Various Artists

Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin

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Two Rooms is a wildly uneven star-studded tribute to a wildly uneven superstar songwriting team. Though Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote many of the best pop songs of the '70s and '80s, they have written more than their fair share of clunkers as well. Some of them were chosen for this collection. Tina Turner, for example, tackles the ludicrously juvenile "The Bitch Is Back" and somehow manages to make it even worse. Daryl Hall and John Oates don't fare any better with the embarrassingly outdated disco anthem "Philadelphia Freedom." But most of the songs on Two Rooms are drawn from Elton and Bernie's A-list and some of them really illustrate the depth of their songwriting abilities. Sinéad O'Connor finds the tortured soul of the 1989 divorce song "Sacrifice" in a way that the original recording never did. George Michael's radiant tenor lights a fire under "Tonight," another song about a disintegrating relationship. Sting gives the album's most memorable performance, bringing haunted melancholy to the seldom heard "Come Down in Time." Unfortunately, many of the artists are not that sensitive to their chosen songs. Wilson Phillips makes a chipper dentist's office ballad out of the heart-rending elegy "Daniel," while Jon Bon Jovi brings unwanted screech rock bluster to "Levon" and Rod Stewart turns the gentle, charming sap of "Your Song" into noxious, gooey sap. The record succeeds in conveying the enormous influence and productivity of the collaboration between John and Taupin. But it sometimes makes you think they've been just a bit too prolific and that their influence might not always be a good one.

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