Circle Of LifePianist John Bayless began his musical career with an album titled Bach Meets the Beatles, in which he improvised songs of the Beatles in the style of Johann Sebastian Bach to much critical acclaim. Now, over two decades later, Bayless is back with another Bach album, only this time he’s riffing on Elton John pieces. In Circle of Life, Bayless takes such Elton John hits as “Your Song,” “Tiny Dancer,” and “Crocodile Rock” and Bach-izes them. And while I’m no expert on Bach or Elton John, the results are still incredibly impressive.

Though the album was recorded in 2001 at Skywalker Sound (George Lucas’ recording studio) and only now hitting shelves, it’s well worth the wait. Bayless effortlessly mixes in the themes of Elton John’s hits while maintaining a Bach vibe throughout. The liner notes, written by Bayless, give a detailed break down of every song combination (which Bach piece he felt went well with which Elton John song and why) and his general ideas and reasons for making the album in the first place. For more on that, visit John Bayless’ website. All I can say is Bayless has created a beautiful piece of work here that is every bit as poppy as Elton John’s original tracks and refined as Bach’s own music. The combination enhances both without detracting from either.

For a refined evening of piano and pop culture there’s not much better than this.

Zach’s Rating: A-
Perfect For: Adding an album of classical versions of popular songs that doesn’t sound like elevator music to your collection
Stay Away if: You’re looking for more than just piano when you go classical
Buy this on Itunes: “Your Song”

To purchase Circle of Life, visit Amazon

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