When Elton John performed solo in Boston circa 1979 with only percussionist Ray Cooper it was an amazing display of voice and piano on the big stage of the Boston Music Hall (now the Wang/Citi Center or some foolish corporate “naming rights” thing). That Elton had signed Neil Sedaka to his Rocket Records for the rebirth Sedaka enjoyed in the early 1970s is all the more appropriate looking back decades later. These are two of the most powerful pop songwriters who use the piano as their main accompaniment and the quality of the music they write and perform speaks for itself.
The Show Goes On: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, from April of 2006 has only two guest artists – Tony Christie on “Is This The Way To Amarillo?” and daughter DaraSedaka on their duet-hit from 1980, “Should Have Never Let You Go”. Neil says “through the magic of video” so is this the original track from way back when? Is there a change in Dara’s voice at 42 or 43 years of age in 2006 (she was 17 when she recorded the original) or is this the original voice from a co-singer of a hit record that people don’t hear much from? Neil himself, born on March 13, 1939, was about 67 years old at this concert, and the voice is in amazing shape. Just a/b the disc with Sedaka Live in Australia at the South Sydney Junior Leagues Club (1969 or 1970) from almost four decades earlier (You can find my review of that classic on AllMusic.com) and compare the artistry at play here.
There are a plethora of live albums from Neil Sedaka, as one might imagine with an artist who goes back to the 1950s. Label changes, disputes, tastes evolving and multiple DVD offerings give fans and musicologists many things to consider. Michael Heatley’s liner notes could be more specific, but at least the good people at Eagle Rock Entertainment GIVE us liner notes where other companies (not Rocket or Elektra) that handled this artist kept their focus on the singles, not the majesty of an important innovator’s work. Sedaka is an innovator, one of a lost art form, the Top 40 pop single. He’s a master of it and deserves more recognition for adding to the charm of hit radio. Hearing this disc makes me want an Elton John live album from one of the Ray Cooper tours (is there one out there yet?)…and for a tour of Elton with Neil. I mean, if you want dueling pianos, Liberace is not around, nor are Ferrante&Teicher. An Elton John/Neil Sedaka tribute to Ferrante&Teicher would give them some street cred with the Space Age Bachelor Pad fans as well. On “Where The Boys Are” Sedaka changes gender…and it’s a shame. Carole King’s rendition of “Hey Girl” is so much more potent by pulling a “Cher” and not switching from “Hey Girl” to “Hey Boy”, in fact, King’s “Hey Girl” is a gut-wrenching tour-de-force on her Pearls CD…but Sedaka opted to update the Connie Francis classic to “Where she waits for me” instead of “Someone waits for me.” Heck, what’s wrong with a little double entendre a la the Kinks “Lola”.
The 21 tracks are well balanced, “Love Will Keep Us Together” and a terrific uptempo “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” – a solo rendition of the original 60’s version, not the middle-of-the-road remake, though either works just as well – make this a superb release for this consistent songwriter/singer.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.