Rocket Man: Number Ones

Elton John

Bespectacled, bejeweled and beknighted, Sir Elton John could scrap all of his trademark flamboyance, and no one would kick him off their piano bench. Elton is blessed with the ability to effortlessly pair an emotive melody with just about anything — no doubt including VCR programming instructions and binary code — and his genius gleams more brilliantly than an entire wardrobe of rhinestone suits. Rocket Man: Number Ones is a CD/DVD celebration of Elton’s 60th birthday, and a commemoration of selected musical pinnacles from his illustrious, four-decade career.

A pioneer of piano-driven rock who took over where Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis left off, Elton is showcased in all of his impassioned glory on 12 digitally remastered Number One hits and five additional classics. His ability to imbue songs with depth and conviction is gilded with power chords, boogie-woogie breakdowns, gospel torrents and orchestral flourishes. Whether it’s the poignant elegance of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Daniel,” and “Candle In The Wind,” or the straight-ahead churn of “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” — all of the songs possess a cinematic quality that unfolds with the story-arcing vividness of a big-screen drama.

But it’s the audience’s reactions to the five songs captured on DVD during Elton’s “Red Piano” Vegas show that truly tell the tale of his work’s profound, defining impact — not only upon music collections, but upon hearts and lives. High rollers appear enraptured and transported, with expressions of wide-eyed, childlike wonderment. Tears spill during the tenderly sentimental “Candle In The Wind” and “Your Song,” seemingly welling from a place where Elton has touched upon genuine pain. A woman gently raises her companion’s hand to her lips; another soundlessly mouths a “Wow!” that still resonates like a firecracker.

Topped off with five bonus videos, including the gorgeous “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” “Tinderbox,” and “I Want Love,” lip-synched in a duel of angst and hope by Robert Downey, Jr., this compilation is a great collector’s item, either for veterans who’ve logged many missions with the Rocket Man, or newbies who have just been pulled into his extremely magnetic orbit.

~ Merryl Lentz

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