Friday, July 5, 2013

91. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) Elton John


1. Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
2. Candle in the Wind
3. Bennie and the Jets
4. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
5. This Song Has No Title
6. Grey Seal
7. Jamaica Jerk-Off
8. I've Seen That Movie Too
9. Sweet Painted Lady
10. The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34)
11. Dirty Little Girl
12. All the Girls Love Alice
13. Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n Roll)
14. Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting
15. Roy Rogers
16. Social Disease
17. Harmony

Double albums appear to be all the rage as we enter into the top 100. So far I'm 10% of the way through the final hundred albums and four of them have been doubles. I've always been a less-is-more kind of guy when it comes to album production but it appears I'm in the minority.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is Elton John's biggest album and contains some of his monster hits. Being four sides of vinyl it also contains a fair amount of filler as well. This Song Has No Title, for example sounds like a bridge from another song extended to song length for no compelling reason other than to take up space. Your Sister Can't Twist is an awful attempt to write an upbeat rock number that sounds like a by-the-numbers rocker only using all the wrong numbers. The opening track has long and pretentious lead-in that pads it to over 11 minutes in length and Jamaica Jerk Off is the kind of mock- reggae written by people who don't understand or even like real reggae but know other people enjoy it.

But the filler tracks aren't what elevated Brick Road to number 92 on this countdown. It's the singles that have raised John in the esteem of the music buying public and the are four monster hits on Brick Road that he still performs live to this day.

The biggest is the original version of Candle in the Wind, John's tribute to Marilyn Monroe, written a decade after her death and reflecting on John's feelings for the fallen idol. Or more accurately it reflects on lyricist Bernie Taupin's feelings. Either way it's hard to deny that rarely has someone been eulogised so effectively in song. It's a shame Candle has been diluted by its return appearance in 1997 as a tribute to Princess Diana. It's turned into John's tune that he pulls out for pretty dead women and detracts from his views on the original. Candle has some clumsy lyrics: ("Even when you died, Oh the press still hounded you, All the papers had to say, Was that Marilyn was found in the nude") but the central image of a candle in the wind does seem oddly perfect for Munroe.

Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting comes late in the album but does a lot to repair the impression some of the preceding tracks created. Listening to some of the duds that lead up to it you might believe Elton can't rock at all and doesn't really understand anything other than ballads. But Saturday Night is a great rock and roll song that could easily have been handed to the Stones and fit in well on their next album.

The title track is one of the big production slower numbers which are John's bread and butter. It's a standard ballad with a huge backing and swelling strings. If you like this stuff then nobody does it as well as Elton and it's why he's at his most popular when touring with an orchestra behind him instead of a rock and roll combo.

Apparently John was reluctant to release Bennie and Jets as a single and it's hard to blame him. He didn't rate it as a song and neither do I. Bennie has nothing going for it and the overdubbed applause and attempts to turn it into a live track just make it more jarring. But nothing grates as much as John's constant cries of "Benny!" each one of which is like an obnoxious smack around the head. Who likes this song? It's not appealing to the ballad-lovers who make up most of John's fanclub and it's too annoying for fans of rock and roll. Does anyone rate this as their favourite Elton John song? Really?

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is a typical double album- too much that has to be waded through to get to the highlights. It's also strangely mixed with a hit-intensive side one and then a long drought before Saturday Night finally breaks the monotony on side four. It was huge at the time but there are no hidden gems and the singles are all available on compilations which means there's no point bothering with it if you own any Elton John Best of.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "It sounds like the Wicked Witch of the West is singing!!! Hey Elton, where's Dorothy??? You need to go see the Wizard so he can give you some talent, because this album sucks!!!"

-Harsh. Too much punctuation and too harsh.

So is this a great album or just so much candle wind? Let me know below.

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