Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, released in 1987, is the twenty-sixth official album release for Elton John. It is a live album recorded at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on 14 December 1986 with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
The concert, recorded on 14 December 1986, was the last of a series of concerts done throughout the last two months of 1986. The concerts consisted of two sets: the first was limited to John and his 14-piece band, including backing vocalists and the Onward International horn section, and his flamboyant stage dress, featuring Mohawk and Tina Turner wigs and some outlandish eye wear; the second featured John, the band and the 88-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, with him dressed as Mozart.
John’s band was essentially the lineup used on Leather Jackets, which he was touring behind at the time, including Jody Linscott and special guest Ray Cooper, both of whom played percussion.
James Newton Howard, who was at the time an up-and-coming film composer in Hollywood, joined John to conduct and write larger, augmented charts of not only his own previous work on “Tonight,” but also Paul Buckmaster’s original arrangements, since the music was to be played by 88 musicians, instead of the smaller studio orchestra for which the compositions were originally designed. He also wrote brand new full orchestra parts for songs such as “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, which previously only had horn arrangements.
The album features most of the songs recorded in the second half of the show, excluding “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, “Carla/Etude”, “Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)” and “Slow Rivers”, which was sung by John alone (John dueted “Slow Rivers” with Cliff Richard on Leather Jackets).
John’s live sound engineer, Clive Franks, handled the recording of the band (assisted by Keith Walker and Dennis Fox), while album producer Gus Dudgeon supervised recording of the orchestra by Leon Minervini and Nic Jeremy. Dudgeon took the tapes back to Wisseloord Studios in the Netherlands for mixing with engineer Graham Dickson, who had also worked on Leather Jackets.
This concert was the last to feature Elton’s legendary stage costumes, which he had featured in his shows since the early 1970s. It was also his last show before undergoing throat surgery in January 1987. Despite being completely successful, the surgery prevented Elton from singing at all for several months and from touring for 18 months. The surgery also permanently reduced his range from tenor to baritone. (by wikipedia)
The late ’80s were wrought with equal measures of tremendous professional popularity and personal crisis for Elton John. As he would reveal later, this inspired double-LP live collection released in 1987 captures the artist at one of the best and worst times of his life. In fact, John cites the emotionally charged “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” as triggering what would become a “severe mental breakdown,” the results of nearly a decade of substance-fueled decadence. On top of it all and perhaps most tellingly is John’s tattered voice. So dire was the situation that literally within weeks of the concert he would undergo a surgical procedure that could have easily ended his career had it failed.
Perhaps the ultimate irony is that at this precise moment John was launching his re-association with MCA Records via this live career retrospective, which was simultaneously broadcast throughout the entire globe. Keeping all of that in mind, Elton John once again proved himself as a consummate showman, performing at the peak of his abilities. John’s comparatively small combo is augmented on these tracks by the 88-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under the direction of onetime bandmate James Newton Howard. There are a few surprisingly strong readings of early sides such as “60 Years On,” “I Need You to Turn To,” “The Greatest Discovery,” and an edgy and soulful version of “The King Must Die.” Other unexpected detours into John’s catalog include the intimate desperation of “Tonight” from Blue Moves (1976) and “Have Mercy on the Criminal” from Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (1973). There are also the hits and enthusiast favorites “Tiny Dancer,” “Your Song,” “Candle in the Wind” (which was issued as a single and topped pop music charts worldwide), the previously mentioned “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” The companion home video includes a few additional performances, such as the thoroughly inspiring “One Horse Town.” While not entirely essential, Live in Australia is at its core an adeptly executed concert package. (by Lindsay Planer)
Dot expect anything from the booklet … one of the simplest booklets I ever saw from a rock star like Elton John.
Ray Cooper (percussion)
Elton John (piano, vocals)
Jody Linscott (percussion)
Davey Johnstone – guitars
David Paton – bass guitar
Charlie Morgan – drums
Fred Mandel – keyboards, synthesizers
Alan Carvell – Gordon Neville – Shirley Lewis
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted James Newton Howard
01. Sixty Years On 5.41
02. I Need You To Turn To 3.14
03. The Greatest Discovery 4.09
04. Tonight 5.58
05. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word 3.58
06. The King Must Die 5.21
07. Take Me To The Pilot 4.22
08. Tiny Dancer 7.46
09. Have Mercy On The Criminal 5.50
10. Madman Across The Water 6.38
11. Candle In The Wind 4.10
12. Burn Down The Mission 5.49
13. Your Song 4.04
14. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me 6.06
All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin