Elton John had ushered out the eighties with a competent, soul-based album titled Sleeping With The Past. It would be over two and a half years before he issued another studio work. The One, released in June of 1992, marked a return to the pop/rock sounds and styling of his past.
It was his first release since completing rehab, which found him drug free and sober. It was also his first album since his hair weave.
I do not own a vinyl copy of this album so it is the first Elton John release that I bought on CD.
Despite all of the above firsts, the most important point concerning The One, at least in my household, is that it remains my wife’s favorite Elton John album. A lot of people agreed with her as it reached the American top ten and was his biggest selling release worldwide since Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy in 1975.
His backing band had a cohesive feel to it. Guy Babylon had settled in as a second keyboardist and long time mainstay Davey Johnstone was still on board as his lead guitarist. Nigel Olsson and Kiki Dee made appearances as backing vocalists. And his guests included guitarists David Gilmour and Eric Clapton.
The album was again be fueled by hit singles. As the nineties passed, the importance of the 45 rpm record decreased and the little record with the big hole eventually became obsolete by the end of the century. Here, however, he made use of this format by issuing three singles which received massive airplay.
Two of these hits were the album’s first tracks, setting the tone for what followed. “Simple Life” is about getting one’s priorities in order and the song certainly echoed what was happening in his life at the time. It was a rock song that would build throughout its six plus minutes. The title song was a U.S. top ten pop hit and it topped the adult contemporary charts. It dealt with the topic of happiness and had almost a spiritual feel to it.
The final hit closed the album and was one of the most heartfelt performances of his career. “The Last Song” chronicled an eighteen year old dying of AIDS while seeking redemption. It was a poignant and eloquent tribute.
“Runaway Train” found Elton in rock mode with Eric Clapton bringing his unique guitar sound to the track. He also shared the vocal duties as they sang about despair and peace. “Sweat It Out” is just one of those fun songs that he would create every so often and his piano work on it is excellent. “When A Woman Doesn’t Want You” goes in a very different direction as it deals with the topic of date rape. The music almost lulls you and runs counterpoint to the seriousness of the subject.
The One represented a lot of what had been missing in many of his eighties releases. It contained superior lyrics plus well constructed and catchy music, setting the mood for much of what would follow in the nineties. It also proved my wife had good taste.