"A man like me is dead in places," croons Queen Elton on "I Want Love" from his back-to-basics maneuver, "Songs From the West Coast." For a moment -- perhaps the first moment in 20 years -- you can hear his voice crack with sincerity. Whether or not this record is a marketing ploy to wash John clean of his sentimental Diana-Disneyisms is irrelevant. The sparse, piano-based tomes are rife with the sort of eloquence that made him wonderful a few decades ago.
Along for the ride, gay protege Rufus Wainwright duets on a eulogy for gay bashee Matthew Shepard. Throughout, longtime partner Bernie Taupin reminds us that simple is sometimes better. Hang on to your tiaras. It's OK to like Elton again.