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  • Writer's pictureSteven Pluto

Under The Radar: Elton John, Sleeping with the Past (1989)

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

With Elton John's Farewell Yellow Brick Road retirement tour on its way, I decided to revisit his impressive discography.

There is no doubt that the records he and long-time writing partner Bernie Taupin created between 1970 to 1975 provided the bulk of his most famous tunes, they established Elton John as a pop icon.

The 80’s were a whole other story. Like a lot of his contemporaries, Elton had a challenging time navigating the new emerging pop music scene. For whatever the reason there was an inconsistency in the quality of his work.

In my opinion the 80's weren't a total right off for Elton John fans. He and Bernie did manage to release a couple of solid studio records in that era. Granted, none of those 80’s albums reached the creative or commercial heights of Tumbleweed Connection, Honky Château or Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, they still offered an enjoyable listening experience.

One of those underrated records that needs a little more appreciation is Sleeping With The Past.

Sleeping With The Past is Elton John's 22nd studio album. The record was released on August 29, 1989 with Chris Thomas (Roxy Music, INXS) producing. The album was dedicated to his long-time writing partner Bernie Taupin. The album also features his first ever solo number-one single, Sacrifice, in his home country of the UK.

On their 22nd studio album, Elton and Bernie set out to pay homage and tribute to the vintage soul music that have influenced them throughout their career.

I really enjoyed listening to Sleeping With The Past. The inclusion of soul and R&B into Elton and Bernie’s smooth adult contemporary pop sounds adds a whole new texture to their musical palette. In my opinion Sleeping with the Past sounds unlike anything this pop duo has done during the 80’s.

What really sets this album apart is that both Elton John and Bernie Taupin seem really inspired to deliver a cohesive set of songs that presented a song writing salute to some of their heroes such as Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Ray Charles and Sam Cooke.

Highlights on the record include; the up-lifting first single Healing Hands, charming R&B-tinged Club at the End of the Street, the gospel-esque Amazes Me, the haunting ballad Whispers, the 60’s sounding pop/rock title track and the #1 hit single Sacrifice.

While Sleeping With The Past is in no way a masterpiece, it is an inspired collection of songs that truly hold together as an entertaining album-length listening experience.

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