On March 25, 1997, Elton turned 50. That summer, his friends Gianni Versace and Princess Diana both died. Released simultaneously with The Big Picture, Taupin’s Di-inspired, George Martin-produced rewrite of “Candle in the Wind” became the best-selling single of all time. Its unabashedly romantic double A-side included here, “Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” was even bigger on easy listening radio: It’s the musical equivalent of a glisteningly gaudy Thomas Kinkade landscape.
As its title suggests, the album’s meditation on maturing is hugely cinematic, yet it’s also, to quote “Rocket Man,” as cold as hell. Orchestral arranger Anne Dudley did fantastic work with ABC, Seal, and other Trevor Horn-produced acts, but the back-to-back ballads don’t relent until the album’s closer, “Wicked Dreams,” and so her strings-plus-synths combo ultimately gets overwhelming. This is Taupin’s least favorite of his albums with the star. It’s not slight like much of their ’80s output, and Elton sings it far better, but it sure is a slog.