Recover Your Soul
The Big Picture
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Live Solo Piano Version
Key: G Structure: A-B-A-B-C-B

Recover Your Soul is one of a number of the beautiful ballads off The Big Picture. For some reason this album didn't click with people. I'm not sure I understand why. It could be the syrupy arrangements. Personally I think a lot of the songs are well crafted and this song in particular is an uplifting look at recovering from a broken relationship. As with many of Elton's songs, I believe the solo piano arrangement helps to bring out the inherent beauty that might get lost in the orchestral arrangements. This version is taken from Elton’s 1999 Solo Tour, Roanoke Virginia, recorded on 02/19/1999. I've included an mp3 for your reference.

Basic Piano Style
This is an excellent tune for the intermediate pianist. Like many of the songs on Elton’s solo tour, Elton’s voicing and technique are superb. I've discussed these elements in other articles. His basic style includes:

  • The right hand is always positioned over a 4-note chord.
  • Rhythms are based on a straight 16th note pulse.
  • Chords or partial chords are played on the downbeat of 1 and 3, the upbeat before 2 and 4, and/or the upbeat after 2 and 4.
  • Single notes from the chord played on most of the other 16-note intervals.
  • Left hand work is stroked and phrased rather than just struck in a purely rhythmic phasion; the left hand sometimes supports the right hand work and other times interplays with the right hand.
  • The chords frequently include some kind of movement or riff including the use of different inversions, suspensions or added notes.
  • The left hand primarily plays on the octave or occasionally on the root and 5th of the chord.

The left hand work in this example is reminiscent of Tiny Dancer in that Elton creates lines with the octave and 5th, giving some counterpoint to the right hand. It’s easy to treat the left hand as if it were merely a rhythmic element rather than a harmonic element. Elton voices it very carefully so that it is an integral part of his playing style. The riff over the G chord is one of my all time favorites.

Recover is in the key of G and uses a descending bassline approach for the harmony to the first half of the verse. Across a 4-bar structure we have

|| G – Bm/F# - | Em – G/D – | C – G/B – | D – D – ||

If you just look at the 1st chord in each bar - treating the 2nd chord as a passing chord - this harmony is essentially the time honored I – vi – IV – V chord progression first introduced in classical music and the basis of much of popular music. In the 2nd half of the verse, Elton covers the same harmonic ground in a slightly different way.

|| C – B7 – | Em – Em – | C – G/B – | D – D – ||

You can see that the 1st chord in each bar is the same, but the 2nd chord varies. The B7 chord is called a secondary dominant. In the key of G, the Bm chord is the diatonic chord of the chord that occurs naturally. The B7 chord is the natural dominant chord in the key of Em, and by playing it, you get a slightly stronger sense that a temporary key shift has occured.

The chorus really takes off on some interesting twists and turns. :

| C – G – | Am – Em – | F – G – | D – D – |
| Am – B7 – | Em – C – | D G/F C/G D |

This example shows the descending bassline harmonic approach to the verse. Elton's playing style is on perfect display here: his basic approach to rhythm, the use of right hand riffs to provide movement and harmonic interest, and a carefully articulated left hand that's interwoven with the whole thing.

All in all, it’s a great example of Elton’s work. Hope you enjoy it!