In 1977, Elton John recorded several new songs with Philadelphia Soul producer, songwriter, and arranger Thom Bell. One of these, "Mama Can't Buy You Love," reached #9 and #1 respectively on the Hot 100 and Adult charts when it was belatedly released in 1979. It also has the distinction of being one of Elton's most rarely performed hits, only played during the American leg of his solo piano and percussion tour.
In addition to being one of the more under appreciated songs in his catalog, Elton's live performances of this song tackle an interesting problem: how do you take a lushly orchestrated song and make it "work" with just piano? In this case, the solution was bypassing much of the original arrangement altogether. Rather than try to recreate the string lines and harp glissandi, Elton kept the basic rhythm while substituting a heavier downbeat in the left hand and adding funky chords in the right to turn the song into something closer to his own Leon Russell-esque "Take Me to the Pilot" rather than the soul/disco of the original recording. Of course, the rearrangement's success is due equally to Elton's buoyant original melody still remaining front and center.
[Sorry for the long delay in between posts. End of summer travel, the school year starting up, taking on new students, and writing out personalized arrangements (a perk of studying privately with me :) ) are all gobbling up time like crazy.]