The album that contained Elton John’s long-sought-after first solo UK No.1, “Sacrifice,” was released on August 29, 1989. That date marked the appearance of his 22nd studio album, Sleeping With The Past.
Elton recorded the album in Denmark towards the end of the previous year. Even if it’s not a period that he tends to look back on with great affection – he entered rehab in 1990 – Sleeping With The Past was a record full of fine collaborations with Bernie Taupin. In honor of a friendship that was already some 22 years old, there was a dedication on the sleeve that read “This album’s for you, Bernie…”
“Sacrifice” is, of course, the record’s best-known track, followed by its eventual double A-side partner, the gospel-tinged “Healing Hands.” But under the direction of producer Chris Thomas, Elton delivered some of his best work of the decade, both uptempo, such as on “Club At The End Of The Street” and slow (another gospel-flavoured track, “Amazes Me”).
An album of lesser-known pleasures
The album also includes one of those relatively rare Elton tracks on which an unfamiliar listener might not guess the identity of the vocalist. He sang “Stone’s Throw From Hurtin’” in a light falsetto to a light, breezy arrangement, and a great guitar solo by Fred Mandel. Then there’s the elegant “Blue Avenue,” another underrated ballad of the period. Elton and Bernie would together say in the album credits that Sleeping With The Past was inspired by “the soul pioneers of the 60s and 70s, whose music meant so much to us.”
Sleeping… became a platinum album in the US, even if it peaked at a relatively modest No.23 there. The album reached No.2 in Australia and France and topped the charts in Switzerland, New Zealand and in the UK.
The belated success of “Sacrifice” in Elton’s home country eventually helped the album to hit No.1 there almost a year after release, in July 1990. It was his fifth chart-topping LP there and first since his Greatest Hits collection nearly 16 years earlier.
Buy or stream Sleeping With The Past.