Elton John/Leon Russell: The Union

Elton John deserves a hit. Reportedly, he was irked that his most excellent Captain & The Kid (2006) stiffed after seeing one of his best friends/competitors Rod Stewart sell millions with his tepid and almost unlistenable standards collections. Maybe justice will prevail now as Elton has teamed up with his musical hero Leon Russell on an album produced by T-Bone Burnett, whose magic touch has worked wonders for Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, Tony Bennett/k.d. lang, Los Lobos and Counting Crows.

The gospel-tinged tracks feature a 10-voice choir, Neil Young and Brian Wilson but it’s the two pianos and two voices of Elton and Leon that playfully recall not only John’s 1970 Tumbleweed Connection classic but Russell’s soul/country/rock with Joe Cocker in 1969. Most tracks feature a piano in each speaker complementing each other with plucky resolve and whorehouse urgency. “A Dream Come True,” for instance, could have come right off of Elton’s 1973 Honky Chateau.

Elton sounds better than he has in years, Leon a little less so, his signature drawl still intact, just not so pronounced. Ever the master melodist, Elton imbues these songs with an instant memorability, especially “The Best Part Of The Day” where he honestly gushes, “you’re my best friend/you share my crazy ways.”

This is the sound of two masters driving each other upwards on songs of regret and universal longing. There’s also, in between the lines, an appreciation of time that only age can truly divine.

What took them so long?

In A Word: Finally