracks I jump over and don’t really like are I Should Have Sent Roses, There’s No Tomorrow and In The Hands of Angels.

Overall, a very good album that “migrated” to my iPhone library (except for the three tracks above) and gets played all the time. I give an 8.5 out of 10, which puts it side-by-side with The Captain & The Kid with earned an 8.

A couple questions for the audience:
  • How did EJ band felt about being “left out” of The Union? Any comments, interviews…?
  • Couldn’t Elton re-release his latest three new material albums reworked by T-Bone Burnett?
  • Will they play tracks from The Union in the “EJ and Band” concerts?
Thanks for your time!

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Another Fan’s Vantage From The 22nd Row…

Welcome Back…..I, (we) missed The 22nd Row and very glad it is back.  Hope all stays well with you.

The Union
Since The Union is the theme here…..I bought The Union about a week ago, haven’t stopped listening to it yet!!  This is another great peace of work by Elton and Company.  How about Neil Young on the Gone to Shiloh track!!!!  I thought that it sounded like him, listened over and over again, then just had to Google it to make sure, and sure enough, Mr. Young did indeed add his voice to this track = AWESOME surprise.  I have to admit, I was not much into Leon Russell, but they definitely sound excellent together.  Sometimes change is a good thing!

Thank You For The Beacon Reviews
Thank you all for your posts on the concert at the Beacon Theatre.  I was able to DVR it and see it in the comfort of my home, however, listening to Elton is never the same at home as it is “live, in person” in a theatre seated for 3000.  I envy the person who wrote that they sat 5 rows back behind Elton.  I was lucky enough to fly to MSG one year, had my hand on the stage, right at Elton’s elbow the whole time, I flew there from Florida by myself, was alone, but it felt like Elton was singing just to me…thank goodness for no flash cameras!!!!

Once again, welcome back to The 22nd Row and I look forward to all the wonderful posts from all us “Eltonites”.

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And Now A Fan’s Mixed Review of The Union

Got the album a few days ago.

I’m more of a pop Elton fan and I absolutely loved The Captain & The Kid so this album appeals to me less, but at the same time it is quite good.  Artistically, it works very well.

I think When Love Is Dying is a total standout. a truly great song. I wish they would release it to radio but I thought the same about It’s Getting Dark In Here from Peachtree Road.

I Should Have Sent Roses is my second favorite and while I can’t say I really like Leon Russell’s voice–If It Wasn’t For Bad and Hearts Have Turned To Stone where he leads more are really quite good.  And Gone To Shiloh, while not a likely commercial breakout,  has an artistic feel to it that is quite connecting.

Songs I’m not a big fan of:
  • Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes –kind of boring and even more so, too show tune sounding; seems off for the album.
  • There’s No Tomorrow–the chorus screeches too much.
  • You’re Never To Old (To Hold Somebody)–it is okay but kind of a boring version of many good Elton ballads and sounds too much like  American Triangle for my taste.
  • In The Hands of Angels— I know it made Elton weep but I’d cry because I would not want it on the album. Just not a very engaging song for me.
More Critical Commentary
  • I like Hey Ahab, but about two-thirds of the way through, it gets pretty repetitive.
  • Monkey Suit could have had better hook. It  is kind of  Just Like Noah’s Ark with less hook and variety.
  • Aside from that, it is an intriguing, inspiring, and artistic album.
One of the great things about mp3’s, you can reorder what you listen to.  Here’s my version of The Union; note that I omitted songs:
  • The Best Part of The Day
  • Hey Ahab
  • If It Wasn’t For Bad
  • Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream
  • A Dream Come True
  • I Should Have Sent Roses
  • Gone To Shiloh
  • Hearts Have Turned To Stone
  • Monkey Suit
  • When Love Is Dying

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Leon Russell Added to More EJ Dates

Now all November concerts with Elton will feature Leon Russell as well.  SeeEltonJohn.com’s concert page for full details.

Don’t miss these amazing, historic shows.

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The Union: Highest Elton John, Leon Russell Chart Debut Since Blue Moves, Carney

The return of The 22nd Row happily coincides with the return of Elton to the charts.  For those who care about this stuff, Elton and Leon will debut at #3 next week on Billboard’s Top Album chart.  The CD sold 80,000 units last week.  Hard to believe but this is the highest chart position for an album of new Elton material since Blue Moves came out in 1976.  Sugarland and Kings Of Leon are #1 and 2 respectively.

The following article is from Billboard.com

Sugarland and Kings of Leon’s sets are two of seven new entries in the top 10 this week. Following them at No. 3 is Elton John and Leon Russell’s collaboration album, The Union (80,000).

For John, it’s the legend’s highest charting set since 1976’s Blue Moves peaked at No. 3. John last reached the top 10 with the greatest hits set Rocket Man: Number Ones in 2007, when it debuted and peaked at No. 9. And, with The Union’s 80,000 start, it marks John’s best sales week since December 2002, when Greatest Hits 1970-2002 shifted 108,000 over Christmas week. (Also impressive: The Union earns him his highest frame for a studio effort since The Big Picture bowed with 101,000 at No. 9 in 1997.) As for Russell, he last went higher with the No. 2 set Carney in 1972, which spent four weeks in the runner-up slot. It’s his highest charting set.

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Beacon Concert: A New Legendary Concert

Beacon Theatre 19Oct2010 ©2010 James J. McKay

Photo by ©2010 James J. McKay

The Union Concert: October 19, 2010, The Beacon Theatre, NYC

I was fortunate enough to be among those who attended Elton John and Leon Russell’s debut concert for The Union.  Clearly, this concert will rank among Elton’s most legendary concerts, including Thanksgiving Day, 1974 at Madison Square Garden; Wembley  Stadium, 1975;  Dodger Stadium, 1975;  Elton and Ray Cooper’s historic Moscow shows, 1979; and Elton’s 60th Birthday Concert in 2007.

I’ve attended several other concerts at The Beacon in recent years—both before and after its recent restoration. The Beacon is a beautiful theatre and, being in NYC, it is a very exciting setting. My only disappointment with The Beacon—and more than a few of my local NYC friends agree—is that the acoustics are still not up to par. (Check the superior sound some time at its sister venue in Chicago, the Chicago Theatre.)

The concert was broadcast live on Madison Square Garden’s Fuse 1 cable channel and so the show started very promptly at 8:00 p.m.

Elton came out on stage looking very excited, recapping much of the story that we have already know from the album notes about how The Union came to be. It truly set the stage for the historic performance we were about to witness. The audience was filled with excitement and applause.

After Elton’s introduction, Leon Russell was then escorted to his piano on stage left/house right. He proceeded to play some of his best-known hits. I have to confess; I don’t know all of his material. I will leave it to a Leon Russell expert to correct me, but his solo set (with the band, but no Elton) included:

  • A couple of instrumentals
  • Tight Rope
  • Prince of Peace
  • A Song For You
  • Delta Lady
  • Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms
  • Stranger In A Strange Land

At this point, Elton came on stage. Elton and Leon performed the entire 14-track version of The Union in order with pretty much the same session musicians that played on the album.

Save for Elton taking Neil Young’s vocal parts on Gone to Shiloh, the performances were almost identical to the album—but live! A celebratory mood pervaded the whole house with everyone buzzed to be hearing Elton and Leon playing this new classic album on the same day it was officially released. The one big difference from the album was most evident in its most rocking and up-tempo tracks. Hey Ahab, Monkey Suit, A Dream Come True and Hearts Have Turned to Stone all took on this extra level of excitement and energy that you only get when there’s about 3,500 fans dancing in their seats and the bass is turned up to the max. Maybe we don’t need yet another live version of Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me or Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, but we NEED live versions of those four tracks.

  • If It Wasn’t For Bad
  • Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes
  • Hey Ahab
  • Gone To Shilo
  • Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream
  • There’s No Tomorrow
  • Monkey Suit
  • The Best Part Of The Day
  • A Dream Come True
  • When Love Is Dying
  • I Should Have Sent Roses
  • Hearts Have Turned To Stone
  • Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody)
  • The Hands Of Angels
  • Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody)
  • In The Hands Of Angels

I don’t know what more an Elton John fan can say about hearing his best album in 35 years played live on the day of its release. It was simply heaven, as if we were in the hands of angels.

Elton thanked the audience for listening through 14 new tracks—but really, it was our pleasure and privilege of a lifetime.

But wait! There was more!

Elton continued to his solo set. Through the years, we’ve heard some of these before, but it was interesting and enlivening to hear them performed with a different band complete with horns and gospel choir –style vocals. Of course, part of me also missed our special friends Davey, Nigel, Bob and others, but this was a very special experience offering new interpretations and nuances on some of the classic tracks we have heard so many times before.

  • Burn Down The Mission
  • Levon
  • Tiny Dancer
  • Ballad of a Well-Known Gun
  • I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
  • Your Song
  • Take Me to the Pilot
  • Sad Songs (Say So Much)
  • The Bitch Is Back

Burn Down The Mission sounded amazing especially with the horns section and gospel-style back-up vocals. Ditto for Levon and Tiny Dancer.

I don’t think I have ever heard Elton perform Ballad of A Well-Known Gun live. It was a stupendous, energetic performance that gave me chills. One caveat:  Marc Ribot’s frenzied, rocking opening guitar riffs were technically impressive, but they seemed mismatched to the ”Old West” spirit of the song, at least from my seat at the back of the theatre. The intro would have been better matched to Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting).

I can’t say enough how great the band was—and neither could Elton. Because of this different band, Elton’s solo songs were tinged a bit more with a gospel and bar band sound. Between the Speaking Clock Review (T-Bone Burnett’s charity shows) and the Elton and Leon show, Elton pointed out that they had just a couple of days to learn and rehearse about 60 songs.  You would never know it. They were amazing!

We’ve heard Take Me To The Pilot, Sad Songs and others live before, but with this new band they took on a new sound and refreshing energy. Even The Bitch Is Back came off a bit as a Leon Russell saloon-style rocker.

After Elton’s set and the audience pleas for an encore, Elton walked Leon back on stage for much deserved accolades. Slightly sheepish, Elton said that they had not rehearsed an encore so they were going to reprise Hey Ahab. We could have been happier because Hey Ahab took on a whole extra dimension and energy live. We were glad to hear it again. The groove of Hey Ahab was fixed in our brain all the way home.

The show ended just before 11:00 pm.

Many of the most dedicated of the fans at Tuesday night’s Beacon Theatre show returned six hours later at 5:00 am for Elton and Leon’s performance on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. I was not able to attend this but did watch on TV.  Their performances included If It Wasn’t For Bad, Hearts Have Turned to Stone, Hey Ahab, and Tiny Dancer. Elton, Leon and the audience were wonderfully patient to provide applause and enthusiasm at the commercial breaks spaced throughout the first 90 minutes of the show. The band sounded great; Elton and Leon were in great humor, although both of their voices sounded a touch hoarse to the wonderful performance from the night before. The TV appearance was a “bit of the tail of the dog who wonderfully bit you the night before.”

Everyone who attended knew that they were blessed to be a part of a legendary evening in the making.

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The Union Buyers Guide: Four Versions & Counting

So far, it appears that there are four formats of The Union.

The following is a rundown with the lowest prices I have seen so far.

Standard 14-track U.S. CD in Jewel Case
Prices starting at $9.99 and up

1.     If It Wasn’t For Bad
2.     Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes
3.     Hey Ahab
4.     Gone To Shilo
5.     Jimmie Rodgers’ 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

Standard 14-track U.S. CD in Digipak
Available at Starbucks, same track listing as jewel case version
Price $14.99

Deluxe CD plus six-minute “Making of” DVD by Cameron Crowe
Pricing starting at $16.99 and up

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

Two Disc Vinyl LP Set
Prices starting at $29.99 and up

Side 1
1.     If It Wasn’t for Bad
2.     Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes
3.     Hey Ahab
4.     Gone to Shiloh

Side 2
1.     Hearts Have Turned to Stone
2.     Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream
3.     There’s No Tomorrow
4.     Monkey Suit

Side 3

1.     The Best Part of the Day
2.     A Dream Come True
3.     I Should Have Sent Roses
4.     When Love is Dying

Side 4
1.     My Kind of Hell
2.     Mandalay Again
3.     Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody)
4.     In the Hands of Angels

I’ve not yet seen the UK and European version.  I recommend the Deluxe CD + DVD.  The two “bonus tracks” are truly first rate and of the same high quality as the rest of the album.  Some bookstore outlets like Borders and Barnes & Noble have prices approaching $25 for the “deluxe” version, but using coupons, you can get the price down to about $15.

Thank you in advance for offering your own hints on pricing for these discs and, of course, making us aware of other versions out there.

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