Easy Listening

Circle of Life: The Music of Elton John in the Style of Bach

Artist: John Bayless

Produced by: Angel Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            When I received Circle of Life: The Music of Elton John in the Style of Bach, I was immediately interested in listening to it.  According to the title, the album was to contain the music of Elton John reconfigured into the style of classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach.  Being a tremendous fan of Elton Johnís music and loving the classical works of Bach, I was interested in seeing how John Bayless combined the two styles.

            Texas-born and raised pianist John Bayless has quite an impressive resume, having won a scholarship to the Aspen School of Music at the age of fifteen and studying with Adele Marcus at the Julliard School of Music two years later.  Invited to participate as a composer in the inaugural class of New York Universityís Musical Theater Masters Degree Program, Bayless studied with Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne, Arthur Laurents, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, all well-known and extremely talented composers.  In 1985, Bayless began recording music, beginning with an improvisation of Beatles songs in the style of Bach.  Baylessí improvisational style has earned him the distinction of being one of the top classical crossover stars in the United States.

            I was very impressed with John Baylessí resume.  Anyone who could turn Beatles songs into classical Bach-like compositions and be successful at it deserves a listen.  Thus, I placed Circle of Life: The Music of Elton John in the Style of Bach into my CD player with high hopes.  As I have already said, I am a fan of both Elton John and Johann Sebastian Bachís works.  However, in listening to this CD, Iím not sure that they should ever be combined.  Every song I loved by Elton John had been reinterpreted into a classical nightmare.  The songs would begin in the beautiful style of Bach and then somehow Elton Johnís music would be jumbled into the mix.  Often times, the song that Bayless was interpreting was lost in the mix, wholly unrecognizable.

            Perhaps if John Bayless had used lesser known Elton John songs, this would have been an easier listening experience for me.  And yet, somehow, I just canít imagine that I would enjoy Baylessí either way.  I canít in good conscience recommend Circle of Life: The Music of Elton John in the Style of Bach to classical music lovers or Elton John fans.  If I did, Iím fairly certain that one or both groups would hang me in effigy for my troubles.  


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