Various Artists

Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin

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One of two albums released as a celebration of the 50+ years of collaboration between Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin is the brainchild of the lyricist, who wanted to pay tribute to the Americana that's informed his imagery ever since the beginning of his career. Taupin designed the artwork and recruited artists, leaning heavily on newer artists who are on the vanguard of the mainstream, but also finding plenty of space for veterans who have been around for as long as Elton, if not longer. There's a divide in aesthetics between the younger and older artists -- the former embrace the freedom of reinterpretation, the latter settle into their roots -- but they're largely complementary, revealing how enduring and malleable the John/Taupin catalog is. Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves grab attention with their blissed-out, soulful readings of "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" and "Roy Rogers," but Brothers Osborne's funky "Take Me to the Pilot" and Miranda Lambert's mournful "My Father's Gun" are equally bracing. Dierks Bentley finds a sly Stonesy rhythm lurking in "Sad Songs (Say So Much), while Lee Ann Womack turns "Honky Cat" into a simmering soul workout and Little Big Town gives "Rocket Man" an arrangement worthy of Pentatonix. If Miley Cyrus leans too hard on Shania Twain-isms for "The Bitch Is Back," she's overshadowed by delicate work form Willie Nelson, Don Henley & Vince Gill, Rosanne Cash & Emmylou Harris, and Rhonda Vincent & Dolly Parton, who all show that hushed voices can be more compelling than bluster. But that also just points out how lean and sharp Restoration is: The artists take risks, and they -- and the songbook -- come out sounding the better for it.

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