*** 1/2 ELTON JOHN, "Made in England" Rocket In their landmark albums in the '70s, Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin came as close to the level of any pop-rock writing team since Lennon-McCartney in giving us music rich enough in character and detail to be both hauntingly personal and seductively universal.
John and Taupin have often reflected that enchanting blend on individual songs in the '80s and '90s, but they have done it more consistently in this classy work than on any album since 1976's "Blue Moves."
In a work whose passion and purpose may well have been inspired by John and Taupin's parallel commitment to AIDS projects, the highlight is "House," an expression of loss and need that ranks with such classic works as "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and "Tonight."
The album's frisky title tune is so overtly autobiographical that it can be seen as a continuation of the duo's "Captain Fantastic . . ." saga, while "Blessed"--the most engaging song in memory about approaching parenthood--offers the sweet innocence of a "Your Song."
Some of the images (including the strife of "Belfast") are too familiar and some of the sentiments (the all-you-need-is-love declaration of "Believe") are perhaps too literal. For the most part, however, these tales of the comforts and pain of love are stirring and accomplished.