|Preconceived Notions: I admit I perused your reviews before embarking on this one. I have heard most of this album at one time or another and have always had mixed feelings on Sir Elton. I was surprised at some of the venom thrown his way, but hey that’s what makes RC….RC. Time to take a good listen and see how this sorts out…
After Listening: Elton’s early work sort of always raises that Pop vs Rock war. I think if you asked most of his fans they would probably have the same dilemma with what to do with this album. Bills itself as rock, but many of the songs are packaged so neatly – pop springs to mind 1stly. There’s little doubt the man can flat out play, there’s some piano work here – subtle touches, that frame emotions perfectly. I could always take or leave the man’s voice, but it’s usually spot on for whatever mood he’s trying to convey. I struggle with the claims/issues of pretentiousness, you do hear some over the top things on this record, but to me they seem consistent with the musical identity of the person as proven over the remainder of his long career. If you’re being true to you, is it pretension? There’s a lot to just skip on this record however, mostly the nameless filler “non hits”….they seem to be a collection of antiseptic “clean rock.” Repetition on this album can be a killer…you know an Elton John piano riff when you hear one, and on this album as a whole there are too many tracks using his most basic piano formulas. But this isn’t to say that all of Elton’s musical arrangements are without merit – just when you think it’s going to be more formulaic “rock” – you get a slight reminder like the wah pedal at the end of “Grey Seal”, or the drum hits on “Danny Bailey” that this album can be unexpectedly gritty in moments. The guitar and bass work on this record is much better than I remember – although I guess it can be asserted maybe the reason they shine so, is because they aren’t asked to carry the weight of arrangements.
Favorite Tracks: “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies” – actually some fairly raw guitar in it among the dramatic piano, before it gives way to the more guitar lines of Love lies bleeding. Part of it near the end with the synth actually sounds a little like the “Reading rainbow” intro, so it’s a nice nostalgic moment.
“And the ladies are all getting wrinkles
Least Favorite: “I’ve seen the Movie Too” – A perfect example of the forgettable tracks on this album. Somehow Elton misses the sad tone his lyrics seem to be aiming for, instead we get about 6mins of airy nothing. Most of the music on it sounds like a rough draft, or a level check…
Overall: 3.78 Elton musically has forged himself a definite signature, and so at various moments in my life my opinions of him may hit higher or lower than average. Whether it’s singing “Bennie and the (m)Jets” at the old Shea Stadium”, hearing some bar band stumble through “Saturday Night’s All For Fighting”…..or having some cheesy tv montage put up “Candle in the Wind” for a fallen “star”…..the point is, you hear Elton you know it’s Elton. He invades your consciousness at some point in your life. It’s unavoidable. On the one hand Elton has chops, on the otherhand Elton loves clichés – about the best you can do is relate to what you can, and pay him respect for what he does manage to get right.