The Union

The Union

by Elton John, Leon RussellElton John


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On the inaugural episode of Elvis Costello's talk show Spectacle in 2008, Elton John -- who just happened to be a producer on the show -- rhapsodized at length about Leon Russell, hauling out a note-perfect impression of Russell's piano style and Oklahoma drawl. It was enough of a tease to whet the appetite for more but nothing suggested something like The Union, a full-fledged duet album with Russell designed to raise the profile of the rock & roll maverick. Like all lifers, Russell never disappeared -- he just faded, playing small clubs throughout the U.S., spitting out bewildering self-released albums of MIDI-synth boogie, never quite connecting with the spirit of his wonderful early-'70s albums for his Shelter label. The Union quite deliberately evokes the spirit of 1970, splicing Russell's terrific eponymous LP with Elton's own self-titled record and Tumbleweed Connection. In that sense, it's a kissing cousin to John's last album, 2006's The Captain and the Kid, which was designed as an explicit sequel to 1975's golden era-capping Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, but thanks to producer T-Bone Burnett, The Union dials down Bernie Taupin's inherent pomp and ratchets up the roots. Burnett had John and Russell record live in the studio, trading verses and solos, letting the supporting band breathe and follow their loping lead. This relaxed, natural interplay cuts through the soft haze of Burnett's analog impressionism, giving the record a foundation of true grit. If there are no immediate knockouts among this collection of 14 original songs, the tunes are slow, steady growers, taking root with repeated spins, with the sound of John and Russell's piano-and-voice duets providing ample reason to return to The Union after its first play. And even once the songs take hold, what lingers with The Union is that natural interplay, how John and Russell easily connect with their past without painstakingly re-creating it. Surely, it's a revival for Leon Russell, who has spent decades in the wilderness, but it's not a stretch to say The Union revitalizes Elton John just as much as it does his idol: he hasn't sounded this soulful in years.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/19/2010
Label: Decca U.S.
UPC: 0602527504735
catalogNumber: 001484002
Rank: 33434

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Elton John   Primary Artist,Piano,Vocals
Leon Russell   Primary Artist,Piano,Vocals
Brian Wilson   Background Vocals
Neil Young   Vocals
Marc Ribot   Guitar
Tata Vega   Vocals,Background Vocals
Jim Keltner   Percussion,Drums
T Bone Burnett   Electric Guitar
Bill Cantos   Vocals,Background Vocals
Dennis Crouch   Acoustic Bass
Debra Dobkin   gourd
Davey Faragher   Bass
Marty Grebb   Hammond B3
Booker T. Jones   Hammond B3
Darrell Leonard   Trumpet,Conductor,Bass Trumpet
Bill Maxwell   Conductor
Perry Morgan   Background Vocals
Ira Nepus   Trombone
Russ Pahl   Pedal Steel Guitar
Lou Pardini   Vocals,Background Vocals
William Roper   Tuba
Jason Scheff   Vocals,Background Vocals
Maurice Spears   Trombone
Rose Stone   Tambourine,Vocals,Background Vocals
Joe Sublett   Saxophone
Don Was   Bass
Jay Bellerose   Percussion,Drums
Doyle Bramhall   Guitar
Mike Piersante   Tambourine,Hand Clapping
Jim Thompson   Saxophone
Tiffany Smith   Background Vocals
Robert Randolph   Pedal Steel Guitar
George Bohanon   Trombone,Baritone Horn
Jason Wormer   Dulcimer,Hand Clapping
Tanya Balam   Background Vocals
Kyle Ford   Hand Clapping
Thomas Peterson   Saxophone
Judith Hill   Vocals,Background Vocals
Alfie Silas-Durio   Vocals,Background Vocals
Keefus Ciancia   Keyboards
Keefus Pardini   Background Vocals
Jean Witherspoon   Vocals,Background Vocals
Drew Lambert   Electric Bass
Kellye Huff   Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Elton John   Composer,Executive Producer
Leon Russell   Composer,Vocal Arrangements
Brian Wilson   Vocal Arrangements
T Bone Burnett   Composer,Producer
Mark Lambert   Engineer
Darrell Leonard   Horn Arrangements
Bill Maxwell   Vocal Arrangements
Bernie Taupin   Composer
Mike Piersante   Engineer
Johnny Barbis   Executive Producer
Paul Ackling   Guitar Techician
Jason Wormer   Engineer
Kyle Ford   Engineer
Ben McAmis   Engineer
James Timothy Shaw   Composer

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