Amazes Me
Sleeping With The Past
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Live Solo Piano Version
Key: Eb Structure: A-B-A-B-C-B

Originally released in 1989, Elton chose his 1999 solo tour to perform Amazes Me for the first time on stage. This particular version was performed at the Roanoke, Virginia concert.

The entire Sleeping With The Past album is dedicated to the soul pioneers of the 60s and 70s. On the studio version, Amazes is performed in a gospel style. Elton's piano is understated and the song features gospel-style backing vocals and an absolutely searing Davey Johnstone guitar solo.

BUT IN THIS VERSION, Elton seems to ditch the gospel style soon after the intro and just go with his patented pop style of playing. I can only speculate that he was uncomfortable with the sparseness of the original arrangement in the context of playing solo. For me it's a little disappointing that Elton didn't put more effort into staying in the gospel genre. Make no mistake, Elton knows how to play gospel!

The lyrics are sparse but, like so many of Bernie's lyrics, highly evocative, painting a picture in one's mind. The title of the song is restated continuously, driving home the spiritual reverie that is at the core of this song. Bernie places the title at the end of all but one of the lines of the verses and at the beginning of each line of the chorus. It's also restated at the end of the bridge section. The second verse consists of the same line repeated twice. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes people accuse Bernie of being lazy. He only has two verses to write yet he ends up repeating himself.

The song uses a verse chorus structure with an added bridge. In contrast to the studio version, Elton leaves out the guitar solo section that occurs right after the bridge (dubbed the C section above). Elton instead goes straight from the bridge to the final chorus.

The song is in Eb and uses a 6/8 meter. 6/8 gives you a tuplet feel or, if you prefer, a waltz feel that is standard with the slow gospel style. But in contrast to a straight 3/4, 6/8 has a primary beat on 1 and a secondary beat on 4, giving you a sound that is more like 1-and-a-2-and-a. The following figure shows the intro which is a great example of pure gospel style piano playing.

Most of this song relies on the crucial Eb-G/B-Ab progression. Now THIS is a deeply American rooted chord progression which finds itself in many different styles of music such as jazz and blues in addition to gospel. HOWEVER, I've typically heard the bass walked up, i.e. Eb-G-Ab, with the crucial half-step climb to the Ab. G is a iii-major, a chord which doesn't occur naturally in the key of Eb. Harmonically the G is sometimes referred to as a dominant approach chord, a harmonic embellishment that anticipates or is used to approach the Ab.

Elton treats this progression a little differently, walking the bass downward through the B-natural bass. All I can say is that this is some kind of an Eltonism thing, giving a traditional progression his own little twist.

As mentioned before, after the gospel intro, Elton shifts into what I call his "Mozart" style of playing. I call it the Mozart style because he plays 16th notes in a broken arpeggio style that's reminiscent of the left hand patterns found in Mozart. Now this style is familiar territory for Elton despite my disappointment that he doesn't stay in gospel mode. The key aspect of this style is that Elton undulates and syncopates his arpeggio patterns pretty much at will, keeping the accompaniment interesting rather than repetitive. The following figure shows the Mozart style from the chorus.

The bridge shifts into Db and walks around the circle of 5ths (Db-Ab-Eb-Bb). Elton adds some rarely heard left hand work as shown in the following example. The left hand pattern used on the Db is VERY TYPICAL for a cocktail pianist or a new age pianist, people who often work in a solo format. But for Elton, this is definitely a rarity. It adds some dramatic intensity to the bridge.

Ultimately Amazes Me is a curious and delightful little treat. While not a major song, it illustrates many of the great elements that go into Elton's work. I hope you enjoy it!