We all know what Elton and Bernie created over the years was perfecto. But like diamonds that we see in the shops, not shops I go into you understand, they do require some polishing. All diamonds are unique so they vary in the amount of attention they need. The ten most important people to assist Elton and Bernie over the years in shining the precious rocks and make the whole thing an even better experience in no specific order are:
On a day to day basis the relationship over the 40 odd years has been vital. Both in the studio and onstage. His connection with Elton and the music. He has a deep understanding of it and his technical ability is second to none.
From the early 3 piece shows when essentially he was both the connection with the piano and the drums and also doubling as a lead part to his laying down of basslines that were trailblazing in their day he has been cited by those outside the Elton world as a true innovator. He had a tremendous feeling of melody and neither over played nor underdeveloped his lines. He could weave in and out like a lead guitarist such was the subtley in his fingers.
Descriptive drumming...with a sweet voice. The blending of his voice with the two guys above is an aural gift. His signature sounds on the drums are legendary, a whole generation of stickmen have been inspired by his work on Elton's albums. His perfectly selected lines go hand in glove with the music. Especially when you compare it with some of the others to sit in his seat over the years.
To say he made the 'Elton' sound would be an understatement. His work in putting together the masterpieces from basic track upwards to the final collage is a collossal legacy. With a steely determination in his outlook, he didn't suffer poor quality lightly. Or kept quiet about it. His dedication to the technicla aspects of the recordings have made them timeless and fresh.
He constantly gets overlooked. His work in the 80's with Elton gave his music a contemporary sound while staying true to their roots. Elton's trust of him unwavering and he rewarded him with some classic albums. Compare some of Elton's contemporaries from the 70's and how they got on in the 80's gives you some idea of how good a job he did in giving Elton a second coming in that mixed up decade. Vastly underrated by many fans unfortunately.
A one off in his field and no mistake. The man who made an orchestra sound like a mellotron a reviewer once said. That's how far out his style was. Which became a tremendous counterpoint yet connected tightly with Elton's songs. His appearances over 30 years on albums shows how much the various producers acknowledged his need on an Elton album. Unique in the extreme.
His eye to detail both in recording, producing and engineering the music, not only the studio albums, but the demo's for the various Broadway and Disney productions is colossal. Tireless in his striving for perfection for the live performances, his bringing to 'life' of Funeral For A Friend to be played live rather than a backing tape is one of many lasting testaments to his talent. We still hear his sounds in concert and will do for as long there's such thing as an Elton tour. His arrangements and programming will live as long as the music is played and sung...
James Newton Howard
His synth work on the albums brought a new dimension ot the albums. Plus his electric piano work where he tied into any Elton groove seemlessly. He could jam onstage as good as Elton could. There duels wree stunning. As was his orchestral arranging in the studio later on. When it came to conducting orchestra's live in concert, he is the conductor of choice for Elton. Why? Because he had a unique position of knowing the music from the studio with the band, onstage with the band and putting arrangements to composed pieces. In other words he could see the music from all angles so his linking of the orchestra to Elton and the band was cohesive and locked in.
From the early days of the DJM demo's he perfected the art of combining piano with guitar so that when the Trident abums came to be recorded it was a smooth process. And left an idelible sound stamp on those albums. Gifted technically, he was never afraid to experiment to get a suitable sound.
If anyone was asked to name another percussionist in rock apart from Ray, there would be a hesitation. A long one no doubt. The parts he added on record were vital to the mix, his live two man show with Elton was a mix of vitality. In conjunction with Elton, he created a new style of rockshow that has never been copied by any other artist. Nor could be. Like all the others mentioned here, he has a sixth sense understanding of the music. His taste for it was both subtle and dramatic. Always daring and never dull.