Album: Elton John

Peachtree Road, MERCURY
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The Independent Culture

On Peachtree Road, Elton John continues a return to the core values of his craft that began with 2001's Songs from the West Coast. Like that album, it draws mainly on the rootsy influences from the American South previously mined on albums such as Tumbleweed Connection, emphasising the trans- atlantic qualities of both his voice and his lyricist Bernie Taupin's concerns.

This is most immediately obvious in a song such as "Porch Swing in Tupelo", which uses wistful dobro licks and references to "Alabama cottonfields" in its tribute to the unchanging Deep South heritage, with specific attention given to "that truck-drivin' boy" who managed to change the world but still couldn't change the South. It's a decent song, albeit stained with the gushing sentimentality that swamps the album's later stages.

Better still is "Turn the Lights Out When You Leave", a classic country-style separation song whose fatalistic mood is skillfully echoed in the sense of inevitability with which the lyric unfolds. This type of song relies upon fulfilling expectations with as few distractions as possible, an imperative John and Taupin acknowledge with such grace that the piece is bound to become a bar-room standard. Such attention to detail is reflected elsewhere in things such as the rock'n'roll pastiche "They Call Her the Cat", a limber slice of "Crocodile Rock"-ery on which Elton's rolling, Leon Russell-ish piano coda applies an appropriate conclusion.

Also as with his last album, there are a few mea culpa glances back at Elton's louche past, the best of which is the opener, "Weight of the World", whose elegiac tone is reflected by more nice dobro touches and lines such as "Fortune and fame are so fleeting these days/ I'm happy to say I'm amazed that I'm still around". Less elegant is "My Elusive Drug", in which he doesn't quite apologise for having been "loose as a cannon/ and dumb as a wall". The sombre "It's Getting Dark in Here", meanwhile, too closely echoes the valedictory spirit and anthemic wistfulness of Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" without exerting a comparable emotional kick.

Far worse, however, is the single "All That I'm Allowed", a lumbering chunk of mid-Atlantic AOR that signals the album's slide into the tired indulgences that eroded Elton's impact in the first place: tracks such as the flatulent 1980s-style stadium rock bombast of "I Can't Keep This From You", and the clotted sentimentality and mangled clichés of "I Stop and I Breathe". Sadly, by the time one reaches "Too Many Tears", the good intentions and articulate manner in which the album opens have been squandered completely, as it asks us to "dry our eyes" while desperately squeezing our tear ducts for every last drop of sympathy.