Elton John once claimed that he could remember The One among his latter-day albums because it was the first he recorded without drugs or alcohol. If true ? and there's no reason to doubt him ? that could be the reason why this has more character than most of his albums since the early '80s, holding together well in its deliberately measured, mature songcraft by Elton and Bernie Taupin. There's less gloss than on many of his late-'80s records, and John gives a fairly convincing performance throughout this set of pretty good songs. If there's any real problem, it's that the album just doesn't have many memorable songs. Though they're all reasonably melodic and well-crafted, none of the them have memorable musical or lyrical hooks and, if anything, Chris Thomas' production is too evenhanded. Still, even if it isn't memorable, it does represent a meaningful move forward, just because it does sound warmer and more considered than the records that immediately preceded it.