Elton John, Sleeping with the Past

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 09.24.12 in Reviews

Sleeping With The Past

Elton John
Rooted in his record collection

As suggested by its title, Elton’s final album of the ’80s — his last before rehab — is rooted in his record collection: He and Bernie Taupin set out to create an album based on the sounds and sensibility of ’60s R&B. But ’89′s Sleeping with the Past is also very much defined by ’80s technology: Its primary instrument is the Fairlight CMI, a hugely expensive digital sampler favored by the Art of Noise, Peter Gabriel and other high-end dance acts and art-rockers of the era. Elton employs it ingeniously in “Durban Deep” to evoke the same dub reggae severity favored by the Clash; the result sounds far more like Sandinista! than anything by Lee “Scratch” Perry — and that’s OK, but it grates over the album’s course, ultimately chilling much of the songwriting’s warmth. The deceptively civilized hit, “Sacrifice,” nevertheless remains one of Elton’s most enduring post-’70s ballads.