Revamp & Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin brings a wide collection of artists together to pay tribute to one of the world’s best revered musicians and his equally prolific songwriting partner. Restoration invites country stars across the spectrum to add their own diverse sound to John’s iconic catalogue, with Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Chris Stapleton, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Willie Nelson and many more offering their personal interpretations of some of John’s most famous hits.
“It’s a celebration,” John’s longtime lyricist counterpart Bernie Taupin tells Sounds Like Nashville and other media outlets about the two projects. “We wanted to find ways of celebrating 50 years together and so it’s a kind of nice idea to have other people celebrate us.” The twosome’s influence is far-reaching, as evidenced by the vast array of artists who agreed to participate in the two-part tribute album including Sam Smith, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and Lady Gaga, who are amongst those that put their stamp on the Revamp. But Taupin has always harbored a passion for country music, a genre that was a significant part of his youth and added “color into a very black and white world,” he describes, and later served as an influential source throughout his career.
In that regard, Restoration is almost like a passion project for Taupin, who developed a “wish list” of artists he wanted to participate in the project that resulted in a strong mix of contemporary and legendary stars, challenging them to push the boundaries while interpreting the famous songs. “One of the things that I wanted to do was to try and think a little bit outside of the box on the tracks that we used. I wanted to go a little deeper than the obvious and I think we managed to do that really well,” he explains. “There’s a good cross section of tracks that people are really familiar with and then some that people might not be so familiar with. I think that’s what makes it interesting.”
One of the most compelling performances on the album is Miranda Lambert’s “My Father’s Gun,” with the singer bringing a sense of poignancy to the poetic song, one she was “adamant” about recording as her tribute number. “It’s an extraordinary version. She takes you to another place in time on that song. She really makes you live it,” Taupin admires. Morris also offers a noteworthy performance in the form of the imagery-driven “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” with Taupin praising her rendition for its vintage Memphis sound. He also commends Little Big Town’s “Rocket Man” that he cites as a “high point” of the album and Dierks Bentley’s raw version of “Sad Songs (Say So Much).” At the top of his wish list though was the presence of a bluegrass song, a dream that came to fruition with the help of Rhonda Vincent and Dolly Parton on “Please,” which he calls the “icing on the cake.”
One common thread weaved throughout the album is that the artists who appear are also gifted songwriters, another element that Taupin recognizes as an important factor when adding your own touch to a piece of music created by another artist. “I think the best interpreters of your own songs are other songwriters because they understand the process, so I think that makes for a very good ultimate solution. These people know how to write songs so they know how to interpret other people’s songs,” he relates. “What I’m most proud of is that we did get a such great cross section. When you go from somebody as young and fantastic and talented as Maren Morris and then you have the Mt. Rushmore of country music finishing off the album with Willie Nelson, it doesn’t get any better than that. I can’t say anymore than that it’s a humbling experience we’ve got so much talent on these two records.”
Revamp & Restoration is available now.