Elton John vs Pnau – Good Morning to the Night – album review

Elton John vs Pnau – Good Morning to the Night (Mercury Records)
CD / DL
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Eight entirely new tracks created from Elton John’s back catalogue but dance duo Pnau. Something for Elton fans and Elton doubters both on here…

I like ubiquitous singer-songwriter Elton John, but I also like Aussie dance music duo Pnau. But which one is better? There’s only one way to find out… persuade Sir Elton to allow Pnau access to the master tapes from his funkiest era (ie the early 70s) and do some serious cutting and splicing (I like to think that they did it old style, with scissors and sticky tape) to create eight entirely new tracks.

Featuring snippets from 45 of John’s songs – a chink of vocal here, a piano plink there, and a bit of the drum and bass from another track entirely – the new creations melt and warp the parts together in such a new direction that it often hard to spot even the best-known originals in their recreated form. An example is Sad, a slice of ice cold chill-out which samples the “so sad” backing vocals from Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. The clue was in the title, but it still took me a couple of plays to twig where I knew them from.

Lead track Good Morning To The Night may put Elton into full Ibiza mode, including an old-skool rave pause before the final build-up – but the album isn’t just about making Elton danceable, with each track having an entirely different vibe; from lush instrumental album closer Sixty, Telegraph To The Afterlife with its Pink Floyd echoes of “hello, hello”, and Black Icy Stare’s reggae -light stylings. Karmatron wouldn’t be out of place on a Western film soundtrack, while Foreign Fields feels like a lost song from John’s cycle of songs for The Lion King.

The mash up of Taupin’s lyrics give the songs a wonky, ethereal feel, where lines of nonsense make perfect sense in their new bedding. The most traditional-feeling song on the album is Phoenix, which takes the vocals from the first verse of Grey Seal, gives them a backwards-sung feel, and drops them into an entirely new song which has a funked-up disco feel entirely different from the original, but yet wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on one of the John albums of the early 70s.

It’s a short album, with only eight tracks, none of which are over-expanded in length, making it feel more like a traditional Elton album than the option of extended mixes would have provided. Short and sweet; if you’re an EJ fan who steers clear of music too modern, give it a go; while for the 21st century types who don’t know much beyond Elton’s big hits, this is an opportunity to take an initial dip into his vast, and often surprising, back catalogue, and see the music behind the man in a whole new light.

All words by Catriona Reeves. Read more from Catriona on LTW here.

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2 comments on “Elton John vs Pnau – Good Morning to the Night – album review”

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  1. Don’t forget it is on vinyl too :-). Agreed on the review sublime beats chilled out vocals and clearly a lot of hard work has gone into the record. Only issue for me is that at 36 or so minutes long you’re left wanting more!!

  2. I’ve never bought into any of this “John’s (I refuse to use his 1st name) early albums are great blah blah” shite.
    He’s the enemy. I fucking hate him.

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