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The Union

4.4 out of 5 stars 405 customer reviews

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Vinyl, October 19, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Double vinyl LP pressing. 2010 collaboration between Rock legends Elton John and Leon Russell. Produced by Oscar and multiple-Grammy award winning producer T-Bone Burnett, The Union was recorded live in the studio with Elton and Leon on dueling pianos. The album features a variety of musical genres from R & B, Soul, Gospel, Country, Pop and Rock. The album includes selections written by Elton and his lifelong lyricist Bernie Taupin, as well as the combined incomparable songwriting team encompassing Leon, Elton, Bernie and T Bone.
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Product Details

  • Vinyl (October 19, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Verve
  • ASIN: B0040T787A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (405 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,770 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
As he mentions in the liner notes - and on the 6-minute bonus DVD that accompanies the deluxe edition - "The Union" is Elton John's acknowledgement of Leon Russell's profound influence on his skill set as a pianist and vocal interpreter.

And what an acknowledgement it is. Elton collaborates warmly and enthusiastically with Russell (producer T-Bone Burnett accommodates this well), sharing equal disc space. This is a definite joint effort - one that set outs to recapture both the decades lost between these two irreplaceable musicians and that early 70s sound listeners associate with both of them. Happily, it succeeds.

"Gone to Shiloh," a southern-fried ballad fraught with pain and longing (many of the songs here are - this is a mostly downbeat record), would sound at home, for instance, on Russell's classic-self-titled record and Elton's indestructible "Tumbleweed Connection." Neil Young contributes a verse.

The same goes for "Jimmie Rodgers' Dream," the chugging "Monkey Suit" and "Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes," an elegant, classy tribute to Russell from Elton. To the attentive ear their melodies may suggest preceding work from Elton from the past decade or so - inevitable in a long, prolific career - but the results are so strong that it is a non-issue.

Elton has not sounded this animated since 2001's "Songs from the West Coast." His lively vocals on "Hey Ahab" and assistance on Russell's gospel-fused "Hearts Have Turned to Stone" are evidence enough. The latter is razor-sharp and absolutely harrowing in its commentary on the frigidity of contemporary life.

Russell is indeed in his absolute element. His "If It Wasn't For Bad" is the lead single and opening track, and its haunting, hurts-so-good ruminations on unhappy love are instantly catchy.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
When I pre-ordered this selection, I needed to decide between the CD only or the CD/DVD set. After giving it some thought, factoring-in that Cameron Crowe directed the DVD, and that I hoped it would add to the overall experience, I opted for the set. What a buzz-kill. The DVD is all of 6 minutes (okay...maybe it's 10 minutes) long. That's it! You hit the >>>PLAY button and see/listen to Elton speak about how he loves Leon and Leon was one of his earliest influences and that he's pissed-off that "people" seem to have forgotten Leon, and that while travelling on an African Safari (with David) he contacts Leon and T-Bone and runs the idea past everyone and they're all on- board and they go to the studio, and hug and we see them play together for about 53 seconds and the DVD ends. What the....?

The CD is awesome. Great collection of original songs...most written by Elton and Bernie Taupin with selections/contributions and collaborations with and from Leon and T Bone. The CD booklet is also excellent. Great to read, great photos and great tributes. You can tell the entire project was a labour of love...all the way around. I just wish the DVD was an hour longer...and, with a project of this depth and feeling, it should have been.

P.S. The "Live from The Beacon Theatre" concert was excellent. I did hope that, at minimum, Joe Cocker would have joined-in for a rousing Delta Lady....but, no such luck : (
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Leon's back and it's great to hear some new material. I've been excitedly waiting for the release of this cd for a couple of months and it did not disappoint.

I hear a lot of the old Leon (Delta Lady, Queen of the Roller Derby, Stranger in a Strange Land) and my most favorite Elton album ever (Tumbleweed Connection) in this Union. It brings back great memories. Someone said they should have cut this disc 20 years ago and I agree although, perhaps, it's the collective experience that takes it back to those simpler times and tones and gives this disc everything we are loving about it: simple techniques, great lyrics, and 2 amazing voices.
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Let's get one thing straight. The Union is not a "comeback" album, a "swan song," a last gasp, or a crass commercial exercise. It's not a misguided effort at authenticity, or only 50% good (based on who you're a fan of), or too ballad-heavy, or not piano-driven enough. It is what it is, and what it is, is a joyous collaboration between two giants of popular music, one who faded from the limelight but never lost his inspiration, and one who's been in the limelight almost continuously for 40 years and, likewise, has not lost his inspiration.

How can you not love the premise behind The Union? What a great reason to make an album - to return a musical idol to public attention and appreciation, as well as financial solvency. And true to form, Elton didn't try to dictate how the songwriting or the recording should turn out. He didn't try to make Leon into something he isn't. But dictating a creative outcome also would have been against Elton's natural inclination to defer to the talent of others, to afford colleagues free rein to do what they do best. Were Elton so inclined to be a meddler, though, it would have been a curious exercise given the influence Leon has had on Elton's melodic and pianistic styles. (Reflecting on the halcyon days of 1970-72, one realizes how much of Leon's down-home, funky vocal phrasings Elton adapted to his own creative sensibilities. Elton's singing on "Can I Put You On?," "The Cage," and even "Honky Cat" are tips of the hat to Leon's inspiration.)

This project, then, works so well one is tempted to think that Leon might have written Elton's songs and Elton Leon's songs, although the first track, "If it wasn't for Bad," would have been one of the quirkier efforts Elton has ever pulled off. (Yet he's been known to be quirky.
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