Monday, October 19, 2009

468. Elton John- Not just Elton John, Very Elton John.

Album: Elton John.

Artist: Elton John.

Year: 1970

Genre: Easy listening Pop.


1. Your Song

2. I Need You To Turn To

3. Take Me To The Pilot

4. No Shoe Strings On Louise

5. First Episode At Hienton

6. Sixty Years On

7. Border Song

8. The Greatest Discovery

9. The Cage

10. The King Must Die

Elton John’s self titled album (his second LP) caught me a bit by surprise. I knew Sir Elton as the flamboyant, gay icon who played concerts with orchestras, re-recorded Candle in the Wind and advertised The Royal Mail on television. His music wasn’t something I paid attention to because I wasn’t really in his target demographic. But while he didn’t interest me I’d heard talk of early Elton John who it was worth dedicating some time to. Tiny Dancer and Madman Across the Water were songs I’d always heard talked of and were covered by people I admired. So when I put this album on I expected to hear some gutsy piano and songs written by an eager young artist and not a middle-aged billionaire with a celebrity obsession.

It turns out I was wrong. By the sound of this release Elton was actually born in his forties and from the start of his career targeted the housewives who were going to become his staple audience. There are more strings on this release than piano and for every brief hint of rock there’s a massive dollop of sentimental sludge. I’m not saying Elton isn’t talented or deserving of his fame, I’m just a bit mystified as to why anyone under 40 would care.

The opening track (and the only song I recognize) is Your Song which he’s still playing to this day. It sets the tone for the rest of the album- Elton’s voice is up front and his piano just one of the wash of instruments behind him. Most prominent are the strings which are all over this release. Even the up tempo rocking track Take Me to the Pilot features some violins in amongst the mix, almost as if it was in their contract to be present on every song. I’ve never heard Border song before but I was able to predict the exact moment the orchestra was going to come in. “Violins…now!” I said out loud and while I got a strange look from someone else on the train I was correct to the second. I was pleased with myself for spotting the songs predictability (but had the smile wiped off my face a few second later when a huge chorus suddenly joined Elton without warning and scared the bejeebus out of me).

The song that sums up this release for me is The Greatest Discovery which is so saccharine it could snuff out the life of a diabetic like a candle in a sugary wind. It starts with some big, weepy strings augmented by an honest-to-god harp. A harp! What other album in the top 500 features a harp? I’m guessing none… actually scrap that, the top album has a harp in it but then it’s got everything so it doesn’t count. After the harp and the strings indulge in a battle to out-sentiment each other that lasts a quarter of the songs length, Elton comes in playing some slow chords on his piano and singing. The lyrics are all about a young boy waking up to discover the source of a new sound in his house. I’m reluctant to type the final lines for fear that my computer will implode with the weight of saccharine and turn into an enormous mouse-driven sugar cube… but here goes:

In those silent happy seconds

That surround the sound of this event

A parent smile is made in moments

They have made for you a friend

And all you ever learned from them

Until you grew much older

Did not compare with when they said

This is your brand new brother

Bleeech! Call me a big, dumb, heartless male but isn’t that just gut wrenching? And what does “A parent smile is made in moments” actually mean? It’s making me shudder just to think about it.

So Elton John was a disappointment. I was expecting to be pleasantly surprised but instead was bitterly disappointed at my lack of surprise (if that’s possible). It all sounds like easy listening to me and while I don’t need my listening as difficult as Public Image Limited I certainly don’t like it as straightforward as this.

Highlight: No Shoe strings on Louise Not the song as much as the song title.

Lowlight: The greatest gift.

Influenced by: Bach.

Influenced: George Michael.

Favourite Amazon review quote: “Throughout this journey John and Bernie Taupin succour the listener's emotions with richly blended poetic harmonies, alternately invigorating and bewildering in their density and simplicity.”

-Hmmm okay.

So are does Elton set your heart meltin' or make you want to rush to the John.? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. I love Elton John's music, and this made me LOL. I loved the part when you described "The Greatest Discovery." You are actually a pretty witty little writer! Anyways, I think that you will like Captain Fantastic and Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road when they come up. Just make sure to give both of them time and patience, and let them grow on you, like they did with me (esp. Captain Fantastic).