George Starostin's Reviews



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Richard C. Dickison <> (04.08.99)

Man, here is a hard artist to deal with, either Elton John was a musical genius or an over the top, self destructive, bald drama queen with a really good revolving back-up band and a self involved, woman hating, song writer and a wardrobe only Imelda Marcos could pull off.

I find it difficult to tell sometimes, there are whole albums that I can love and hate at the same time namely Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Madman Across The Water. And then I'll listen after some time and forgive all of Elton's faults for some beautifully twisted line sung just the right way with the most perfect music.

I still like Madman Across The Water best though except for one song on each side, take a guess which ones. This guy got way too much air time on the radio to be underrated in any category.

Any way your stopping at A Single Man is understandable, I might even have stopped before that one, but Too Low For Zero might be worth including.

That album and the one that followed it made me think he was coming back.

I was wrong thou, with the later cra-- I mean albums.

<> (11.02.2000)

Elton has become rather bland in the past...oh 20 years. He was once a great songwriter and performer, but today he seems rather washed up. To bad!

Bob Josef <> (19.02.2000)

Nowadays, Elton writes ballad after ballad after ballad. And he writes great ballads, but you can't have a nutritious diet with only one type of food. He has just forgotten how to ROCK! Nowadays, his very few latter day upbeat tunes, such as "Pain" and "Made in England," are severely lacking in energy. But, in his late 70's heyday, he could do it all, and one had to admire his willingness to try anything at least once, even if he fell flat on his face. But, nonetheless, he hasn't totally cheesed out, as, for example, Phil Collins has, and his work will always be listenable. Just don't expect to do aerobics to it.

<> (19.02.2000)

Your wacked out dude, get help! Elton John has more talent in his thumbnail then many bands ranked as 5's or 4's. The Moody Blues in front of EJ? Get real. I'm a Moody Blues fan but no way would they rank ahead of EJ. The man can fill arenas with a band or without a band. Talent drips from his piano playing finger tips. As a piano player myself, this man is still mesmerizes me with his keyboard talents!

[Special author note: the Moodies could fill arenas, too, both in their prime and after it. And doesn't talent drip from Mike Pinder's Mellotron playing finger tips as well?]

Josh Fitzgerald <> (23.03.2000)

This might sound really pathetic, but Elton John is definetly a genius. A little weird, but genius. He definetly does have talent dripping from his fingertips. It's really hard to believe that 30 years after his first hit, Elton John STILL manages to make more hits (not saying that a Disney movie is the greatest career move, but hey, if it worked for Elton, it'll work for anyone!). Yes, there was a lot of crap in the 80s, because the hits were really the only good songs, but he still has done a diversity of music. I mean look at Yes, they've been around for 30 years, but I highly doubt they'll keep up their old success. Same for The Moody Blues, and I can keep going and going, but I won't bother. The only thing that holds him back is like the gay and drug controversies, and of course, we can't forget the divas concert, but it's still amazing!

<> (24.03.2000)

Dont get too excited, I did like elton's stuff from the seventies, a little anyway, but something about him just doesnt do it for me, maybe I have to be gay, I dont know!? But man, PHEW, does he stink now, just and I am more and more convinced that he is great but nothing to shout about, not even in the the way to the person who wrote that Elton is a genius because he fills arenas and so do WWF wrestling events, and they certainly dont rule do they!

But the you, George, dont get too excited, because I dont know when I will agree with you again....

Bill Fortnum <> (31.05.2000)

I like his songs!

Richard Savill <> (01.09.2000)

I agree! The last album I bought was Single Man! There was a real genius there. So what the hell happened? Well, Elton John went the showman route early on and broke away from his writing of proper works, thus artistry in the writing was lost. I consider him today as an artist who lost his paintbrush. He was once known as 'The Prince of Rock', but that title has long since died along with his music.

Chris Gonzales <> (07.11.2000)

One of my very first albums was Tumbleweed Connection, and with that I became a disciple. Days ago I bought the CD and I am still convinced that it is near perfect, the only weakness perhaps 'Love Song' ( the only non-bernie lyric).

I think it's difficult to reconcile subjective impressions among people, but I would mention a couple of things. My perspective often leans toward listening to the piano in Elton's stuff (I play a little). On many songs that seemed initially quite silly, I would later put on ear phones and find amazing piano work. Songs like 'Teacher I Need You' and 'Teenage Idol' from Don't Shoot Me come to mind. For a long time I was able to find something surprising in Elton's work, even when the masterpieces were few and far between.

I did not consider Elton's music to be 'pop' until I heard 'Island Girl' and I new the end was in sight. To me 'pop' means formula, with no surprises. To call Goodbye Yellow Brick Road a pop album to me is absurd. When I listen to 'Bennie and the Jets', I can easily imagine a young Elvis Costello doing it.

I also find Bernie's lyrics (at least thru say Captain Fantastic) to be equally creative. But he is not Dylan. Where Dylan was a profit, Bernie more a dream weaver. Dylan instructed, Bernie transported. Misogyny? Oh please. Bernie has openly admitted that 'Take Me to the Pilot' is essiently nonsense poetry. Not all dreams should be interpreted. Certainly not in some "politically correct" context. Bernies lyrics are surrealistic...the starkly realistic floating among the absurd. Go along for the ride.

bdoglb <> (22.12.2000)

Elton John epitomizes the picture of a washed up, sunken 'rocker'. Apparently Elton is none too bright either; what man would "break the bank" buying hundreds if thousands of dollars buying flowers?

When it comes to his music, well, it is not all that good. I'll leave it at that.

Didier Dumonteil <> (28.02.2001)

His heyday was short-lived:1970/1975.During this time,he was really the prince of pop,because nobody else could take over the Beatles' throne.So Elton John Madman across the water goodbye yellow brick road and captain Fantastic are among his greatest achievements.There's precious little to say after....

MJW <> (02.03.2001)

Actually, George, I recalled you saying elsewhere on the site that (the Macca page, I think?) Led Zeppelin were the Beatles, commercially speaking, of the 70s, but that title really belongs to Elton John. He was actually by far the best-selling (and record-breakingest) artist of the decade, all told. And for awhile, he was damned near the artistic Beatles of the 70s...not the revolutionary, of course, but look what else that they had in common! Great pop songs, incredible arrangements, some of the most ambitious and cohesive album rock of his day, and, of course, the function of a truly dynamic songwriting duo. Of course, IMHO, that only applies up to Captain Fantastic, after which Elton got wrapped up in being on Mr. Blackwell's Best-Dressed list, and getting into Studio 54, and forgot that he made music.  Oh, well.  Nothing good lasts.

Palash Ghosh <> (06.03.2001)

Elton John, oh boy, he's a hard nut to crack! The prevailing wisdom on Sir Elton is that he was King (Queen?) of the pop music realm for the first half of the 1970's and has been riding on a crest of mediocrity ever since –- and I fully agree with this assessment. While I despise most everything about the man (his wardrobe, his vulgar excesses, his over-the-top swishiness, etc.), it cannot be denied that Elton is a major figure in pop music history and once had a great singing voice and could write some sensationally moving music.

I really cannot pick out a favorite Elton album from his 'classic period' -– I always regarded him primarily as a champion of singles.

Even his best albums are loaded with disposable, tiresome filler. (Unlike another peer of the realm, Sir Paul McCartney, who could even make his filler interesting!).

Nevertheless, some of Elton's big hits are some of my all-time favorite songs (including 'Daniel,' 'Your song' and 'Rocket man.').

But let's get one thing straight (as it were), Elton is not, was not, could never be, about rock -- his main strength was in writing and singing sober, somber piano-based pop ballads. Whenever Elton tried to 'rock out' he pretty much embarrassed himself and his voice simply did not have such great range.

Glenn Wiener <> (30.07.2001)

One extremely talented musician. Between 1972 and 1976, there was no musician hotter. Seven straight albums rose to number 1 although Rock of the Westies just has not stood the test of time. None the less, Elton has been quite steady before and after the classic seventies period. Each of his records has a unique style. On occasional mild misstep here and there as Madman Across The Water grows a bit stale, Blue Moves somewhat overlong, and Reg Strikes Back suffers from too much emphasis on the synthesizer and Elton’s own drug addiction. However, Elton bounced back with two strong releases in The One and Made in England. An all time great.

Ryan Maffei <> (10.03.2002)

From a listening standpoint, I enjoy Elton John's earliest work, but his later stuff is just too maudlin and cloying for my tastes. From a performance standpoint, I admire John's style, and can relate to him mainly because we're both pianists (that, I'd like to stress, is our only similarity). From a critical standpoint, I've found that the artistic course that John followed is very easy to trace.

During his debut and Bluesology work, John was a mediocre youngster who was just another face in the cluttered 1969 crowd. He had some impressive singles ("Lady Samantha", "It's Me That You Need"), but overall, his material was ultimately sophomoric. But somewhere between Empty Sky and Elton John, the artist managed to (seriously) master the art of the song, and in the course of two years, he created two of the best singer-songwriter albums ever to be released in the history of rock'n'roll (1970's eponymous second album and Tumbleweed Connection). After those two benchmarks, John floundered with the mediocre Madman Across the Water, and ended up leaving behind his earnest, accomplished image for a more poppy, commercial facade with Honky Chateau. In his newfound glitziness, John found commercial success, but his material continued to worsen (although he made a nice artistic rebound with 1975's autobiographical Captain Fantastic). Finally, the greed got to his head, and John has been consistently producing crap since 1976. How's that for a truly saddening success story? Well, at least he's still alive and happy (almost...too happy), and hasn't abandoned the instrument of his (and my) choice. Long live the 88 keys! Hm...

Pedro Andino <> (17.12.2002)

to some girls he was the sexiest man alive HEY I DID NOT TELL YOU I'M GAY SO SHUT UP! ANYWHO i still think he was sooooooo awsome yet over the top my idiot high ja rule loving junkies hate him but i disagree ja and peepee diddy can fuck off! elton was the king of the 70s balladeer of the 80s man of the 90s

Steve Potocin <> (18.12.2002)

The high point of Elton Johns career was his piano playing on the Hollies 'He ain't Heavy'. All kidding aside he had some decent chops, and a pleasant voice, but I'll never understand his massive appeal.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (14.04.2004)

Elton John is a very successful pop artist who has consistently been on the charts since 1970. He started out as a folk-rock artist, recording his first album Empty Sky in 1969. However he first tasted success in 1970 with a more pop oriented album in Elton John which spawned his first hit, 'Your Song'. That year he also released an ode to 'The old west' Tumbleweed connection. He now had a mix of rock, country and folk. This is one of his best albums. Madman across the water continued that theme and Honky Chateau combined this theme with a more urban theme. Honky Chateau was also his first No.1 album. He followed it in 1973 with a pop album Don't shoot me ... where the country influences had almost been completely put ot rest. Goodbye yellow Brick road from the same year is a double album and is rumoured by many to be his best album. The latter part of it saw him really getting into rock and roll the way he ahd done on Don't shoot me.... Caribou was a more light pop album from 1974 later that year he released a greatest hits collection featuring his biggest hits up to that point. The next year he released Captain Fantastic and it was an autobiographical account of Elton and his lyricist from when they met up to Empty Sky. This is also rumoured to be his best. Later that year came a 'rock' album, rock of the westies and then he shifted from DJM records to Rocket records for 1976's Blue Moves, an unusual double album, loved by some, hated by others. From 1978's A single man upto today, he has been a mainstream pop artist. This more 'pop' direction has been criticised heavily by those who admired his country folk-rock era. But Elton remains a prominent pop artist who comes out with pop music that is unique, touching and very melodic. Notable albums from this era are The Fox a euro-flavoured album from '81, The light hearted Jump Up from '82 which Elton really throws himself into and featured his tribute to John Lennon as well as one of his most revered ballads, 'Blue Eyes'. Too low for zero from '83 is often considered one of his better albums and features a surreal sound created by keyboards on many tracks as well as two of his best songs 'I guess that's why they call it the blues' and 'I'm still standing', Breaking Hearts from '84 rocks, Sleeping with the past is his tribute to 'R&B' and 'Soul' while '92's The One was his first album after he shrugged off his alcohol and drug problems. It was very successful and was the first to reach the top ten in the United  States since 1976. Made in England from '95 is also noteworthy and around this time he began a link with Disney writing sountracks for them. The most succesfful is The Lion King featuring 'Can you feel the love tonight' In 2001 he released Songs from the West Coast which was seen by many to be a return to his earlier albums like Honky Chateau but others were more sceptical. He is releasing recording and releaing new material in his mid-late fifties.

To tell you the truth, I'm sick of all this 'Oh back in the good old days' and 'The Early Years' YUCK! I Just fucking hate it when people are going on and on about 'the early years' Fuck the early years. Okay, I love his first three albums, and I do like his big hit stuff but I could also live without it. He really peaked in the early 80's. Forget all these old fogies who are stuck in the past listening to the songs of the era when they still could read a book wihthout 'my reading glasses' and they actually had libido. Does Madman Across the water remind you of your first girlfriend, eh? Half of you don't even know what the lyris to the Captain fantastic album are about? do ya? In the early 80's He made albums that had great variety, a great sense of mood, that were highly enjoyable, and there was also some experimentation on the side ['Carla-Etude-fanfare, Give me the love, I am your robot, Too low for zero, Crystal, Passengers] Yes I know he experimented in 'The good old days', 70-75 but the results were ususally boring and uninteresting like 'Goodbye' and 'King Must die' A lot of it's just the generic folk-rock that everyone was into back in the boring early 70's. Bugger all the criticisms of his 90's stuff, Made In England and Big Picture sound less like the 90's than Honky Chateau sounds like '72. If that matters. This guy has always been good. Very good. checkout his entire catalogue. He rarely releases a bad album.

Jean Marlow <> (04.05.2004)

Elton John's output in the past 35 years or so contains some of the most enjoyable moments in my music collection, plus a few moments best forgotten. That in no way makes him unique; so many of the performers I love have had periods when their output is simply not up to scratch.

Elton's work for the first ten years or so of his career is outstanding and choosing the best songs or the best album is difficult; there are so many highlights. I fell in love with Tumbleweed Connection a long time ago. Although his songs seem to have always been in the soundtrack of my life, it is only in the past year or so that I have started to seriously collect the rest of his early albums. I am so glad that I have done this. His voice is amazing, his tunes are memorable, and fit the lyrics so well. And those lyrics; I do not believe that Bernie Taupin is obsessed with mysogyny or homosexualism. From time to time, the lyrics are bitter, not, I think, at womankind in general, but at individual women (principally, I think at the ex-wife of the moment~he has three). I agree that his *love gone wrong* songs are stronger than his conventional love ballads; he has also written those memorable lyrics which are really nothing to do with love, at least not romantic love. "Talking Old Soldiers", "Rocket Man", and most of Captain Fantastic have wonderful lyrics with magical tunes; not love songs, but songs written with love by both of them.

From the late 1970s, when the songwriters went their separate ways for three years or so, until the late 1990s, Elton's output is, I think, less enjoyable. There are still great moments, but I don't think that they fill the albums, the way they filled the early work. Some of the *love gone wrong* songs ('Sacrifice', 'Sad Songs') still shine through; the occasional *non-love-song* ('I'm Still Standing') stars. Issued by a new artist, these songs would have been hailed as signs of a vast talent; the 80s and 90s suffer in comparison with the stellar hits of the first decade.

Frequently, reviews and criticism of Elton's work centre of the supposed weaknesses in the lyrics. I disagree strongly with those who make sweeping generalisations about Taupin's work. Elton has worked with several other lyricists of varying levels of ability over the years; I think that their work co-incided (perhaps NOT a co-incidence) with Elton's weaker tunes. But Bernie Taupin has written the lyrics to most of Elton's hit songs, and virtually all of the ones which I like, so when I think of Elton's songwriting, I automatically think of Bernie Taupin too. I think that a lot of the criticism stems from two songs; the 1997 "Candle in the Wind", and "Your Song".

"Candle in the Wind" was rewritten for a funeral. That it was subsequently recorded and become the largest selling single of all time, raising millions of dollars for charity cannot change this. I never bought it, and wouldn't, but the lyrics obviously touched a chord with a lot of people who felt a sense of personal loss. This doesn't make it a great song, but it is certainly a song which met it's objective.

It is so easy to dismiss "Your Song" as naive and awkward. I don't think that the writers would disagree. I recently read a book which quoted Bernie Taupin as saying it was the *frustrated outpourings of a reluctant virgin*. That description works well for me! I have always believed that the greatest charm of this songs is that it is open, honest, naive and vulnerable. It is a song about first love. It was written by a young country boy who was wearing his heart on his sleeve. And as such, it succeeds wonderfully.

The really good news about Elton John is that his latest album (with Bernie's lyrics) is wonderful. Songs from the West Coast has several of those wonderful *love gone wrong* songs, some great *non-love* songs, fabulous lyrics and Elton's voice is as good as ever. The song "American Triangle" is amnazing. I am enjoying this album more that any of his work recorded in the previous 20 years. I have read that there is to be anothere album later this year. I look forward to it in the hope that West Coast is the start of a resurgence of the 70s Elton, not the 80s or 90s version. He really is "still standing"


Bob Josef <> (22.02.2000)

Correction: Gus Dudgeon did not produce this album. Rather, the album was produced by DJM flunky Steve Brown. Whose inexperience shows -- the production is quite crude stereo, even by 1969 standards. The tunes are solid, though, but once in a while, the production does undermine a track - -such as on "Western Ford Gateway" (sorry, George). What's with that vocal fading in and out on the verses?

Of course, one has to get past 19-year-old Taupin's spaced-out lyrics to even get into the record. But although he's quite embarrassed by them today, I find the naivete behind them charming. (By the way, the lyric in "Lady, What's Tomorrow?" goes "Now there's concrete/But no clover" -- the city takes over the country). I pretty much agree on the fact that he hasn't quite found his vocal style yet. On tracks like "Tomorrow","The Scaffold" and "Vallhalla", he sings in a sort of Dylanesque style, which doesn't quite suit him.

But I do agree that there are two standouts: the title track, an overlooked classic rocker -- even it is heavily influenced by "Sympathy for the Devil." Love that screaming psychedelic guitar that comes careening in. And, yes, "Skyline Pigeon" is the first of Elton's "hymns," as he himself puts it -- beautiful music and the most straightforward lyrics on the album.

The CD reissue also contains the two (bomb) singles which preceded the album, "Lady Samantha"/"All Across the Havens" and "It's Me that You Need"/"Just Like Strange Rain." "Need" is another lovely, highly commercial ballad which I bet would have been a hit if Dudgeon had produced it. The others are more psychedelic pop songs which sound a bit dated but are also early indicators or Elton's knack for a great melody.

Ryan Maffei <> (10.03.2002)

An iffy debut that finds Elton still in his developemental stage. There is some solid material, granted, but when it is good, it's nowhere near some of the great stuff he would come up with. It's all very trippy, too, which is annoying..."Empty Sky" is a good, driving blues performance, although a tad overlong, and yeah, it really does remind me of the Rolling Stones at their most overblown and meandering. (In this respect, the record is "naive", as Elton dubbed it--over the course of his next few records, he would be parodying the Stones). Anything else that's remotely solid ("Western Ford Gateway", "Gulliver") is rather sophomoric overall, and "Skyline Pigeon" is in a class of its own, being the only solo harpsichord rock ballad ever recorded. Oh well. Interestingly, the bonus tracks show John to be an incredible songwriter--"All Across the Havens", "It's Me That You Need", and "Lady Samantha" are better than everything else on the record combined. A 6, or a C+.

Pedro Andino <> (31.07.2003)

elton john and bernie taupin. two guys with the right combination. elton has the melody, while bernie has the lyrics and when you see that album cover, you might think it was john lennon. the title track is a zepplin-like rocker that must be heard. play you stupid dj! 'valhalla' is like a gospel tune while 'hynm 2000' does sound like the rolling stones. 'sails' rocks while 'the scaffold' tries to be like bob dylan. then came my favorite ballad, 'skylin pigeon'. ballads are like my specialty because my girlfriend loves the melody and the music. i have a guitar and i can play any ballad by any decade: 'skyline pigeon'. 60's. tears by rush. 70's. always with me always with you by joe satriani: 80's. mayonaise by smashing pumpkins: 90's. and finally it is a weird jazz-fusion kind of song. anyhow this album is a lost classic and despite no radio play it is a fan favorite.

BILL SLOCUM <> (26.01.2004)

Empty Sky is an illuminating preview of Elton John and Bernie Taupin before they were stars, but otherwise fulfills the same function as the Beatles Live At Hamburg or Supertramp's Indelibly Stamped. Yes, there's the title track, which does have some powerfully rocky moments and some nice vocal stylizing, though it drags on too long and gets repetitive. Maybe I'm blocked, but "Skyline Pigeon" with its affected harpsichord does very little for my spirits either way, however much a breakthrough Elton regarded it. Too precious and twee for me.

Taupin seems to think he's fingerpainting with lyrics, everything very blurry and imprecise, though highly colorful and vivid. He made some clunky rhymes later on, but here he just struggles with basic metaphors, like the odd submarine reference drawn out in "Hymn 2000." Often he's like a middle schooler trying to shock you by channelling clunky metaphors picked up from musty tomes read in his father's library, the kind of middle schooler who reads a few pages and thinks he's figured it all out. In time, I think Elton found a way of developing music so compelling as to blot out the obviousness of his partner's excesses, but he had yet to do that here. [Also, Taupin did develop some craft and subtlety in time as well, just not as much as his partner.]

I like many of the songs on this album. I see why "Sails" and "Western Ford Getaway" have their fans; they move. Most of the rest have something solid going on in the melody department. It's just that I wonder: Would we be talking about this record if whoever made it faded into obscurity a couple of years later? Okay, you may be right, Elton's one record might have been forgotten even if it had been something great like Tumbleweed Connection, because that's how it is in pop music. But if his one shot was Tumbleweed, forgetting it would have been our loss.

Anyway, we all have to start somewhere, and there's good to be found in Empty Sky. It's nice to hear Elton before he "arrived" with his eponymous record the following year. And the CD's inclusion of "Lady Samantha" offers one dynamite track for the listener, a song on a par with any of his later hits. But the rest here is table-setting; not to be confused with the feast to follow.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (21.04.2004)

This was Elton's first album. It's folk-rock but it also features a lot of excellent guitar work that is very rhythm and blues. Another thing about it is I couldn't accuse any song of being similar to another song on it. Except a couple of rockers. The first song, the title track, is a long but very good piece of rhythm and blues featuring harmonica and flute, 'Val Hala' is a bit Elizabethan-ish with it's harpsichord but it's also a folk song, it's great. 'Western Ford Gateway' is a cool psychedelic rocker with folk rhythm section. I love the intro to this one. Off the original album my least favourite song is 'Hymn 2000' and it's okay, a sort of folk song almost Cat Stevens-ish. It features a cool flute and chorus, about 'Submarine numbers'. I have to disagree with you George, 'Lady what's tomorrow' is a fine, touching ballad and is in fact my 3rd favourite off the remastered and original albums. It features a lot of piano and organ. Sails just rocks, and is very bluesy. ! Then 'Scaffold' is a way-out-there piece of psychedelic folk and it's relaxing but well done, liek the vocals too, very Dylanesque. Of-course 'Skyline Pigeon' is the best song, I really like the harpsichord and it does fit the theme of the song. It's a ballad. 'Gulliver' is the second best number, a fusion of folk and blues featuring some nice piano playing and a dramatic finale. 'Hay Chewed' just absolutely swings! 'Lady Samantha', the first of the extra tracks is a really good rock number that sounds like it is possible hti material. The intro really hits you. I'm not that fond of 'All across the havens' but it's a precursor to 'Honky Cat'. 'It's me that you need' is a typical pop-song of the time but is a very good song, my fifth favourite of the whole thing in-fact and does deliver some decent guitar playing. The intro to 'Just like strange rain' rocks and the song is quite a good piece of psycedelia. Overall, one of Elton's most daring, interesting and consistent albums.

George Fowler <> (26.11.2005)

You remark that many Elton John fans aren't even aware of this album, thinking that his career started with the following eponymous album released in 1970. I was an Elton John fan during that period, and I know for a fact that Empty Sky was not released in the U.S. at that time. I bought an (overpriced) import copy of it in April 1971, and was very excited, since it was nothing even a fan like myself had even heard of. By coincidence, I then attended an Elton John concert a few days later in Cincinnati, Ohio (and even taped it! but the audience tape was so bad as to be almost unlistenable, though it was fun to hear him playing a well-known piano student's Mozart minuetto as part of the extended introduction to one song upon repeated listenings). During the concert he stated that Empty Sky would be released as part of a two-album set together with 11-17-70. That never happened, but it provides some additional confirmation that the record hadn't been released in the U.S. at that time.


Bob Josef <> (25.02.2000)

One thing that we do definitely agree on: the idiotic "No Shoestrings" should have been totally scrapped. Worse than anything on Empty Sky. The single worst track EJ recorded before Don't Shoot Me. Why they didn't leave "Bad Side" or "Grey Seal" on the original LP and relegate this one to B-side hell instead or the tape erase heads is beyond me.

Disagreement on "The Greatest Discovery" and "First Episode," though -- very evocative, moving lyrics set to stately, but hardly dull melodies mad powerful arrangements. On the other hand, I think the strings on "Sixty Years On" and the lack of piano make this version sound cloying and over-melodramatic. On the whole, though, I would also give it a 9, but for different reasons!

By the way, "Madonna" is not really live, but a studio track with applause overdubbed. It was recorded before the sessions for the album, but it sounds almost like an outtake from Don't Shoot Me. Proof that Elton was capable of creating silly fluff even at the beginning.

Didier Dumonteil <> (04.03.2001)

Not a great album,but a commendable debut (Empty sky can except for "skyline pidgeon" be overlooked)One perennial:"your song".After 1975,EJ  has not written such a gem.The delicate "greatest discovery" is a close second.

Ryan Maffei <> (10.03.2002)

On the contrary, I'll have to agree with, of all people, Wilson and Alroy on this one. There's no filler at all (well, there's one song, the lethargic "First Episode at Hienton", but...), and the record shows amazing songwriting growth on Elton's part. Filled with well-crafted, fluid, enthralling rock'n'roll, it's probably one of the greatest albums of all time, and certainly Elton's best (although the polished singer-songwriter tour-de-force Tumbleweed Connection is a close second). I would attribute most of the album's appeal to Paul Buckmaster's stunning arrangements--"Sixty Years On", for example, thrills mainly because of the macabre symphonic parts, and "The King Must Die" reaches a flooring climax that ends up being the dramatic highlight of the album. But Elton's work shines through nicely as well--"Your Song" is an ideal, earnest love ballad, "Take Me to the Pilot" and "The Cage" are invigorating blues-rockers, and "Border Song", which barely has arrangements, is a lovely gospel-tinged gem. Even the less hailed tracks are admirable in my mind--"The Greatest Discovery" actually has some relatable, less-than-vague Taupin lyrics, and pleasant, almost moving instrumentation, and "No Shoe Strings on Louise" is a hilarious parody of the Stones' country-blues output. And of all people I'd like to see skewered by bespectacled singer-songwriters, the Stones would be my first choice. A high 9.

BILL SLOCUM <> (24.01.2004)

Like Ryan Maffei above, I enjoy Elton's healthy Mick mannerisms in "No Shoe Strings On Louise" and others have said what I'd echo about "The Greatest Discovery" as well. When Taupin was banal, he deserves slags, but with "The Greatest Discovery" he puts up a very unique subject for a love song, one not revealed until the song's last stanza, and it's a great twist, augmented by Elton John's vocals and musical accompaniment.

I'm not wild about "Your Song," but it is a better chesnut than "Saturday Night" or "Candle In The Wind." So much else here is terrific, and not at all in the way you'd come to associate with Mr. John. Ornate instrumentation, yes, but a different dynamic, like he didn't know yet how to be a pop star and was just striving for artistic integrity instead. Call me a whore, but I love "Benny And The Jets" and "The Bitch Is Back" better than anything on this album. Yet I enjoy listening to this record, and find myself wondering what Elton would have become had he followed roads not taken so early in his career.

Glenn Wiener <> (15.02.2004)

This early Elton John almost approaches the greatness of the man's classic period. 'Your Song' is one beautiful piece of music and words. The string backing is very appropriate. Also there gospel/blues flavored 'Take Me To The Pilot' and spirited rocker 'Rock N Roll Madonna' are awesome tunes. Oh and I forgot about 'Border Song' which is a fine anti-prejudice song.

The ballads are touching but some of them are too string heavy. Whereas Elton tries to sound yearning and even romantic, the tone just depresses me on several songs particularly 'Sixty Years On', 'I Need You To Turn To', and 'First Episode At Hienton'. Don't get me wrong, the melodies on those songs are all strong. Its just after a while, I want to hear songs, not Elton John crying to an orchestra on the dreariness of life.

Therefore, a very good recording yes, but just a wee bit short of a classic rating.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (15.06.2004)

This is my favourite of his. Here is a young Elton taking a dive into completely unfashionable yet wonderful teritory. He's re-inventing classical music and in a big way. I mean he sings sensitive, personal lyrics over many of these songs which are gentle classical music ballads but it's not just typical classical music, it also does have rocking classical music. Amongst the ballads is variety, 'Your Song' has a folk leaning, 'I need you to turn to' is Elizabethan with some great harpsichord playing, 'First Episode at Hienton' is gentle, mysterious and plaintive, 'sixty years on' has raging string section, 'Border Song' has an obvious gospel leaning and 'The Greatest Discovery' is jubilant. 'The King must die' is sought of majestic but I don't seem to like it. Of-the rockers, 'Take me to the pilot' is just excellent and 'Cage' really grooves. Then we have 'No shoestrings on Louise', with a country leaning. Country or no country it's not my cup of tea! Nevermind I replace 'Shoestrings' and 'King must die' with another Classical music orietned rocker 'Bad Side of the Moon' which is a bonus track. It may seem a little too similar to 'Pilot' but just dig those drums at the start. Then there's the rock n roll number 'Rock N Roll Madonna', and I think it's a great end to the album. I still don't like 'Grey Seal'.


Glenn Wiener <> (10.08.2002)

Where to Now??? I say some commentary on this long awaited review. Good job George, consistent it is. Your choices for faves are pretty good. Truthfully I like 'Where To Now St. Peter'?! Love the wah wah guitar and Elton's singing. But like you said there is not a weak number in the lot and some awesome keyboards.

Bob Josef <> (23.09.2002)

Yes, another wonderful early album. What's amazing is how strikingly different it is from the previous album (not to mention the first!). Great melodies and evocative, highly narrative lyrics. The only thing that really resembles anything from the Elton John album is "Come Down in Time", Taupin's one foray into his earlier surrealism ("A cluster of night jars sang songs out of tune"?). But it's a cool song, and Buckmaster's string arrangements don't seem quite as overwhelming here.

George, you evidently have a CD of the original LP. For the remaster, they added two other songs from the sessions. "Into the Old Man's Shoes" , which was used as the British B-side of "Your Song" is a strong track dealing with a father-son relationship (like "Levon"), but also fits in with the album's Old West motif. On the other hand, the early version of "Madman Across the Water" wouldn't have fit in at all. Rather than the orchestration of the final version, this one is a nine minute jam featuring a lot of hard rock guitar from Mick Ronson. Doesn't quite work, but it is interesting. [I DO have the remaster, though, and I actually find the early version of 'Madman' just as good as, if not better than, the classic version... I just spent too much space on the original review as such - G.S.]

BILL SLOCUM <> (20.11.2003)

Elton's With The Beatles, a solid if hitless album that validates his artistic vision while demonstrating his breakthrough U.S. debut Elton John was no fluke. Just chock full of great songs and good ones, and an album that coheres to a theme of C&W-based longing and heartache.

Everything clicks, including Taupin's lyrics. Especially Taupin's lyrics. Elton's writing partner is the weakest link so often that giving him his due doesn't come easy. Tumbleweed finds him spot-on, feeding Elton's musicality with interesting concepts and a ready wellstream of passion. "Come Down In Time" is one of their neglected masterpieces, in my view, an examination of the emotional cost of unrequited love, very subtly done because it lacks the easy recrimination and lazy misogyny that sometimes mars the whole Elton John ouvre, at least during the Closet Years. The singer here is more bewildered than anything else, and for that, you identify. That last bit, especially: "There are women/Some hold you tight/And some leave you counting/The stars at night." Man, is that great or what?

Elsewhere, you have the Daddy trio ["Son Of Your Father," "My Father's Gun," and "Into The Old Man's Shoes"], "Burn Down The Mission," "Where To Now, St. Peter," and the amiably atmospheric and rousing "Country Comfort." You make an especially great case for "Talking Old Soldiers," George, nothing more to say there but "Amen!"

The album presents such a great marriage of words and music you wonder where these guys were for the rest of their careers, even when crafting the enjoyably solid but shallow hits that immediately followed.

Jean Marlow <> (20.04.2004)

I read your reviews yesterday, which induced me to get out my favourite Elton John album, and the first one I ever purchased and play it again (and again). Mine is on vinyl and it still sounds great (though without any extra songs). I can understand why there were no singles released; it stands so much better as an album than as a collection of songs. That said, I could listen to "Come Down in Time" and "Talking Old Soldiers" endlessly. I think Taupin's "love gone wrong" lyrics are his best, but "Talking Old Soldiers" exemplifies the finest of his "non-love-songs" . The power of these words stand in contrast to some of the far better known, but less satisfying songs from the same era. Thirty something years after I first heard it, I am still glad I spent half a week's student grant on buying this album

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (15.06.2004)

This, along with anything he did from 1970-1973 [except maybe Don't Shoot Me] and Captain Fantastic are all possibly his best. I think you should get this and the Elton John album. This album is Elton John at his folky best. The previous album was Elton at his sensitive ballads best. Both albums have plenty of great rockers too. So together, they are my vote for 'his best'. I mean this album is absolutely wonderful, and the variety is astounding. Every song is so different from every other song. My favourites are the gospel rocker, 'Ballad of a well known gun' [that song ain't a ballad!], the acoustic guitar ballad 'Love Song' and my absolute favourites 'My fathers gun' and 'Country Comfort'. 'Gun' is his take on a big brass sound. Actually, the deep pitched oboe really invokes the mental image of a chugging riverboat engine. Great lyric too! 'Country Comfort' really captures the atmosphere of relaxing country life. I love every track, they're all great and I even love the bonus track, 'Old man's shoes'.


Bob Josef <> (25.02.2000)

Agreement here. Incredible performances. It was a little soon for EJ to put out a live recording, but the original radio broadcast was heavily bootlegged, so his hand was forced.

I think the rhythm section plays very powerfully -- Dee and Nigel really cook. Particularly on "Sixty Years On," which I think is the real standout track. It totally blows away the studio version, with its corny strings and wimpy vocal. I think the definitive live "Bad Side of the Moon" is on the later live album Here and There, but this one is pretty good, too. By the way, the studio "Can I put you On?" is actually from Elton's soundtrack for the bomb movie Friends.

Warning: there are two different mixes of the album. The original American MCA LP was mixed by engineer Phil Ramone. When my copy was stolen, I replaced it was the remastered CD, which has Gus Dudgeon's mix. And he added, for no apparent reason, TOO MUCH ECHO! For someone used to Ramone's mix, it's extremely distracting. However, the new CD includes a version of Tumbleweed Connection's "Amoreena" that was not on the original LP. But I might track down an old MCA CD just because I find all the echo so annoying.

Ryan Maffei <> (10.03.2002)

Actually, quite a powerful, underrated live album. Apparently, earlier pressings were dismissed because of poor sound quality, so the remastering has obviously helped greatly--this record could very well be a live television broadcast in its in-your-face quality. (Er, considering you have an adequate TV and stereo system; I do). The accomplished John jams nicely on the record, and the performances are so fiery and entertaining that the lack of more familiar material (considering the time it was recorded, of course) is completely forgivable. Bravo! An 8.

Bill Slocum <> (10.02.2004)

Elton was in very good form here. I'm just not that wild about the songs he showcases, or maybe I just wish there were more of them. Good drumming and bass playing by Nigel Olsson and Dee Murray, and Elton makes a strong case for himself as his best keyboard accompanist (though I don't think he ever had any competition from Paul Buckminster or whoever played on Victim Of Love.)

"Honky Tonk Women" shows how cleverly Elton could set up a song to audience expectations, then shatter them. It's his best number, though within the limited hard-rock gambit 11-17-70 showcases, he does do justice to some other songs, whether they be deep album cuts ("Amoreena") or recognized standouts ("Burn Down The Mission").

Maybe my biggest problem with this one is that there should have been more, like what was added to Here And There years after the fact. You even hear Dave Herman saying at the fadeout that there's going to be more. Whoever heard of a concert with seven numbers, even if the last is a medley? I guess that's a pretty lame excuse for not liking a live record more, that I didn't get to hear more of it, but if you are going to profile lesser-known numbers, you can't just cherry-pick a half-dozen and expect the audience to be satisfied. Not me, anyway.


Richard C. Dickison <> (13.12.99)

Ahhhhh, The Holy Grail of Elton John,

Truly a bright shiny hellaciously overplayed album.

Right up there with Dark Side Of The Moon, Aja, Rumors....

This really is Elton's main claim to fame, and it stands the test of time well.

He was not quite into full glam at this point and was quite obviously trying to create a perfect album. Well give him a big old gold star for this one. You can't listen to a seventies radio station without hearing close to this whole album at least twice a day.

'Tiny Dancer', 'Levon', and the title track, can blow you away, while making you cringe from the overexposure.

I have to gag on 'Indian Sunset', and 'Razor Face' is weak but look what songs it is in the company of. I still cannot remember a damn thing about 'All the Nasties' even though I've listened to this album since I was 16.

Well I rate this one as the peak of Elton's whole career and god bless him. He had all the right people and the vision to put it together at least once. Here is one of those top 10 of all time albums you constantly see listed and rightly so.

If you call yourself a classics buff you should already own two or three copies of this, If you don't shame, shame, shame on you.

Glenn Wiener <> (09.02.2000)

Your review is fairly on the money here. The first side is very strong but as you get through side 2, the arrangements sound fairly identical. I believe almost every song on this record has a string arrangement in the background. This is fine for strong songs like 'Tiny Dancer', 'Levon', 'Madman', and even 'Rotten Peaches'. However, it doesn't save the other weak songs on side 2. 'Goodbye' is a good tender ballad to close out theis record on a strong note. And 'Razor Face' has nice gospel tinged stylings to make it fairly interesting. A good recording but Elton has many better cannons in his arsenal with Honkey Chateau and Tumbleweed Connection being two of them.

Bob Josef <> (29.02.2000)

My favorite EJ album, and a favorite of a lot of fans, despite the fact that the man himself is not all that fond of it nowadays. Very dark, very powerful music. Buckmaster's arrangements are at their best -- they really add to the drama of the songs. And Bernie's lyrics are coming down to earth.

I must be the only person who likes "All the Nasties" -- the lyrics are great, and I love the gospel choir -- I don't think they go on too long at all. "Razor Face" is sort of ordinary musically, but the lyrics are very moving. The only real dud is "Goodbye" -- sort of a precursor to the depressing stuff on Blue Moves. But at least it's short. Otherwise, it's one of Elton's masterworks.

The compilation Rare Masters has a great outtake from the sessions, a gospel rocker called "Rock me When He's Gone." It sounds more like something from the next album, though -- it would have sounded quite out-of-place alongside the rest f these songs.

Didier Dumonteil <> (04.03.2001)

A moderately successful record in 1971."tiny dancer,holiday inn,rotten peaches are the highlight,and "levon" the standout although I've never understood what B.Taupin meant in this latter song.The album is tuneful,but a bit monotonous.I think EJ should have compressed the best tumbleweed connection songs (Amoreena which S.Lumet used over the credits of "dog day afternoon",my father's gun,country comfort) into the best of the next album and we would have had  a really great one instead of two OK ones.And more various at that!

Palash Ghosh <> (06.03.2001)

Madman Across The Water is typical of even Elton John's finest albums -- a few good songs, interspersed with forgettable drivel. On this record, the good/bad ratio is distressingly low. It's too bad that Elton didn't have a songwriting partner (to take the load off) rather than having just a lyricist. The two best (and only two good) numbers here are 'Levon' and 'Tiny Dancer' -- but neither of these are true classics. I've listened to this record straight through probably about 40 or 50 times over the years, and no matter how hard I try, I can't recall a single thing about the other songs!

Elton might've been better off putting out EPs with just a handful of good/great songs -- he just can't pull off a strong album!

A lot of criticism has been directed at Bernie Taupin's ability to write lyrics. I must admit that I never really paid attention to the lyrics before (especially in Elton's more verbose, grandiose numbers) –- and often I couldn't even understand what the words were! But, a good melody and strong musical arrangement can easily overcome weak or meaningless lyrics. When I actually sat down and read Taupin's lyrics, I found most of it absurd, immature and ridiculous. But, given Elton's musical sense, Taupin's words often created the right sense of 'mood' in a song.

<> (15.05.2001)

Well, I like it - more than Honkey Chateau anyway. Despite what some people might say though, I doubt the Madman Across The Water album gets enormous amounts of radio play, at least not these days. "Tiny Dancer," "Levon" and "Madman..." are the only cuts from this album I've EVER heard on the radio ... at least, on the local Philadelphia/central Jersey rock stations. I wouldn't know how it is elsewhere. Of these, only "Levon" is seriously overplayed around these parts.

Personally, I think side one is excellent, even "Razor Face," which I feel is seriously underrated, and probably one of the 2 or 3 finest songs on here IMHO - it's the closest Elton comes to a lighthearted piano rocker on the entire album, and it's far from his worst in that department. "Tiny Dancer" and "Levon" are both brilliant songs, with some of Elton's (or should I say Bernie's) most well-crafted lyrics, especially on "Levon." Still, I can't shake the feeling that they were both written specifically for a.m. radio play. They're TOO slick and professional sounding to stir any real emotions in me, and the overproduction - especially on "Levon" - just screams Top 40, doesn't it? Great songs in their own way, but I'll take "Razor Face" over this stuff anyday. Meanwhile, the title song "Madman Across The Water" is absolutely fantastic stuff. It's one of the few Elton John songs you could actually call haunting. The opening "boat on the reef with a broken back" line sets the perfect bleak, hopeless mood, and by the time he sings "take my word, I'm a madman don't you know," I'm fully caught up in the utter and complete despair of it all. It doesn't sound like a put-on, it doesn't sound like Bernie trying to be caustic ... it sounds like a believable tragedy. Between the slow, creepy, somehow "inevitable" sounding guitar rhythm which opens the song, and the stark, simplistic piano pattern which carries it, the whole thing works and works great. Even the slightly melodramatic string sections don't rob it of its effect (and I would expect some melodrama anyway. This is Elton John, after all).

But my vote for best song on the album goes to "Rotten Peaches" - which incidentally might be my favorite Elton John song EVER. It combines the catchy barroom-piano spirit of "Razor Face" with the despairing mood of "Madman" and manages to outdo them both. No melodrama here, just an awesome tongue-in-cheek tragedy, done exactly the way it should be done. The contrasts make the song ... the music is bouncy yet edged with sadness, while the lyrics are despairing yet edged with a world-weary amusement. And what a cool chorus. What more could ya want? I even relate to it on a personal level, for some weird reason. Call me crazy, I dunno. A career criminal who is lamenting about doing time and who's had his fill of cocaine and pills - it doesn't sound much like me at all, yet I still identify with it somehow. Especially when he sings "and I've always had trouble wherever I've settled, rotten peaches are all that I see." When I first heard that it really struck a nerve, cuz sometimes it seems like rotten peaches are all that I see in this world myself. But I digress ... as for the rest of side two, "Indian Sunset" is standard Taupin cheese ('nuff said), "Holiday Inn" is okay but kinda forgettable, "All The Nasties" is annoying gospel shlock but far from the worst thing Mr. Dwight has ever done, and "Good-bye" is pathetic and kinda pointless but too short to complain about so I won't. Ever notice all the "ugly" song titles on here - "Rotten Peaches," "All The Nasties," "Razor Face"? Even the stark & hopeless "Good-bye"? Going only by song titles alone, this album almost sounds like it could be a 70's punk rock album! The actual music is about as far from punk rock as can be, of course, but the titles really suit the whole "ugly" flavor of punk rock. Considering this is an Elton John album, I think that's something worth emphasizing, as such a sharp change in mood can only mean a transitional phase in Elton's career.

Wow, this letter has gotten a bit too long. Sorry George. Anyway, this is probably my favorite Elton John album, overall. I'd give it a high 9 on the 1-10 scale. Maybe even a 10 if you catch me in a good mood.

Ryan Maffei <> (10.03.2002)

The last stab at an earnest, lush singer-songwriter album from John, and a weak second side, filled with some unfortunately underdeveloped material, renders it somewhat disappointing overall. I like "Tiny Dancer", "Razor Face" and the even more moving "Levon", and Buckmaster's always-accomplished arrangements provide a solid, enticing overall sound for the entire record. The title track, meanwhile, is undoubtedly one of John's most intense, harrowing performances. But ridiculous stabs at folk, country, and gospel like "All the Nasties", the ridiculous "Indian Summer", "Rotten Peaches", and "Holiday Inn" leave this listener somewhat less-than-satisfied. And "Goodbye" really isn't all that great. A 7 from me--John had done much better with his last two albums.

Pedro Andino <> (17.12.2002)











Bill Slocum <> (10.02.2004)

Throw a bucket of cold water on this guy!!! He had the music down, but it sounds like he's trying to compose "Les Miserables" or something here. I guess it just doesn't sound like he had anything that compelling to be worked up about.

The first four songs are alright, but would have been better had they been sequenced with tracks from the next two records, which were more poppy and amiable, not to mention more subtle in their melodic gambits. Pop music doesn't work well with violins.

I also like "Holiday Inn," and "Tiny Dancer" was the best of the bunch, but there are four songs on this album that range from sucky ("Rotten Peaches") to stupid ("Indian Sunset"). Too much drama, not enough tuneful originality.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (05.04.2004)

What happened? the first three albums were excellent and then came this. The lyrics are the most annoying stab at significane, Bernie trying to raise his name with the use of Biblical sounding lyrics. 'Razor Face' has always come across to me as a mocking of Jesus' second coming, considering Jesus didn't shave. 'Has anybody here seen Razor Face, I heard he's back looking for a place to lay down, Must be getting on, Needs a man who's young to walk him round ... You're a song on the lips of an aging star ... Razor Face, oh amazing grace, Protects you like a glove, And I'll never learn the reason why, I love your Razor Face.' Or maybe I just misinterperate it because every second word in teh song before it is 'Levon'. And then the music is nothing new. It's the same old stuff that we have already been served. Okay 'Holiday Inn' is new, a sought of soft rock sing-a-long with excellent mandolin, his first union with Davey johnstone. But 'Levon' is another 'Old Man's shoes' or 'talking old soldiers' or 'sixty years on' only the song is lifeless and dull until the chorus, 'Razor Face' doesn't take us anywhere 'Ballad of a well known gun' did and until the electric guitar comes in what a boring song it is. 'Indian Sunset' is just another 'King Must Die', 'Rotten peaches' is another 'Country comfort' and 'All the nasties' is another 'Border song' Though I like 'All the Nasties' a lot more than I like 'Border song'. The backing singers are classically trained and the fadeout is amazing, love those drums. It sought of signifies an unending suffering. They did the same thing on 'All quiet on the western front' from '82 though that was an instrumental fadeout. The message was conveyed through the synthesised fanfare. Anyway back to Madman, the title track was re-recorded from the Tumbleweed Connection sessions. That says a lot. The production is excellent. Okay 'Tiny dancer' is a sougth of ballad version of 'Holiday Inn', but it's still a great song. Actually the arrangements are prettymuch the same from song to song. I mean every song on Tumbleweed Connection, even with two bonus tracks, is unique and fresh compared to the other songs on the album. Or even compare the strings on this album to the strings on Elton John. The strings on 'First episode at Hienton' are soft and gentle and the strings on 'sixty years on' are rough, thumping and grating. Yet the string on this album are basically the same on every song, except the title track, where they are very good, I think 'Beatle-esque'. Anyway they rock on that track. I like the brass on 'Indian Sunset' but aside from that, what else is there to say. A few excellent song, a couple of great ones, and a bunch of lifeless and boring ones. Elton and Bernie had seen America for their own eyes by now and perhaps it lost the same magic and mystique it held for them when they recorded Tumbleweed Connection. Maybe I'm wrong...


Ben Greenstein <> (04.08.99)

No! Sorry, George - I know we don't always agree, but this time you're just wrong! This is not that good a record - in fact, the only really good songs on the whole thing are "Honky Cat", "Rocket Man," and "Mona Lisas," all of which are truly incredible in every sense of the word. But the rest of these (the slight exception being the catchy "I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself") are just mindless, boring "piano rockers" that don't actually rock! I really prefer Yellow Brick Road - it's packed with great, classic songs and melodies, and it somehow manages to have far less filler than the 3/4 present here - and it's a double album! This gets a very low score, for me.

And Bowie kicks! I can understand how you may not like him, but it's silly to rate him below a spotty genius like Elton, who stopped making good music in 1974. Bowie stopped in '80.

And Bernie Taupin is not a good lyricist. Ever read his verses? He breaks rhyme schemes (not a crime, but something which great poets can avoid), his choice of words is at times hilarious, and there are often too many syllables in a line. And he wrote them all before he heard the music, so he doesn't have the excuse of being a "lyrcist." Nope, he's a poet, and a bad one at that. Check out Andy Partridge of XTC.

[Special author note: I never said I didn't like Bowie - I said that (a) Elton is more sincere, which is the absolute truth, (b) 'Rocket Man' is better than 'Space Oddity' which is a matter of taste.]

Richard C. Dickison <> (11.08.99)

No, your wrong Ben, you are so wrong to discuss Andy (Big reduction in the price of beer) Partridge in the same sentence with David (We could be heros just for one day) Bowie and Elton (He was born a pauper-to-a-pawn on a christmas day) John.

There is nothing wrong in relating Bowie to Elton they were both from the same cloth and so what if their times were a little off, their stories were much the same.

The greatest difference and even Bowie admits is that he was not that great of a singer and so he tried to be more stylistic than forward in his vocals.

Elton simply had better skills in this area and so was more believable.

On the other hand Bowie was at the time a better writer in some sense since Elton obviously did not write much. But that still is no reason to belittle either one with that Andy Partridge reference which could only be related to David Cassidy. But I did want to ride on that bus, and beat up Danny just once that little twirp.

Rich Bunnell <> (23.08.99)

I'm really not too familiar with Elton John's lyrics, and I like Bowie's lyrics too (spaced out and odd as they are sometimes) but really, Richard (yeesh, it feels weird addressing someone with the same name as you) downgrading Andy Partridge based on the most direct and obvious lyrics he ever penned?!? The man himself has even stated, in many, MANY interviews, that "Dear God" is one of the least favorite of his songs for that simple reason. Elsewhere, Partridge was an excellent lyricist-- check out "This World Over"-- and if you hate those lyrics it's because you biased yourself against them in advance because I praised them. Sorry to go off-topic, but though I can't say that Partridge surpasses Mr. Dwight or Mr. Jones lyric-wise (I don't have a definitive understanding of either artist's work) he at least matches them, no matter what. David Cassidy, pfft. Give me a break. As for the Elton John album in question (since it's a bit selfish to spend webspace talking about an unrelated artist), I know "Honky Cat" and "Rocket Man" since they get radio airplay, and they're both decent songs-- a lot better than some of Elton's other radio hits, at least in my opinion.

Ben Greenstein <> (23.08.99)

Hold it! Don't be so quick to judge Andy Partridge's lyrics, sir, if you haven't heard any songs other than "Dear God." Andy himself isn't very proud of that one! Have you heard "Another Sattelite"? How about "I Bought Myself A Liarbird"? "Rook"? "Wrapped In Grey"? They' all have great lyrics. Which brings me to my second point...

I REALLY HATE Taupin's lousy lyrics. I think that they are pretentious and sloppy. The sound okay when set to Elton's usually fabulous music, but read them on their own... sheesh. Certainly not poetry. Examples, you say? Here you go:

"I'm a rocket man - A ROCKET MAN!"

"I was playing rock and roll, and you were just a fan But my guitar couldn't hold you, so I split the band."

"You can't plant me in your penthouse, I'm going back to my plow."

"It's getting late, have you seen my mates?" (C'mon - he wasn't even british!)

"Hello, baby, hello!"

"Get back, honky cat!"

"Turn around and say good morning to the night." (What the hell does that mean?)

And consider that all of those were written before he saw the music, so they aren't really lyrics. They're poetry. Really bad poetry. I mean, he's a cool guy, but no poet. Sorry.

Glenn Wiener <> (25.08.99)

Whereas this is not my favorite, it is very good. The songs just flow probably due to the varying styles ranging from the jazzy 'Honkey Cat' to the beautiful ballad 'Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters' to all out rockers 'Hercules' and 'Amy'. Its hard to pick a bad song in the lot so I won't.

Ben, it appears that your view of good poetry is quite limited. Many good poets such as Henry David Thoreau do not even attempt to rhyme. Maybe Bernie Taupin is a little awkward with on occasional lyric here and there, but the idea is to creating an interesting picture or a mood. My interpretation of the Mona Lisa's line of "Mona Lisa's and Mad Hatters sons of bankers sons of lawyers say good morning to the night" is the fact that some people who come from money do not end up in money. Because of not getting the lack of attention as children, they turn into wild care free aimless people(Mona Lisa's, Mad Hatters) who have to resort to working at night and therefore saying good morning to it. There are many other views that one can take similar and disimilar to mine. The idea is that Bernie Taupin conjures up thought in his lyrics makes him a very good lyricists as well as poet. Combined with Elton John's music, they make a fine pair(probably in more ways than one)! Anyway, David Bowie has some good songs but I can not compare him to Elton John. But Mr. Ben, you are more than entitled to your opinion.

Richard C. Dickison <> (27.08.99)

"It's getting late, have you seen my mates?" (C'mon - he wasn't even british!)

Ummm, I hate to tell you but you can't become Sir Elton John, that means a knight in England, I believe. Unless you are a subject of the royalty of that country.

I think it's kind of an exclusive type club there dude.

But please go on, you were saying.....

Rich Bunnell <> (18.09.99)

Actually, I believe Ben was referring to Bernie Taupin, not Elton himself, since Bernie wrote "It's getting late, have you seen my mates?" as lyrics, or "poetry," before the music was written to them. Granted, it sounds more natural with Elton, a British man, singing them, and I'm pretty sure that's basically what the lyrics were meant for, not as poetry at all.

Also, though Ben brings up some pretty good examples of banal lyrics, I don't think it's fair to include "I'm a rocket man!...A ROCKET MAN!" on there, because the lyric itself on a lyric sheet would merely appear as "I'm a rocket man," and the second time Elton sings it is merely repetition for the sake of melody. Otherwise it's a normal lyric-- nothing poetic of course but nothing that other singers/lyricists haven't done either.

Bob Josef <> (29.02.2000)

Elton starts really going pop here. Actually, I think "Honky Cat" and "Rocket Man"are the weakest tracks here. Everything else has superior lyrics and music. I do miss the drama of his earlier studio records."Salvation" is the closest, which is why it's my favorite. (I have sort of a soft spot for gospel-type tunes.) And Bernie hasn't yet gotten obnoxious and offensive.

The remastered CD includes the first take of "Slave." Elton performs the track as a fluffy piano rocker, which is totally incongruous with the lyrics. Not worth hunting up.

<> (18.03.2000)

George hit one right on the head with this review.Most U.S. Elton fans are very partial to the HC album.One of the first efforts to get mainstream airplay in the states.One of the true highlights is "Mellow", a song that gets me singing each time it is played.The album has a great feel to it,and it is one of EJs best.

<> (24.03.2000)

uh, last time i checked bernie was just as english as elton.He has since become a u.s. citizen but he was born and raised in the u.k. i dont know what is ment by the statement "he isnt even english".

Didier Dumonteil <> (04.03.2001)

I totally agree with M.Greenstein.The only breakthrough here,so to speak,is Paul Buckmaster's orchestra 's absence.And I miss him and his turgid but efficient arrangements.

Palash Ghosh <> (06.03.2001)

I agree that Honky Chateau is the peak of Elton John's career -- but, once again, despite the presence of some truly classic numbers, there's too many throwaways 'Honky Cat' is a wonderful tune, Elton's decision to play an 'Oriental-sounding' piano was inspired and gives the song the perfect bouncy mood. 'Rocket Man' is a beautiful grand sweeping number with magnificent and tasteful synthesizers. 'Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters' is another favorite of mine -- the lyrics are gloriously vague and strangely sad.

But, as great as three songs are, I just don't like any of the others (although 'Mellow' is pretty nice). Once again, Elton (and the public) would've been better served with a concise EP rather than a full blown LP

Ryan Maffei <> (27.12.2001)

If you must know, "Hercules" is actually about a rhino. But it's still an idiotic, forgettable little ditty, so I don't care. There's so much on Honky Chateau that pales in comparison to Elton's earlier, more artistically accomplished work. With Paul Buckmaster, the best tracks on the middling Madman Across the Water (the whole first side and "Goodbye") sounded even grander in their excellence, while little can compare to the Beatle-esque artistry on Elton John or the landmark singer-songwriter ruminations on Tumbleweed Connection, the latter of which probably even surpasses Sweet Baby James when it comes to craft. But Chateau seems to be the album where Elton lost his grip on innovation and craft, and where he became a complete sellout. His pop inclinations then descended to new lows on Piano Player, Caribou, roughly a fourth of Yellow Brick Road and Rock of the Westies, never to be resuscitated in time for the impending breakdown years of 1977-1999.

How's that for you? Elton John Philosophy 101, eh? .

Bill Slocum <> (07.02.2004)

Great call on this one, George. It's hard to argue whether this, Tumbleweed Connection, or Capt. Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy was Elton's best, but this represents a truer slice of Elton's power-pop persona than the other two.

Funny how many of these songs would have worked on Tumbleweed. "Honky Cat," "Mellow," "Slave," and "Salvation" all have either a Western or deep-fried Southern U.S. vibe to them, in lyric and music. The lyrics throughout this album are among Taupin's best, not just because they make sense and paint compelling word pictures, but because they jibe with the music. Both men were obviously on a roll here.

The thing you point to in your review I'd like to second most is its diversity. Elton could go on a tangent and stay there for an entire record. Madman Across The Water and Blue Moves are great examples of this, where in one instance over-the-top gutbucket orchestration and in the other slow-as-molasses meandering melodies show up on one song after another. On Chateau, every song goes off and does its own thing. "I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself" works well enough because of its ragtime piano and playful lyrics, but what sends it over the top are those harmony breaks ("state of the teenage...bluuuuuuuuues") that work both as key changes and mood transitions.

"Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters".... Ever see the movie Metropolitan? It's about New York City rich kids and a wanna-be hanger on who basically dress up and drink themselves stupid every night, discussing deep philosophic issues or just gossiping as they live off their trust funds and the idea that there's no need to work for any future because there's none to be had. "Mona Lisas" came out maybe 20 years before that movie, and its like Elton and Bernie sat in on a screening before they wrote it. It's a funny and affecting song that also works as a melody.

"Hercules," "Susie," "Amy," etc... None of these songs suffer from not being played with the others. All are standouts. Chateau's not the only Elton album you can say that of, but it is the only pure pop album of his you can say that of.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (27.04.2004)

I think you are the first person who picked up on one of this albums'  weak points. Was Brigette Bardot really going to save Elton's life? It seems is an album is 'pop' music it is judged against every criteria and all it's weak points are emphasised and it's high points are over-looked. For a folk-rock album, it's highs are emphasised and it's lows are overlooked. Sometimes I wonder how much all these country stories mean to Elton? They mean a lot to Bernie but what about Elton? I mean he'd already put out two albums about rural-ness. People forever talk of Victim of love featuring vocals that aren't passionate, so what about 'Amy'? I mean seriously Elton sounds as though he coudln't care less. The songs is about a boy who I presume is quite young, 'Amy, I may not be nineteen, I may still be in romper boots and jeans...' The year this was released Elton was going to turn twenty-five. There's a line about ' My Dad told me Amy's your name, he sais he'd break my neck if I played your game'. Elton's Dad had walked out on him. The key to me is since Bernie is writing the lyrics rather than Elton, for Elton to deliver a passionate vocal the lyric has to be something Elton cares about. But this album has many high points. I think it's strength lies in 'Funk'. This album is steeped in funk. But it also features that country folk-rock sound of Tumbleweed and it fuses these two elements together to create a bunch of cool rocking folk songs. It's a lot mroe fun than Madman across the water but is this album all that much fun? I think it isn't his most light-hearted and fun album but it is very enjoyable. The various instruments also give it some variety since many of these songs seem to be very similar in style. 'Honky Cat' is a fun song with, yes that is the word, 'amusing' brass instruments. His Honky-Tonk piano is first class throughout the recording. Hercules has to be my fav, okay the lyric is a reworking of 'Amy' but the backing vocalists are great and the songs rolls with a fun atmosphere. 'I think I'm gonna kill myself' is a cynical, contemptuous look at teenage suicide while 'Mellow', 'Salvation', 'Slave' and 'Mona Lisas and Mad hatters' are typical country folk-rock of the time. I find that last oen a bit boring and neither 'Mellow' or 'Salvation' set me on fire but they're decent, actually 'Mellow' is a great song, helped along by the passion in Elton's voice and an unusual mellotron. 'Slave' is an excellent song, it has such a fantastic melody and yes the guitars are excellent too. 'Rocket man' is a big hit. It's a good political statement in that I find the lyrics interesting, if not a tad too schmaltzy for this subject. My rating: 8/10

Jean Marlow <> (30.04.2004)

I really like this album, although I still think Tumbleweed is my favourite EJ album. And Captain Fantastic is probably next. But this one comes in at number three (or maybe four since Songs From the West Coast has been in my car player for the past little while). But anyway, it's right up there.

There are the (deservedly) well known Honky Cat, which is a lot of fun, and Rocket Man, which is just great. One of Taupin's finer efforts and, I agree, at least the equal, and probably superior to Bowie's effort on the same theme. (I actually think Taupin is very under-rated, because of a handful of highly popular but criticised songs, but that is a whole other issue). And Elton's music on both is as good as it gets.

The real surprises come with the songs that never got played to death on radio; no-one in mainstream media would EVER play a song called "I think I'm Going to Kill Myself"; the title sounds so down and dark and dangerous. But when you read the lyrics, you realise that it's about the over-the-top, over-blown emotionalism of being a teenager (and therefore the centre of the universe!). I mean, of course if you can't borrow the car and have to be home by 10 o'clock, you just have to kill yourself! And stay around for a couple of days to watch everyone get upset. The music is just perfect on this one. Close to my favourite on the album. "Mellow" is (mellow, that is), and just a joy to listen to; "Susie (Dramas)" and "Amy" are the *love songs* on the album~ they are fine, but nothing extra special; "Hercules" does nothing for me really, except for the irony of Taupin getting Elton to sing those classic words 'Well, I like women and I like wine'`~ Bernie obviously does, but Elton? "Salvation" and "Slave" are fine songs - fine words, fine music and really fine singing. But "Mona Lisas and the Mad Hatters"; I don't think that I ever heard this song anywhere except on my own turntable, but it is fantastic. Taupin has, from the earliest days of his career, shown a great love for all things American, and it is easy to think that this is due only to a romantic attachment to the image of the wild west. It is not just on Tumbleweed that this shines through. But Mona Lisas shows a real connection with contemporary America. Some people might feel offended at an *outsider* coming in and talking about the hopelessness of young Americans, but he isn't pointing fingers at the culture, more lamenting the universal issues of alienation and despair. Even though he talks about New York, this song could be about any western city or culture.

Overall, this is a very good album; as I remarked earlier, it isn't my favourite Elton album, but it's difficult to disagree with anyone who thinks that it is his best. It is certainly one of his best, and a landmark album


Bob Josef <> (29.02.2000)

Elton's throwaway pop album, as he once described it. But sometimes pop is OK.

My original cassette had "High Flying Bird" and "Midnight Creeper" switched in the track sequence. Which caused a friend of mine to remark that if "High Flying Bird" was on the first side of the LP, he'd never play the second side.

Which is a good point -- the first half of the album is full of high quality pop songs. "Daniel" is a good song, although I never liked the arrangement with that wimpy electric piano and even wimpier mellotron flute. The live version on Here and There, wi th acoustic piano is better. And I don't understand why you hate "Teacher I Need You" and like "Crocodile Rock" -- "Teacher" is a much better 50's pastiche. I love the way the harmonies and mellotron come in on the chorus. "Elderberry Wine" is a great stomper, "Blues" is a little bit melodramatic but still tasteful and moving. And total disagreement on "High Flying Bird," with beautiful lyrics and great harmonies -- the album's highlight.

The second half has some of his weakest stuff yet. Elton pulls out all the kitsch with "Criminal" -- tastelessly overdone orchestration, definite over-the-top melodrama in the lyrics and delivered in an irritating false blues vocal. "Teenage Idol" is also dumb. "Texan Love Song" is a funny jab at rednecks, actually, and "Crocodile Rock" is cute but annoying after the jillionth time.

I also think that Taupin's lyrics on the icky "Midnight Creeper" and many later tracks are more complicated than mere misogyny. Starting with this one, he evidently decided that he wanted to explore the sleazier side of life. Which, unfortunately, reached full flower (if you can call it that) on the next album.

As for the bonus tracks, except for "Skyline Pigeon," they are outtakes from Y ellow Brick Road. And they are generally better than a number of tracks from that album. And another disagreement -- "Skyline Pigeon" is a great song in any incarnation. This one is good enough to have been a major Aside, too.

Didier Dumonteil <> (04.03.2001)

This album is generally dismissed but it was through it that Elton began his genuine pop reign.It's more various than the recent efforts and it heralds EJ's finest achievement (IMHO),GBYBR.We have ballads (Daniel and the underrated high flying bird),country(texan love song),rock(teacher I need you,edelberry wine),pompous symphonic pop(have mercy...),early sixties teenage stuff(crocodile rock ,a remake of speedy Gonzales)....In short ,EJ develops the white album syndrome.

Ryan Maffei <> (29.12.2001)

Actually, I think "Texan Love Song" is as uproarious and clever a throwaway as "Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself", but maybe that's just because I actually know people just like that, living in Texas near me. But you have to give credit to someone who can write a successful pop song with "Goddamnit, you're all gonna die" as the chorus.

Bill Slocum <> (10.02.2004)

I agree with Ryan Maffei on "Texas Love Song," which sounds to me more ironic than anything else, though not without a sense of pathos for the narrator's poor benighted take on life. Really, it's one of the few Elton songs where Bernie Taupin's lyrics really command center stage. He's the one with the real country vibe, and this time around, I think he wanted to acknowledge the redneck aspect of that culture. Like Elton wanted to take a shot at the "faeries" ruining pop culture circa 1973.

Other than "Midnight Creeper," which is at least an interesting vocal excursion, there's nothing here to identify as filler, let alone bad music. "Texas Love Song" isn't complicated, but it represents a mindset in a way that's not either obsequious or unfair. The other songs are quite terrific, from "Teenage Idol" (great harmonies and a very aware lyrical sensibility) to the grooving "Elderberry Wine" and "Teacher I Need You," which is a clever and risible nod to the notion of a student being carried away on raging hormones by a (gasp) middle-aged teacher. Funny stuff! [Hell, if Lena Olin was teaching Swedish to me, I'd identify, though my teenage days ended in the days of the Reagan administration...]

Okay, this wasn't Elton's best pure pop workout. Honky Chateau was. But this came right after, and though the pop hits weren't as good as Honky Chateau's, "Crocodile Rock" and "Daniel" were both solid and enjoyable musical workouts, more the former than the latter, though both are inferior to the hits ("Honky Cat" and "Rocket Man") which came immediately before. At least "Crocodile Rock" is a disarming pastishe to '50s rock, to the point of quoting a Pat Boone hit ("Speedy Gonzalez")! I agree with George on "Crocodile Rock" being the best song, but that's not to say there aren't other good songs on this album that just weren't hits.

I think of this album as a continuation of Honky Chateau, right up to the title (which is something the narrator of "Honky Cat" might have sung had his gunslinger audience given him a chance before filling him full of lead.) The addition of four B-sides in the remastered version surely sends this over the top. If one hates "Texas Love Song" so much, simply replace it with the innocuous "Jack Rabbit" and problem solved. But I can live with the original. Don't Shoot Me is a solid, brilliant pop album, only weaker by comparison to Honky Chateau. For any other pop artist, this would have been a recognized peak.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (03.06.2004)

I don't know what critics have against Cheese. It's not as though Cheese is chainsaw samples [well not all of it anway]. I like 'Daniel' a lot because Elton is singing about another man for once and it sounds sincere [not like 'Amy'], though the lyric is some political message, about going to the war [or avoiding it rather[. Some of my favourites would have to be 'Midnigth creeper', 'Elderberry Wine', 'Crocodile rock' and 'Teacher I need you' since they're a lot of fun and are definitely rock n roll, but my all favourite is 'Blues for baby and me'. It's like something from Madman across the water only much better. It has a wonderful melody and great instrumentation. I love the story too! So I love side One. IMO side two is weaker. 'Have mercy on the criminal' is a strong song but just goes on too long for me, I very rarely admire long songs thoguh 'Tonight' is an exception. 'Texan love' wouldn't be what I'd call excellent but it's melodic and has some great guitar playing. 'High-flying bird' is anti-cheese actually, the girl-friend killed herself because she though her boyfriend meant her harm. Anyway I find it partially boring. I love 'Teenage Idol' though, very clever song. The production was thoughful, like when he was singing about being a teenage Idol the backing vocals have some pulsing effect to try and conjure up the image of a neon light. It's in stark contrast to the down-beat feeling of the verses. Again clever. If I had the remastered CD version instead of an old vinyl I'd probably find a couple of tracks to replace 'High flying bird' and 'Criminal' so I could have a near-perfect 10-song album. Anywa i'd still give it 9/10, cause it's a lot of fun and the melodies are very strong.


Richard C. Dickison <> (11.08.99)

First let me fully agree that Goodbye Yellow Brick Road would be a pure unadulterated all time best if he had gotten rid of the second part of this album.

The Beatles could barely pull off a double what makes other people believe they can is beyond me.

But..... Bob Dylan and Neil Young disturb me much more in the misogynistic lyrics department than this glitter encrusted drag queen. Now come on who do you think took these lyrics seriously, just once? Truth is that Elton was gay glam pop and that means, do not take this seriously! The whole point of this album was gay icon crossdressing, from Marilyn Monroe to Dirty Girls to lesbian trollops, you could'nt tell if he was talking about a real women or his date from the night before and that was not a women baaaby. There are so many screwed-up examples of artists going too far in the debassment of women to throw those types of darts at this guy. Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger worshipers that excuse their (to be taken seriously because they are great rockstars) lyrics offend me more. Elton at least wanted to be a women from the way he was dressing at the time, and heaven knows he was a bigger trollop than Alice.

I can find much more to complain about on this album than Bernie the woman hating idiot.

I think where this album starts to go wrong is in how cutesy things get at the end and how majestic they started out. I can handle the cute songs in lesser numbers, but give me more interesting turns and less psuedo melancholy for my money please. 'Jamaica Jerk-off' just plain sucks why not just stick to a really good single album.

All this could be missed if you don't get this album, what is more fun, A Yes triple live hard to understand lyrics album or figuring out if Elton really meant what he sang about? Thats all campers.

Glenn Wiener <> (25.08.99)

A very worthy double set. These two records are equivalent to each other. As a matter of fact there are only one or two weak songs, 'Dirty Little Girl' is a bit too repetitive in spots but overall this work once again blends Elton's diverse style magnificently.

Bob Josef <> (29.02.2000)

Yes, he certainly runs the gamut. A lot of people remarked at the time that it would have made a great single LP release. But there would be a lot of debate on which tracks to get rid of. As for me, I would definitely exclude three of Taupin's ongoing portraits of repulsively slimy human beings, "Dirty Little Girl," "Social Disease" and "Sweet Painted Lady." Not only are the lyrics obnoxious, but so are the melodies. Substitute those 3 nonalbum B-sides instead. "Roy Rogers" is just as boring as its subject, and "I've Seen that Movie Too" sounds like a lounge lizard number. And I was never really crazy about the title track or "Bennie" -- they are kind of ordinary.

"Danny Bailey," "Jamaica Jerk-Off" and "Alice" are borderline for me. The album was written in Jamaica, so I don't actually mind a cute little pop tribute to reggae. "Alice" rocks bigtime -- too bad it didn't have better lyrics. And the rest is terrific."This Song has No Title" sounds like it could have been on Empty Sky, and I'm a sucker for that mellotron. "Your Sister Can't Twist" goes "Crocodile Rock" one better -- how can you not like that one if you love "Crocodile?" "Harmony" lives up to its title and I love the way the guitar comes in on the original "Candle." And the rest ROCKS seriously.

Well, with the magic of CD programming, one can skip all those "duffers," as you put it.

Steven J. Smith <> (17.10.2000)

Well...I was sort of starting to take you seriously, then you come up with "Benny and The Jets" as your pick for best song on GYBR???


Didier Dumonteil <> (01.03.2001)

For me Elton's best and the best Elton to begin with!A godsend:it was  double,it's one CD.Thanks Elton!

Probably made with the white album in mind ,Elton tackles different genres over the four faces:grandiose symphonic pop a la procol,traditional rockn'roll,hard rock,ballads ,reggae (so to speak),torch song ,and re-ballads.nuff'said.The gossips  have revolved around the story of the dyke Alice (but it's an undistinguished melody) and of course the yellow brick road alludes to the friends of Dorothy.(do you know there's a Lennon's unreleased song called "she's a friend of Dorothy"?)I rather think that the songs revolve around the showbiz world:Candle in the wind with M.Monroe,Bennie and the jets,Goodbye yellow brick road may be the friends of Dorothy,it's also Judy Garland and her premature death.

Danny Bailey and Dillinger are movies-in-songs à la .Bonnie and Clyde and Scarface,shame of the nation.And besides,Elton told us so:"I've seen that movie too".And God bless the TV that gives us our daily Roy Rogers.The showbiz pression is so hard that we can develop a Social Disease and then all we need is harmony.A must for pop buffs.

Palash Ghosh <> (06.03.2001)

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road probably represents the peak of Elton John's commercial career, but, artistically, the product is already beginning to slip. I think he made a double album because his popularity at this point was so great that the public demanded it. But, since Elton couldn't even come up with enough good material to fill a single album, a double album was WAY beyond his reach. This album, from its very name and cover, was the first time that Elton openly admitted his homosexuality (as well as his hatred of women, as you pointed out). But I don't understand why his 'coming out' had to be such a public event!

Still, this record has its share of fine compositions. 'Funeral for a friend/Love lies bleeding' is incredibly pretentious and overlong, but I find it eminently listenable. 'Candle in the wind' has been so closely identified with Princess Diana's death that it's not a song to me anymore, it's just an overhyped slogan. Having Elton sing it at her funeral (in Westminster Abbey, no less) had to be that institution's lowest moment! You (George) have noted similarities between Elton John and David Bowie -- and 'Bennie and the Jets' SOUNDS like a Bowie number! 'Bennie' is obviously Ziggy's illegitimate offspring. Bennie's jerky stop-start rhythm used to confound me, but now I enjoy it.

The title track, 'Goodbye yellow brick road,’ is beautiful, with lovely haunting harmonies. Bernie's inscrutable lyrics somehow add to this song's greatness.

'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' is a guilty pleasure of mine, I've always found it fun and exciting. Of course, it's absurd to think of a drag queen like Elton as a tough working class kid looking to pick fights! (I wish The Who had originally done this instead!) After this, however, the mediocrity settles in and takes over. I kinda like 'Sweet Painted Lady' -- but the rest of this record is just a chore to listen to!

Ryan Maffei <> (10.03.2002)

Elton's greatest, most ambitious folly, although considering the delightful platter of great songs made up by the best moments of Honky Chateau and Don't Shoot Me, I'm authentically surprised that there are so many mediocre, and even banal, songs here. Those records showed John moving into a more slight, commercial mode, away from the earnest, well-crafted singer-songwriter role he undertook with his best two records (Elton John and Tumbleweed) and Madman. But Goodbye is where the, er, glam hits the fans, and the image and glitz totally takes over the "artist"'s music. That said, Goodbye is certainly 'good', with plenty of absolutely excellent songs to go around. It's just the comparative amount of crap that irks me. There's also a complete lack of cohesion...anyway, "Love Lies Bleeding" remains the best track, an enthralling prog-rock instrumental pastiche that leads to a driving, thoroughly entertaining pop performance. Of the other highlights, "Candle in the Wind" is one of John's most moving ballads, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" is some brilliant, exceptionally-written social commentary, "Harmony" is a lovely, winsome closer, "Sweet Painted Lady" has a great hook, and "Bennie and the Jets" is a frivolous classic. "Grey Seal" is also a great piece of music--why it isn't more recognized today must be a mystery whose secret lies in the incomprehensible lyrics. But "Dirty Little Girl" has a completely forgettable chorus, "This Song Has No Title" is really quite meaningless in the end, "Roy Rogers" is cloying pseudo-country (and extremely annoying), and "Your Sister Can't Twist" and "Jamaica Jerk Off" are absolutely TERRIBLE songs, stupid, irritating, worthless. Oh, well. All I haven't mentioned is passable enough to have this record amount to an 8, but this was a point where John was really hanging by a thread.

Colin Brown-Hart <> (27.07.2003)

My favourite on the album is "Yellow Brick Road". At one point it's silly and at another point it's very serious. I agree with your rating.

BILL SLOCUM <> (10.12.2003)

Perversely, it took a double album to convince critics Elton was a singles artist. Hard to argue from the evidence here. His songs, as you say, are hit and miss. I guess the best thing you can say here is that people disagree on which is which. I would say "Grey Seal" and "Sweet Painted Lady" are better than you paint them (what's wrong with anti-prostitution lyrics anyway?) while "Social Disease" and "Your Sister Can't Twist" come off lamer to me.

Some of his songs don't even work as filler. Filler by definition needs cooler songs around it so as to provide contrast and relief for those overwhelmed by too much artistic greatness. "This Song Has No Title" works as filler because it has an interesting melody, unique orchestration, and is bookended by a pair of brilliant songs (the title track and "Grey Seal.") "I've Seen That Movie Too" and "All The Girls Love Alice" are weaker songs, and they are surrounded by fairly tuneless drivel, with only "Sweet Painted Lady" having a catchy chorus. (Like that one, but it's no tide lifter by itself.) The worst song? "Jamaica Jerk-Off" or "Dirty Little Girl" are both bad, but "Danny Bailey" is the point in the album where I start thinking about getting up and putting on "Shoot Out The Lights" instead. Something about that stab at significance annoys me particularly.

The thing about this album is how great the good parts are. I don't like "Candle In The Wind" and "Saturday Night" from relentless overplay on U.S. radio, but I'm not so stupid as to say they aren't good songs. "Benny and the Jets" (good call, George, naming it the best track) and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" are as overplayed but somehow still sound as fresh and vital as Beatle standards. The album also begins and ends strongly, with "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" setting the table nicely and "Harmony" a satisfactory way of calling it a day. ["Harmony" has the best lyrics from Taupin, too, next to the classic "Goodbye."] Really, you can go on a lot about how this is Elton's best album just if you paired his best moments here against his best in any other record. But I'd take Tumbleweed, Capt. Fantastic, and Don't Shoot Me over this as a stronger set front-to-back.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (20.05.2004)

Now, here is an interesting album. If you go on to, review it but don't have verbal orgasms over it you'll pretty quickly get negative feedback. The same goes for anything from Elton John in 1970 through to this one, Captain Fantastic from 1975 and Songs from the west coast in 2001. It's his most 'obvious' album, perhaps that's why it is so popular. If there is a rocker on here it rocks really hard, with some of the hardest distortion that was around at the time. It is an album that screams for praise, almost with arrogance, like the little drawing of him on the back inside a star.

I personally would have to say there is few material on any Elton album I dislike as much as I dislike about a few of these songs. I almost totally agree with you on this one. About a half is some of his best materpieces, a few fun pop throwaways that wouldn't have been out of place on Caribou and some garbage.

Lets deal with the 'Masterpieces', The opening instrumental is not a favourite song of mine but it's interesting and is definitely an excellent song, even if just for it's unusual-ness. Love lies bleeding rocks but I can't say I think it's a great song, the fadeout where Elton and co make dog-barking noises, I find that iritating. Immensly. Then three all-time classics, 'Candle in the wind', now I don't care too much for what the lyrics are about but their sound really works well with the melody. Then the pop-ode Bennie and the Jets, well you said it better than I can. If you have this on vinyl you'll turn over now, or if you have to CD it'll just keep on playing, and another classic, the title track. It's a sougth of ballad, but I mean there are obvious other styles in the mix like folk, which is strengthened by the lyrics about a plough. Now for my ears, skip to 'Your sister can't twist'. This is excellent, in my opinion, it's fun, it quotes many songs from the 195! 0's early rock n roll period, except I don't like the quote from the circus show. Saturday Nights is meant to be serious but comes across as fluffy as 'Solar prestige a gammon' to me but it's a fun rocker with some of his hardest guitar riffs. The album closes well with a beautiful ode to westerns, 'Roy Rodgers' [what else it'd be about with that title?] with it's amazing steel guitar or whatever it is, a swinging hillbilly number complete with banjo's and saxaphones called social disease and my favourite on the whole album, called 'Harmony'. The backing vocals are excellent and I like Elton's vocals at the start, very reminiscent of Jim Morrison. Now that's my version of masterpiece. The only song in between that gap from the title track to your sister can't twist that is great is Jamaica Jerk-Off, yeah I know it's stupid but it'd be a good track for Caribou.

The others sound like a thirteen year old in moral panic over-drive. What with all the comments from Bernie about prostitutes, working class women and Lesbians. This doesn't help these songs by the way. 'Dirty little girl' is a lot like 'Stinker', my favourite song from Caribou, but 'Stinker's lyrics were about a badger or weasel, anyway it was a charming lyric that really complemented Elton's semi-serious voice. But you cannot take 'dirty little girl' in the same vein, as you've noted. It's just not goofy or charming, it's just plain bad, and repetitive. 'All the girls love Alice' is a little better. Yes, I know, some people get aroused over this song but that doesn't make a weak track a great one. Perhaps some Eagles - like vocal harmonies save it somewhat, but otherwise it's garbage, not just duffer, those two songs are in my opnion, garbage. As I said there are very few Elton songs I dislike as much as those two and 'This song has no title' and 'Grey Seal', which are clearly filler. I mean with a title like that? and then 'Grey Seal' is a remake of old material. Okay I never really liked that song, especially it's lyrics, but they turned a slightly soulful folk-rock number into a overly fast pop song. I've seen that movie too is no favourite of mine, I find it boring and then the other two songs are decent enough ballads. On the whole it could've made an excellent single album so I'd stil give it 10/10. And then 'Jamaica Jerk-Off' could've gone to Caribou and 'Danny Bailey' and 'Sweet-Painted lady' would be good B-sides. Ha! That's just my opinion!

David Dickson <> (26.06.2004)

Bah. You people are all drunk, high, or. . . golly, I don't even know what to say here. I figured, after listening to this album, that I would find at least half the people out there calling it "classic", "masterpiece", "way cool", or something to that effect. Instead I hear 90% of people saying, "Well, it's got some good songs, but it doesn't hold together very well," or "Eliminate a third, and you've got something at least half as good as Honky Chateau," or "Blast that misogynist moron Taupin." Uh?? Say what?? You people must all have different ears than me. By far, this is the best album of the early '70's I've ever listened to, with the sole exception of Dark Side of the Moon. Sure, it's got some wannabe reggae, some Hollywoodish ballads, and some hurtful lyrics, but you know what? Every song is catchy. And the production is unbelievable for 1973. Seriously, it sounds like it was recorded seven years later than it was. Not to mention the fact that at least a third of the seventeen songs on here are radio classics. Anyway, I've said all I feel like saying. GBYBR is a classic for the ages. Beats The White Album, Exile on Main Street, Quadrophenia, Physical Graffiti, and Blonde on Blonde to hell, in my opinion. Seriously.


Glenn Wiener <> (10.08.2002)

Critics may hate it, you may tolerate, but I just like it a whole lot. 'The Bitch Is Back' used to be my favorite song when I was little. Now as my tastes have matured its just of my all time faves by old Reg. Truthfully 'Grimsby', 'Pinky', and 'Solar Prestige A Gammon' have beautiful tones. 'Ticking' is filled with emotion. A little long possibly but pretty moving.

I like 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me' but like its title its a bit too long winded for me to prefer it as much as you. 'You're So Static' is loaded with pizzazz. The extra tracks are pretty cool. 'Pinball Wizzard' is the real gem with some awesome piano runs and a great guitar solo. I think it blows away the original by the Who not that there is anything wrong with the original.

Nonetheless, this recording stands just as tall as the others in his classic 70's period.

Bob Josef <> (21.09.2002)

Recorded quickly to meet his contract, this album is pretty much a throwaway. "You're So Static" and "Stinker" are Taupin's 70's nadir in writing about sleazebags, so I can hardly listen to them. And "Don't Let the Sun.." has always sounded overblown and tackily produced to me. But he does exhibit a lot of his sense of humor ("Bitch", "Grismby", the intentionally nonsensical "Solar"), so it's more fun in other places. "Cold Highway" and "Sick City" could have definitely replaced "Static" and "Stinker" and improve the album a lot. Still, not real high on the quality list for EJ.

Bill Slocum <> (04.04.2004)

The conventional wisdom on Elton John's 1974 studio album Caribou is that it contains two classic hits, "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" and "The Bitch Is Back," but is otherwise just a collection of filler and misfires, somewhat understandably released given the singer's tight schedule and the fact he had released the two-disc epic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road just months before.

There's two things wrong with that theory: 1) Goodbye Yellow Brick Road isn't that great. 2) Caribou is not that bad.

There's no song as great as "Benny And The Jets" or "Grey Seal" on Caribou" but nothing as bad as "Jamaica Jerk Off" or "Dirty Little Girl" either. In fact, a lot of the lesser known tracks on Caribou manage to be quite fun, pop-driven in a way that's more representative of the time (the giddy mid-70s) and less pompous than "Candle In The Wind." I guess it all depends on what you can stomach in the way of mid-70s pop excess. As you say, George, this album is brimming with that sort of thing, beginning with the cover and continuing on with every song.

Take "Solar Prestige A Gammon." Yes, George, there are people who'd like to take it and throw it off a cliff. But it's a terrific send-up of those who expect pop music lyrics to say something deep a la Dylan, rather than just work off the music and create something people can enjoy. This song does the latter quite well, particularly the tangy chorus with the galloping tempo. Those idiotic tenor bits Elton does on this song are kind of fun, too.

Nothing here sounds that essential, except the two hits you can get off other compilations. (Both are great, by the way.) But there's not a bum song in the bunch, either. "Ticking" is an interesting lyrical excursion into "Psycho" territory, nothing you'd expect lyricist Bernie Taupin or Elton to take on, but all the better for doing so. "Pinky" manages to sound both driving and romantic in its emotional urgency, nice key changes and some of Elton's most soulful singing to that point. "I've Seen The Saucers" is a terrific outsider's ballad Elton delivers beautifully. And "You're So Static," goofy lyrics and all, is one of Elton's great driving rockers, buoyed by the same Tower of Power brass section that makes "The Bitch Is Back" so vital all these years later.

The Classic Years compilers upped the ante with the addition of four bonus tracks; one of which, "Sick City" has to be one of Elton's great overlooked classics, up there with "Amoreena" or "Holiday Inn." The remake of the Who's "Pinball Wizard," performed for the "Tommy" movie soundtrack, is a nice slice of Elton the pop idol vamping and nodding to the Who's legacy with a clever insert of the Who's earlier classic "Can't Explain" inserted into the chorus. "Step Into Christmas" works as a seasonal thing because it's so defiantly lightweight. That's a good way to describe the album, too.

Yes, "Grimsby" is a strange anthem to a seaside town, and "Dixie Lily" is as authentic a slice of Dixieland as "Karma Chameleon." But they work, as does the down and dirty snazzy bass-driven "Stinker." (RIP Dee Murray!) There's not a bad song here. Other Elton albums are better, but Caribou has to be Elton's most surprising pleasure.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (03.06.2004)

I have the exact opposite opinion of everyone on each individual song but in the end I have a similar opinion of the album over-all. 'Don't let the sun go down on me' is so whiney and self-pitying. And I don't particularly liek the melody at all. It compliments the whiney effect and belongs on his horrific Road to Eldorado sound-track on which every song is about being depressed for no reason. 'The Bitch is back' is oh, so repetitive. Hey! as much as i don't like reading you rubbish fav's of mine like all his 80's albums, I love being able to be so open and honest about some of his over-rated 70's garbage like the every-song-is-exactly-the-same Madman across the water garbage. Anyway the only other songs I'm not too fond of are 'I've seen the saucers' and 'ticking', the last being overly long but clever. Other than that I love this record. Again, I should get the bonus tracks. It's like that with his 70's records. I like about 6 or 7 of them and sometimes the bonus tracks make that 9 or 10. Like his second album, I don't like 'Shoestrings' or 'king must die' but I love the other 8 songs on the original album. I love the two bonus tracks 'Bad side of the moon' and 'rock n roll Madonna' and that makes 10 perfect songs. Here, I love track 2-6 and 8. 'Stinker' is my favourite, it's just charming and fun, and bluesy. It's also funky. 'Dixy Lily' is a really cool country song, 'Solar prestige' is interesting and amusing experimentation, 'You're so static' is very funky and rocks. The horns add zest. 'Pinky' is a very beautiful ballad. I find it endearing. So If I had three four more songs ...


Richard C. Dickison <> (12.08.99)

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy is one of Elton John's most interesting albums. Yes it's philosophical but there really is something very wrong here. Notice how there are no SHOW songs on this album. It's almost totally autobiographical, it's all about the show and what he sees in it, there was no way for Elton to not relate these songs to himself and boy this is a bum ride.

First lets start with the title track it's obviously about him and Bernie, he is Captain Fantastic, but look at the references, And all this talk of Jesus coming back to save us could'nt fool us. the shit filled visions, There is no redemption here. Next, take a look at 'Tower Of Babel', Cause Jesus do'nt save the guys in the tower of babel. He is'nt just commenting on this scene he places himself in the middle of it, Think about how he handled Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and going back to his plough. Jesus is not literal here, Jesus is simply a way to say he does not see any way out. Quick someone get this guy a shrink, this drama queen has gone suicidal he is not making jokes about Briget Bardot here.

Then your 'better off dead' if you have'nt yet died. I really believe by this time things had really gotten out of hand and all his working relationships were slowly tearing apart, but this album is a very creative way to have a breakdown don't ya think. Bowie never had this public and theatrical of a breakdown, no matter how many drugs he was on. This album is all out dark and dangerous, nothing to celebrate here he just wants to get out ('gotta get a meal ticket'), he bought his PR and he is'nt happy with the image he created anymore, his ego is geared-up for the big crash and it's coming soon. I could be wrong thou, what you think George?

Glenn Wiener <> (25.08.99)

A good concept album with many well written songs. This record takes a little getting used to as there are many complexities to all of the songs. However, after several listens, this ranks as one of Elton's stronger releases.

Greg Brunswick <> (19.02.2000)

I think this is the best written, composed, produced, and sung album in the Elton John catalog--ranking with the best albums of the rock era. It starts with a tale about two characters, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, and ends with optimism about a future that has resolved its past. Lyrically, the album is full of evocative imagery and cutting commentary. Most of all, the album is about friendship and emphasizes its importance in life's journeys. Musically, the album is rather slow but the title track and "Gotta Get A Meal Ticket" rock effortlessly. "Better Off Dead" is a fun romp with profound sentiments. And the masterpiece "Curtains" ends an album the way a cohesive album should end--with bells and a heavenly chant to signal the end of an era but possibly the start of another.

Bob Josef <> (29.02.2000)

This was THE album in June of '75, and definitely the best overall EJ album released after Madman. It's actually about Elton and Bernie's early songwriting days. And, by the way, Taupin is straight. Although unlucky in love -- he's on his second marriage.

The lyrics are very good, and a welcome relief after some of the sleaziness of the previous three records. "Tower of Babel" and "Better Off Dead" do describe such situations, but well within the concept of the album. For me, the album builds to a musical climax at "Meal Ticket," and then slides from there. I have the opposite opinion on the closing suite -- while I found "All the Nasties" compelling, these two songs drag too much for me.

The CD reissue does leave off the B-side to "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," called "House of Cards." A little ditty in which Taupin uses card games to describe the end of a relationship.

<> (01.04.2000)

well, i guess richard just didnt get this one at all. It IS TOTALLY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL!! It chronicals Elton and Bernies lives from the time they met TO the recording of EMPTY SKY.It dos'nt go past 1969. This is before he even had any kind of image to deal with! ("Just someone his mother might know").I think he needs to take another listen!

Didier Dumonteil <> (04.03.2001)

A fine album,the last one,IMHO,that deserves to be remembered.Following caribou -an album absent here but which features the intense "ticking"-,it succeeds magnificently.The ballads have more emotional power than usual. "Someone saved my life tonight" is a true story and is EJ's real suicide attempt.At the end, the album phase from"We all fall in love sometimes"into "curtains " with no dicernible pause,à la Sgt Pepper's and abbey road.The effect achieves a baroque grandeur,and the 2 songs are first -rate ,at that.There are few weak tracks,and EJ can be proud of this.

Ryan Maffei <> (15.03.2002)

My formally written review of Elton's brilliant Capt. Fantastic (ahem, ahem): "Piano-banging superstar Elton John, coming off of the glitzy, half-assed Caribou, decided to return to his singer-songwriter roots with Bernie Taupin for his final masterpiece, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. The set's lyrics showed Taupin at his most straightforward, confessional, and open, which immediately elevated Captain Fantastic in light of the frivolous, opaque meandering of the last album and Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player. Even better, John was driven by the record's thematic importance to him to write some of his most fluid, well-crafted music ever, as evidenced by such entrancing pop tunes as "Tower of Babel" and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight". The result is a thoroughly engaging and highly cerebral brew that became Elton's biggest seller yet and best album ever next to the creative high of the Elton John LP. John later questioned why Captain Fantastic was such a commercial success, considering its autobiographical and intently personal undertones; what he didn't recognize was that those earnest, realistic themes were what made Captain Fantasic such a strong album in the first place." A

Bill Slocum <> (04.04.2004)

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy is not only arguably Elton's best album, and certainly its most thematically consistent and satisfying from beginning to end, but it benefits more than any other CD reissue from the inclusion of three songs off singles released around the same time. You pay ample due to the two Lennon-authored tracks, George, but "Philadelphia Freedom" is better than a Big Mac, one of Elton's most satisfying boogie-soul workouts and maybe his most amazing vocal performance ever. It's amazing how he dives between falsetto and gruff tenor with seeming ease.

Did Captain Fantastic need the reinforcements? Maybe so. It is a solid album, but like you and others say, not very accessible to the casual fan, or non-fan. The wordplay is very dense, and the musical structures more sophisticated and less pop-oriented, understandable problems for the toe-dabbers. Despite being a chart-topper in its own right (the first chart-topping debut for an album at that), Captain Fantastic doesn't have much in the way of recognizable songs, only "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," a deceptively sleepy song with acid-tongued lyrics about suicide and lost love (though not about closet homosexuality, however much that was the undercurrent of what was going on here.)

The point to this album, such as it is, is kind of lost in the obscure Steely Dan-esque badinage that Taupin employs, though "Bitter Fingers" is pretty straightforward and quite good in this respect. Once you know the storyline, though, the songs are easy to follow ("Oh, this is the one where they got rooked over by the manager" and such like) and more enjoyable for their cryptic character.

There's only one rocker on here, "(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket," another reason for "Philadelphia Freedom" being a welcome addition. "Curtains," "We All Fall In Love Sometimes" and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" are the only ballads, though, and none overstay their welcome, especially the latter two.

"Better Off Dead" is very unusual in its sing-songy construction, I think influenced by Elton hearing the then-bootleg Beatles song "What's The New Mary Jane." Check out the song on the Beatles "Anthology 3" and hear what I mean.

What's predominately here then are mid-tempo songs and moderate groove workouts, songs that you can get into without a lyrics sheet. "Tell Me When The Whistle Blows" is a sinewy, propulsive blue-eyed soul number about, well, umm, it's a really great track anyway. "Tower Of Babel" benefits from some interesting Biblical allusions from Taupin and Elton's faithful rhythm section of Nigel Olsson (drums) and Dee Murray (bass) establishing a dynamic undertow for Elton to work over. Why Elton shed these guys after this album is a mystery, but not, perhaps, his steep artistic descent after losing them.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (07.06.2004)

I am in a good mood, I just got an email from my girlfriend, I just finished an assignment and I have just been prepared for a life of reading absolute bullshit. Well, the day had to come sometime. You said that 'Philadelphia Freedom' [a non-album single] and 'Tell me when the whistle blows' both have sweeping string arrangements. 'Oh no! Boys and girls, is our hero losing his creative edge?, catch us next time for another gripping eposiode of 'denigrating Elton John' Well, Elton doesn't write the string arrangements, Paul Buckmaster does, and Elton isn't even the one who decides if the songs have string arrangements or not.  That's the co-ordinator who was Steve Brown. Now Buckmaster might have had a fancy for sweeping arrangements at the time, he migth have adored them, he may even have had dreams about them but even if he couldn't stand them and had to use the sweeping arrangement twice because of lack of cretivity, that's nothing to do with Elton, that's Buckmasters problem. As for the same bell sound being used in 'Curtains' and 'Lucy in the sky with diamonds', Elton may have had a fancy for such a sound or he may have realised that it fits the atmosphere of both songs perfectly and decided he had to use it twice. HEY! now we're denigrating a guy for using the same synth sound twice? Get ya Communist politics outta here! ;-)

Oh by the way this migth just be Elton's best album. I wasn't very fond of the first two songs on the original album even though I LOVED the last eight songs, but now I've got two wonderful tunes in 'Philadelphia freedom' and 'Lucy in the sky with diamonds' to replace them with, :-)

Jeff <> (16.10.2005)

By George, George! I agree with your comments on EJ's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975) across the board! I, too, see this album as the break from Elton being an "Oh my God, I'm a superstar!" to purposely becoming a "pop" icon. 1975 was the pinnicle of GREAT Elton John/Taupin collaborations.

"Someone Saved My Life Tonight" is my all-time favorite song by anyone anywhere. I still get chills when I hear it. And I got to add that John's backing band was absolutely brilliant! Davey Johnstone's guitar work was perfect for this era of John's musical expressions and one hell of a guitarist.

And this album, to me, encapulsates all that IS Elton John. John's work up unto this album, to me, IS Elton John. Yea, he still put on great shows after 1975 while he kept this band intact. It's tragic, to me, that he didn't keep this formula on a roll for years to come.


Richard C. Dickison <> (25.01.2000)

Yep, not a damn classic in sight, He was really trying to distance himself from his persona. Read the last album as, I've had enough, now what does he want to do? Problem is, I did'nt buy this style anymore than anyone else did. Sure it had promise, I mean it's Elton for chirst sakes. But no, he was not enjoying this anymore. I really believe he wanted respect, and believed he was not getting any for his showmanship. Now, why did he not just go back to something more simple as in his early days? Maybe that was seen as too risky, and that's really the point, no more risks for Elton. Nope, He had done the hard work and he was'nt going to put himself out anymore. Well, from now on out, it's a goner, but this was a short sweet bow for ther rest of these guys. Bye Bye Quaye.

Glenn Wiener <> (09.02.2000)

Its interesting that back in 1975 this recording debuted at #1 on the US Charts. I ended up buying it a record convention for a dollar or two. Now would you be able to do that with a top quality Beatle Release? Very doubtful. The point is that this album just does not hold up well over time. Truthfully 'Island Girl' is probably one of my least favorite Elton John singles. The attempt at trying to add regaae/calypso stylings to his music just does not work too well. Although many of the other songs rock along quite nicely, they just don't bring anything unusualy to the table. Yes, the 'Bullet In The Gun' song is an unusual title. However, it just isn't as touching as prior ballads('Your Song', 'Candle In The Wind', to name two others). The idea is to look for this one cheap. Its not as essential as many other Elton John releases before or after.

Bob Josef <> (29.02.2000)

This was recorded a year after Captain Fantastic. However, that one was held back for about six months, so the stylistic change of Westies, which was released six months later, appeared a lot more drastic at the time.

Elton as guitar rocker, I think, actually works. The weakest for me are the two ballads -- they are way overproduced compared to his earlier slow songs. "Island Girl" is a cute pop song, but it also sounds out of place in the middle of all these guitar rockers -- it's the closest to his prior work. But the rest rocks hard enough to overcome more Taupin sketches of lowlife scum on things like "Yell Help," or "Grow Some Funk," much like Stones records. "Dan Dare" is actually about a comic book character, which is why the lyrics are so bizarre. I agree, the album does grow on you if you keep your expectations low.

The two outtakes on the new CD are "Planes," a nice, low key pop ballad which would have been a great substitute for "Feed Me" or "I Feel Like a Bullet." "Island Girl"'s B-side, "Sugar on the Floor," was written by Kiki Dee, and is performed by Elton solo on piano. It has more emotional resonance than any of the album tracks, which is why I doesn't fit in.

Didier Dumonteil <> (03.03.2001)

Elton John told us so.He wanted to  free himself from DJM records,so,five months after captain fantastic,IMHO,his last valuable creation,he decided to release an half-baked record hastily.That was the beginning of the end of his artistic adventures:only the three last tracks are of some interest:"island girl" is commercial stuff but pleasant,"grow some funk of your own " rocks and "I feel like a bullet" remains a fine ballad.Instant karma:4 or 5 months after,-the young people won't believe it nowadays-DJM released another  album,the poorly produced live here and there which the artist deemed "appalling"!

Bill Slocum <> (06.04.2004)

Nice call on this album, not Elton's greatest work, but not a candidate for the trash heap by any means. It has some very good songs on it, that are quite different than Elton's usual fare to that time. While Captain Fantastic and its predecessors were out-and-out melodic pop, this is something fresh, call it "bubblegum soul," not straight-out R&B but very groove-oriented, distracting stuff like the "Yell Help" medley, "Dan Dare," "Hard Luck Story," and "Feed Me."

You write "Rock Of The Westies is an anomaly and a throwaway." I'm with you halfway. It's definitely an anomaly, but it's not a throwaway. There are no bad songs here. Interesting, the hits are less polished and essential then his earlier ones, with the game but derivative "Island Girl" being his weakest Billboard #1 hit, and "Grow Some Funk Of Your Own" being probably the most boringly repetitive song on this album. It doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, reggae, country, or soul, and the result is interesting but not as charged-up as it pretends to be.

That said, I quite like "I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford)," a rumination on failed love and betrayal that uses an odd simile, that of the killing of fabled Western outlaw Jesse James by his own cousin, one Robert Ford, to express the desolation the singer feels at letting his lover down. It isn't a masterpiece, or even that great, but it fills its five minutes on the album nicely enough.

I like the differentness of this album. "Feed Me" reminds me of a Blue Moves track, with its heart-rending low-register paranoid delivery and its spare melodic structure. The key difference is that "Feed Me" is a complete song, with a sense of mission, not like the flailing, half-dead compositions that litter Blue Moves. "Hard Luck Story" has a Blue Moves quality, too, in its quieter passages. Blue Moves wasn't tragic because it was bad, though it was, but because it could have been better, and Rock Of The Westies shows how.

The best thing about this album is the soul influence. Clearly Elton wanted to go more in that direction, and did so on the semi-abortive but very enjoyable Thom Bell Sessions, recorded soon after but not seeing the light of day until 1979, when "Mama Can't Buy You Love" returned Elton to the Top Ten. It began here, though, and began well.

The only real knock on Rock Of The Westies, being that I enjoy even "Grow Some Funk" some and the others quite a bit more, is the CD reissue includes two bonus tracks that decidedly a cut below the rest. "Sugar On The Floor" is just dull, while "Planes" is an annoying rewrite of Don't Shoot Me's "Texas Love Song" without the tough lyrics of the original, which was what worked the last time. Elton doesn't copy himself that often, and when he does so as slavishly as this, it's cause for concern.

One bonus track I wish was on my CD (and apparently was on yours) was "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," Elton's duet with Kiki Dee and his last original Billboard #1 hit (two more followed, a duet remake of "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" with George Michael in 1992 and the "Candle In The Wind" memorial remake for Princess Diana in 1997.) "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" was recorded around the same time as Rock Of The Westies, and while released a year later, is certainly of a piece with the rest of these songs, and enjoyable. Plus all his other #1 non-album singles found homes on the reissued "Classic Years" CDs, so why not that one, too?

Lots of cool, unusual filligree in this record, like the fade-in opening of "Hard Luck Story" and the rising notes of the background vocalists on "Yell Help." He was still trying, and that should count for something. It does for me anyway.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (04.06.2004)

I'm not too fond of his late 70's material. They get 3/5 [6/10] from me. With the exception of Blue Moves, they don't sound like they come from a professional, they sound as though they come from some mediocre pop [or rock] artist. This album was supposed to be silly fun. It don't find it much fun at all. Because it's a rock album critics brand it 'far-out' and 'non-commercial' while Blue Moves, being a plaintive ballad album, is panned as a 'sell-out'. Truth is the album is possibly his most generic, it features every generic, half-assed rock riff you could think of, all shoved in under Elton howling like an idiot. Any more proof? In America, This album had three songs reach the Billboard and that's from nine songs. On Blue Moves, only two songs were singles from eighteen and only one did well. Actually Blue Moves is the only late-70's album of Elton's that really deserves credit. Songs like 'Tonight', 'Idol' and 'Wide-eyed and laughing' at least sound as though they come from a professional and I dobut any of them would have made the charts [Anway who cares if someones a singles artist?].

Back to Rock of the Westies, I do like 'Hard-luck Story' and 'Feed me', and of-course the medley. It's an interesting one the medley. It opend with 'Yell help', which sounds like any generic rock song from any mediocre rock band of the mid-seventies. But then is effortlessly seagues into 'Wednesday night' which is very intersting and then [of-course, give credit to the guitarists!] back to 'yell help', than 'Ugly', an up-tempo disco-rocker. Really cool. Of the rest, there's the completely forgettable 'Street Kids' which has a decent chorus but that's all there is to say. It's a very plodding song. 'Grow some funk' sounds like a stoned ZZ Top demo tape, but still a lot of fun, [not that ZZ Top are a mediocre band!] and it does rock, but I mean it doesn't rock any harder than stuff like 'Restless' and 'Li'l Fridgerator' from Breaking Hearts. 'Island Girl' grows on you and has some great instrumental parts and then 'Billy Bones' is interesting too, another one that grows on you, don't like the annoying fade-out though. 'Dan Dare' doesn't make we want to jump for joy but it's okay. I don't think he found his feet again until 21 at 33 which is a great album. That said I think the stuff in between is passable and at times fun, and I haven't heard '77s Thom bell Sessions which might be a great album.


Bob Josef <> (21.09.2002)

The reissue is a great bargain. Plus Dudgeon's remix puts everything in perspective. The reworkings of "Bad Side of the Moon" and "Love Song" are the peaks for me -- really powerful and inspired. The latter got a lot of airplay at the time --they really missed the boat by not releasing it as a single. On the other hand, I could really do without "Crocodile Rock", the hideous "You're So Static" and his overindulgences on "Honky Cat" and "Rocket Man". (He still performs it live this way, much to my annoyance). Still, EJ dumped his original band after this tour, so it's great th her them in their prime.

Bill Slocum <> (14.04.2004)

Wow, what a difference a CD reissue makes! Probably only Live At Leeds exceeds Here And There in its high quality/generosity ratio. Like that record, with has a "Tommy" and non-"Tommy" disc, there's a sharp distinction between Disc 1 (May 1974 in London) and Disc 2 (November 1974 in New York), and the difference tells you a lot about Elton and his music.

Disc 1 is a Royal Command Performance before the Queen, and Elton is mannered and ill-at-ease, performing "Your Song" like a Bach piano suite and almost apologetically introducing harder fare like "Saturday Night" and "Bad Side Of The Moon."

At least with those two songs, Elton plays in relatively furious fashion, like he would before an audience of regular fans. Some of his other numbers suffer a bit from sheepish delivery. I don't mind the duck calls on "Honky Cat" but the fey way Elton leads the crowd into the "Get back" chorus annoys on repeat listens. I didn't mind his treacly treatment of "Skyline Pigeon" or "Candle In The Wind" since they aren't personal favorites, but did he have to similarly perform "Border Song" and "Country Comfort" as if encased in mummy wrap?

You are right that this first disc does suffer from the fact Elton performed many of the same songs in more lively fashion on 11-17-70. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by his full-piece band, and saw less need to push himself as he did when he was just one of a trio on 11-17-70.

"Love Song" is the first album's high point. He's good-hearted enough to relate that many people told him it was their favorite Tumbleweed track even though it was the one song on it he didn't write, then brings out the woman who did write it, Lesley Duncan, for a heartfelt duet before the Queen. If you met me back then and asked me to bet on whether Elton was gay or not, you probably would have made a lot of money off me. It's a good song because it fits the subdued quality of the overall performance, without the baroque melodic underpinnings that sometimes seem on the verge of drowning the other ballads here.

Disc 2 is the great one, the New York Thanksgiving show at Madison Square Garden with John Lennon surprising everyone as the three-song special guest. His numbers with Elton are killer, all three, especially "Lucy In The Sky" and "I Saw Her Standing There," which must have been a special thrill for everyone, being about Lennon's only post-breakup nod at the legacy of his former band, at least on stage.

But the rest of Disc 2 is fantastic, killer stuff, too, all of it delivered with the glam showmanship Elton had conditioned his audiences to expect. Just starting off with "Love Lies Bleeding/Funeral For A Friend" is so, so bold. "Don't do it, Elton," I can hear myself yelling backstage: "It's too long, it's too early, it has a long instrumental section the audience will never get into, plus that's not exactly Cream backing you up." Shut up, Bill. Just shut up. These guys are in command and taking no prisoners as Elton enjoys the harvest season in his stardom.

The Muscle Shoals Horns are great on here, as is the whole band. Nigel Olsson on drums and Davey Johnson on guitar have some highlight moments, more than Elton seems to get on piano. Probably the only knock on this album is that Elton's piano playing was either drowned out in the mix or just not as scintillating as it was on 11-17-70. I hear some runs, and an occasional glissando, but he doesn't take command like with the earlier show. Again, more musicians this time.

But it works very well. The hits, like "Rocket Man" and "Daniel," seem to have a warm enveloping softness to them. Elton does replicate the sound of the hits very well, he and his bandmates even give "Benny And The Jets" the same false start it had on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and how cool is it to hear that faux-live classic performed live and sounding better than ever? But Elton also delivers on a couple of album cuts: "Grey Seal" and "You're So Static," the latter of which really is a revelation with the balls-out backup of the Muscle Shoals horns.

Disc 2 is a really great snapshot of Elton's high-water mark both in popularity and musical craft, and worth having for just that alone. But Disc 1, while the lesser of the two, is not without charm and certainly offers a very different look at Elton. I just can't wait for the re-re-issue, Here, There, Everywhere, And Back Again, when we will get a four CD set with one of his 1973 Paris shows and 1975 Pacific Coast shows thrown in.


Richard C. Dickison <> (27.08.99)

George, I got one word for this album. SOUNDTRACK.

Does this not sound like one of those bad, tedious, soft porn, movie melodramas made in Sweden and dubbed in english. You can here the orange Danish Modern furniture in the recording studio. Dull Dull Dull, this album is only for classic Elton John completist. Who want to waste money. And are very bored. Oh, You can find the good song, maybe songs on best-of collections. I never listen to this one.

Greg Brunswick <> (17.02.2000)

Its funny. Elton John is ripped for anything other than utter brilliance while artists like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones are praised for their nonsensical filler. Blue Moves is an album that rarely gets boring because it is NOT predictable and, in fact, has more memorable melodies than critics would like to believe. The lyrics are thought-provoking and quite emotional. And, George--buy the 2-CD version! You're missing one of the best songs of Elton John's career..."Cage The Songbird".

[Special author note: strange as it may seem, my CD edition does include 'Cage The Songbird' - like I said, it only excludes three instrumentals. It's a nice acoustic shuffle with some pleasant 'ooh-ooh's, sure enough, but hardly as memorable as 'Your Song'... then again, it's definitely far more epochal than all that Sergeant Pepper-Blonde On Blonde crap, isn't it? Throw that in the gutter! ELTON'S DA MAN, DUDE!]

Bob Josef <> (29.02.2000)

There's a good reason for the downbeat tone of the album. Taupin's first marriage was breaking up. A lot of the songs deal directly with that ("Sorry," "Tonight," "Shoorah," "Chameleon," "Between 17 and 20"). And his depression around it permeates even of the lyrics that don't, except for "Bite Your Lip" and "Boogie Pilgrim," the latter of which sounds totally insincere.

Sometimes it works. "Tonight" is the most powerful piece on the album. The gospel choir gets me on "Shoorah" and "Bite Your Lip." "Cage the Songbird" is a beautiful, moving ballad, and "The Wide Eyed and Laughing" is a wonderful slice of psychedelia which is a welcome departure from the rest of the album. Backing harmonies by Crosby & Nash help with these two tracks immeasurably.

But you're right, it's more frequently unexciting. I've always HATED "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" -- totally cloying and unpleasant. I thought "Idol" was about Elvis Presley, myself, and it's just as boring as Elvis had become at that point.

You're right, Elton and Bernie were never the same after this.

<> (01.04.2000)

Elton and Bernie set out to make a "non-commercial" LP when they did this one.The seven previous albums had gone to #1(some making thier debut at the top of the charts).They knew that type of success couldnt last forever so they actually set out to do something lame.This one was lame! My least favorite EJ LP.The french liked it for some reason.His career took off in that country with this release. go figure! "sorry seems to be the hardest word" and "Tonight" are the only two cuts that i ever listen to from this LP.

Didier Dumonteil <> (03.03.2001)

The watershed (or the height of land) neatly dovetails with the previous effort.Now Elton is over the hill,and pretty soon far away at that.This couldn't even make a  proper single album.To think that he intended a triple first!!!

'Tonight','Chameleon' and the corny sorry.... ,that would make a good maxi-single.Please don't say "the double blue album"!

Glenn Wiener <> (29.06.2003)

This recording is just way too long. Many of the songs just plod along with a decent arrangement but weak melodies. The opening 'Your Starter For' is quite delightful with fine marimba touches. Tonight is just a stunning ballad with a gorgeous orchestral background. Not a wasted moment on this track. After that its miss and hit as the mediocre outweighs the good or better still decent. 'Crazy Water', 'Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word', and 'Seventeen and Twenty' are other reasonable songs. The rest just drag and drag without a purpose. I've listened to this CD at least three maybe four times and its truly a drag. Inoffensive no but not particularly captivating either.

BILL SLOCUM <> (14.11.2003)

Blue Moves doesn't have a lot going for it to begin with, but Elton and his buddies stacked the deck against themselves with their sequencing, particularly by starting with "Tonight." A torpid, meandering, pointless song about wanting to shut up and go to bed, it lasts longer than "Hey Jude" and is maddeningly pompous in its orchestration. Put anywhere on the album, it would represent a challenge, but stuck up front it really drags a willing listener into catatonia before the rest of the album has a chance.

It's probably just as well. The rest of the songs vary in quality, but most come off as inert melodic structures rather than songs. With each you get an establishing theme within a minute, but then not much more before the song is run into the ground. No groove, spirit, or soul informs these babies from within. "Chameleon," "Crazy Water," and "Boogie Pilgrim" had the best chance, but needed more studio work. Lyrically, Taupin is either at his most obscure ("Where's The Shoorah?") or insipid ("If There's A God In Heaven.") He's been off before, just not this bad. More critically and less repairably, Elton's musical genius is in the ruts. As "Tonight" shows, he's out of gas, and his best way of disguising it is by playing slower. Bad idea.

"Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" is good, not great, just much better than anything else. The song aches powerfully, in word and note, in such a consuming way it makes you wonder how come everything else is so bland.

Many times you read of weak efforts by great artists, and you know you'll find something enjoyable that others missed. This is a real slag heap, though. I can hear the cop at the accident scene now: "Nothing to see here. Move along."

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (27.04.2004)

Yeah, Elton is being a bit derivative on this album. Somehow I don't really care. I don't think 'Crazy Water' takes anything from a previous hit at all, it's an ususual disco number. How many disco songs at the time where about missing whalers? And by the way this was only the secodn album that Elton touched the disco genre. I love the backing vocalists too. It's a high energy song. I've got an answer to Bernie's question on 'If there's is a God in Heaven' and that would be 'If God is in Heaven what does he have to do with Earth?'. Oh and NO crazy experimentation? That is why I like this album. Because there is plenty of that. Between Seventeen and twenty fuses Jamaican, Groove and an almost 1950's pop sound into one. Well, the verse is Jamaican groove, then the chorus is 50's rock and roll and then he breaks this laid-back song into an emotional ballad 'Seemed no use for yoooo oo oo for you to stay'. I love that spine-tingling falsetto he uses. 'The Wide-eyed and Laughing', what a song! folk song featuring Rototoms, a swirling synthesiser, sitars and Crosby and Stills on backing vocals. It also has a very unusual melody. I don't know why the lyrics about a couple fighting are used as some sought of way of saying Elton was sick of his msuic career. I think that's a load of ***. Tonight, I just want to go to sleep but you want to carry grudges ... It's about a fighting couple and yes the marriage between Bernie and Maxine was breaking down at this time. Other highligths are 'Theme from ...' unusual, 'Cage the songbird', 'Sorry seems' .. [too similar to 'We all fall in love sometimes' to call it excellent] and 'Shoulder Holster', a good wind down tune. It does have it low points, 'Boogie Pilgrim' is an extrapolation of the fadeout of 'Chameleon', and Elton sounsd like he doesn't give a ***. 'One Horse Town' isn't a favourite of mine, 'Out of the Blue' is FAR too long and repetitive and I suppose 'Shoorah' is decent but not oustanding. Not one of his best but enough good songs for a great single LP.

Bill Slocum <> (01.08.2004)

I said what I said before on Blue Moves and stand by nearly all of it, but I have to add "Crazy Water" is now working on me as a killer fast cut. Everything else is torpid and boring, as I wrote before, but dammit, "Crazy Water" is fun!


Bob Josef <> (29.02.2000)

I really dislike most of the album. And a major reason for this is Osborne's stupid lyrics. Simplistic, just one step above nursery rhymes. Unfortunately, most of the time, Elton came up with trite music to match. "Madness" sounds like something a tacky piano player would play to accompany a Buster Keaton silent movie or a Dudley Do-Right cartoon. "Return to Paradise" contains banal "tropical" music cliches, "Big Dipper" sounds like a cheap burlesque number, "Georgia" hokey fake gospel."

Of the vocal numbers, only three transcend the lyrics. Unlike you, I think "Shine on Through" has an uplifting melody and arrangement. "Part Time Love" makes adultery seem fluffy, and "I Don't Care" is upbeat, fun and just as escapist as its title. And I agree, the two instrumentals are marvelous -- no Osborne!

The British CD reissue adds four single sides, three from the album sessions, which are, again, superior to most of the album tracks. "Lovesick," with lyrics by Taupin, is a "Philadelphia Freedom" style disco rocker in which the music contrasts with the moody lyrics -- more Blue Moves?. This one was the B-side to "Song for Guy." "Strangers," by Osborne, is also about the end of a love affair, and the words are better than ANYTHING he did on the album. It proved that he could write intelligently. (This one was the B-side of the "Victim of Love" single, so now you can avoid having anything to do with that travesty of an album.) "Ego," a Taupin A-side recorded before the album, is an amusing jab at EJ's rock star narcisissm, done up Billy Joel style. And Bernie's "I Cry at Night," the "Part Time Love" flip, has Elton movingly accompanying himself on only electric piano and overdubbed harmonies. The this-is-the-end-of-everything lyrics make most of Blue Moves seem like Honky Chateau. Fortunately, Bernie bottomed out mood-wise here.

<> (11.07.2000)

I'd like to make a correction: the one line repeated over and over in "Song For Guy" is actually "life isn't everything" which is considerably different than "life is a delicate thing", yet if it's true that the Russian CDs don't carry any liner notes (i.e. lyrics), then I understand the mix-up. Coincidentally, it's the one song that's credited entirely to Elton John himself, so I pat him on the back for writing lyrics as well as the music, even if it's only three words. (It says that Elton actually wrote it for some guy whose name was Guy, and who died in a motorcycle accident, yet I can't remember what his purpose he served in Elton's life).

For the most part, I second your comments of A Single Man, but being a fan of rock-n'roll I always preferred the rockers ("I Don't Care") as opposed to the sappy ballads (too many to list).

While I'm on it, I'd also like to add some pointless info; I also enjoyed "Song For Guy" so much that I even learned to play it on the piano, getting it note-for-note, and although I've forgotten most of it, I don't regret a minute of learning it.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (21.05.2004)

You know I actually agree with you on this one quite a bit. Just one thing, who said 'Ballad' is a bad word. 'Shine on through', 'Return to paradise', 'Shooting star' and 'Georgia' are all very different from each-other even if they al have a slow pace. But of those four songs, the only one I would call excellent is 'Return to Paradise' and what a vocal he does on it. It's soguth of a cross between Early 60's Elvis and Beach Boys, then near the end he does a baeutiful falsetto solo. It's probably my favourite off this record. Of the rest of the songs on the album, I just love the last three, it is sought of Elton's 'Death suite'. I find 'Reverie' one of his msot under-rated songs. It's sougth of liek the spector comign to get you. The ghostliness of this song is enhaned by the the song lacks 'body'. Since Elton neither starts nor ends on the songs chord note [e.g. if it were in the Key of C, almost all songs start and end of C but this sogn doesn't] the song doesn't b! egin or end, it's just there all of a sudden and then all of a sudden it's gone, and bang into the emotion-filled intro of 'Song For Guy'. 'Life isn't everything' that pretty well sums it up. But 'Madness' is also an excellent song in my ears, excellent passages of classical music, some good electric guitar and of-course a lyric that really drives the dark end of this otherwise limp album. Oh by the way 'Song for Guy' sought of loses it's meaning without 'reverie'. WIth 'Reverie' it's unmistakably about death. But The first two-thirds of this album is rather light-hearted pop. I am the frist person to stress that isn't a bad thing but Theses songs, aside form R.T.P. are either 6,5,4 out of ten meaning decent, mediocre and not good respectively. When I first listen to this album in a long time I love it but after a few listens even 'I don't care' and 'Big Dipper' are rather a task to sit through. I'm thinking 'I could be listening to The Fox now...' Them and 'Shine on through' are the b! est of them. Part-time love, Georgia, Shooting star and It ain't gonna be easy are just boring songs over time. I don't credit them passable. 'Georgia' has the best shot, wouldn't be out-of-place on Tumbleweed connection 'That's another album I could be listening to now' and it does capture the same simple pleasures of 'Country Comfort'. It ain't gonna be easy also had a chance but the lack of any interesting solo work drags in into the dirt. Tim Renwick can hardly play guitar. I got excited about it the second time I heard it, it reminded me of that ZZ Top song I need you tonight. But I need you tonight has excellent guitar playing that keeps you hooked. This Renwick fellow, whoever he is makes what could have been a wrenching ballad into a boring, long one. They had to get Davey Johnstone in to play guitar on the commercial hit. Ray Cooper and Paul Buckmaster are even less inspiring. I like Elton's vocal solo at the end, definitely R&B, but to have to wait six mintues for it is a bit too long for me. Shooting star is experimental but forgettable. A few excellent numbers, a few decent ones and some really boring ones. I'd actually call 'Georgia' decent.

mrivera2844 <> (30.06.2004)

i do have a flair for buying lost classics but i concider a single man to be a lost classic



















Bob Josef <> (01.08.2002)

This and Metal Machine Music in the same week? George, maybe you should see someone concerning this masochistic streak you might have. :))

The only "victim" here is the listener. Surely a contender for the top (bottom?) 10 worst albums ever released by a major rock/pop artist. Even Elton himself agrees that (along with Leather Jackets, although that one isn't nearly as bad) he should never have released it. Clearly, he figured it was to get some cheap, quick product out -- he just flew into Munich for an eight hour session to overdub the vocals, and flew out again.

I think, though, that the problem is more complex than the fact that this is a disco album, even though I don't care much for the genre. When Elton writes soul-influenced music for himself ("Philadelphia Freedom" "Hey, Papa Legba," Sleeping with the Past), he frequently succeeds because he is able to inject his own personality into the songs. But when he tries to take black music on in its own territory, he utterly fails. He should have learned this lesson two years earlier with The Thom Bell Sessions (where backing vocalists sound better than he does), but he didn't.

If Bellotte's usual client, Donna Summer, had sung over these tracks, she at least would have been able to breathe some life into the songs. But EJ, as you point out, is incapable of singing this stuff with any inflection at all. So, he sounds awkward, bland and so very, very white. Kind of like watching a high school Poindexter nerd try to do the Hustle. Pathetic. But he still didn't quite learn his lesson, because he recorded more soul/Motown on the Duets album, and sounds almost as ridiculous there.

Although the title song (OK, I'll admit the chorus there is kind of catchy) made the top 40, this album is totally ignored by all those Elton anthology albums. It's rapidly disappearing from print. I think Elton would like to pull a George Orwell and rewrite his discographies, pretending it never existed. Doubleplusungood!

Nick Santangelo <> (02.10.2002)

The title track is laughably bad, long a running joke among my musician friends. The line about the 'steely knives' never ceases to elicit groans and derision- just terrible. However, Walsh is positively ripping on 'Victim of Love.' A real killer track- makes you wonder if they didn't get some other band in for that one.

Alex Zaitsev <> (22.10.2003)

Hi, George!

May I ask you a question? Do you really consider Victim of Love to be better than, say, Rock Island or Ghost of Tom Joad? Have you ever considered giving Victim of Love an overall 4 or something? Geez, this album is the Calling all Stations of commercial pop. An absolutely idiotic cash-in. Placing it above any album, even Pilgrim, requires some strong justification. Heck, Pilgrim at least has 'Circus', Winds of Change has ' San Franciscan Nights'. Victim of Love has nothing. Hey, why am I commenting on an album that doesn't exist? *meditates, murmuring "Victim of Love doesn't exist, Victim of Love doesn't exist...*

PS. Excuse me for making this comment ten minutes after the first one, but I've remembered that you're giving Victim of Love two extra grades for the good laugh you get from 'Johnny B. Goode'. Well, a good laugh is a good laugh, but two grades are two grades. Is  Abba's The Album just a good laugh away from Abbey Road? Hey, maybe your next essay could be on the importance of a good laugh in music? Now, that would have been some priceless stuff!

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (06.04.2004)

I have always found the reaction to this album to be over-the-top. All o ver the internet are people begging for it to be recalled, I even heard one person call for all copies of it to be rounded up and destroyed? Perhaps the albums biggest fault is it's classification of 'Disco'. I would call it 'pop'. Disco is a no-holds-barred music form full of expressions of emotion and freedom. This album is very conservative. Just compare it to the fleeting drama of something like 'Crazy Water' or 'Bite your lip'. Perhaps it is 'Euro-Disco'. But I can't find why it is SO bad.You can hear the gospel and rock n roll influences all over the album. I would rate it 3/5 but 'Spotlight' is my third favourite Elton song from the seventies. While Elton has gone for a more 'trying to sing it well' approach, 'Spotlight' and 'Street Boogie' Elton uses his trademark falsetto and he sounds like he's really enjoying himself. The worst song is the first one, it's just too long, but it's ok, actually! I really like the guitar tone.


Jerry Shickler <> (14.05.2001)

I think this album is better than anything he's done since Cpt. Fantastic.

It seemed to come out of nowhere. After a string of dreadful, lifeless albums, The Fox comes across as diverse, energetic, & emotionally charged, and the sound is unlike anything else in his catalog. It seems like he cares again -- the caustic anger of "Heart in the Right Place" & "Fascist Faces", the classic beauty of "Carla/Etude", "Elton's Song" & "Chloe", the rollicking fun of "Breaking Down Barriers" & "Heels of the Wind". Though the production sounds somewhat dated, this album has a strong set of songs, & finds him in top form in both singing and playing. Sadly underrated & overlooked.

Bob Josef <> (01.10.2002)

Yes, definitely the best since Captain Fantastic. Bernie even designed the title track specifically as a sequel, but I'm hard pressed to figure out the connection. And is there such as word as "turtlesque"?

The album is pretty good, considering the fact that's it's another one of those "bastrard child" products. Y'see, in 1980, Elton recorded a ton of basic tracks in France with his pal Clive Franks producing. Some of those went to 21 at 33, while he took a bunch more to L.A. for overdubs and turned some of those in as the first version of The Fox. But his new label, Geffen, rejected it, so he rerecorded half of it with producer Chris Thomas. Those tracks tend to be a little more echoey and high-tech ("Nobody Wins", "Just Like Belgium"), so the album's a little uneven.

But still, great songwriting and performances from the man here. The lyrics here are interesting and intelligent. Osborne is a big surprise. He reaches his peak as a lyricist here, the best he ever wrote for Elton. I actually like "Nobody Wins". Rather than literally translate Jean-Paul Dreau's lyrics to "Je veux de la Tendresse" (which EJ did record for the French release), he had Osborne come up with an entirely new theme about divorce from a child's point of view. Very good, although the bouncy New Wave music doesn't quite go with the words. And I hate to tell you, but "Elton's Song" is not exactly an "innocent little ballad". It's his third collaboration with Tom Robinson, the UK's first openly gay punk rocker, and it's about a homosexual crush. Sorry. But it's got a good melody, beautiful orchestration and a moving vocal. Maybe it's because this is familiar territory for Elton..

The album was a commercial disappointment for Geffen anyway, because of the choice of singles. "Nobody Wins" and "Chole" were much too downbeat too make it into the Top 10. I guess "Je Veux de la Tendresse" and "Just Like Belgium" were big in Europe, though.

The France/Los Angeles sessions produced a ton of tracks which appeared as B-sides over the next four years. The first to show up (on the flip of "Nobody Wins") was a dumb little jazz-popper by Taupin called "Fool's in Fashion", about a conceited partier. Not worth hunting up. "Tortured", which showed up on the flip of "Chloe", is much better. The melody is a bit awkward, but it has a cool vibe part. And Taupin's lyrics, again about the end of an affair, are almost a companion to those of "Chloe". Hopefully, these will show up on a remastered CD soon.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (14.04.2004)

I actually can't think of any bad songs on this one. Yes, This is the best since Captain Fantastic. I love Blue Moves but it's not as consistent. Basically, The Fox does more in ten songs than Blue Moves does in 18. It kicks off with a glam rocker that reminds me of something 'Foreigner' might have done. It also has a gospel feel. Elton's vocals are qutie passionate. 'Hearts in the right place' is a cool blues-rock tune. It's actually a very good lyric by Gary Osborne about Journalists. If I had criticism it would be the two songs 'go on too long' at the end but If i raelly like a song I don't want it to end so... Just like Belguim is sought of Billy Joel-ish, a very nice piece about 'Belguim' complete with sax and a French girl. 'Nobody winds' is a typical euro-dance song of the time and is a cover version, again passionate vocals. 'Fascist faces' is Bernie Taupin expressing a political view through blues-rock. It's also got a gospel edge. Then there's 'Carla Etude' which is a great instrumental. People rave about 'Funeral for a friend' but my favourite instrumental is 'Carla Etude' teamed with the new age 'Fanfare'. It's classical music. Quite a daring move by Elton. 'Chloe' is my least favourite song from the alubm. Elton's trying to sing like James Taylor and I'm not sure how much it works. But I still like it. 'Heels of the wind' has a repetitve piano riff but it's my favourite song off the album. It's very much like a gospel rocker from the mid-60's. Then the album closes with a heart-felt ballad 'Elton's song' about his crush on another man and a great soft-country and western ballad with wailing harmonica, the title track and cryptic lyrics form Taupin. On the whole, a consistet album that doesn't really have low points.

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