August 2, 2012
Every career has to start somehwere and so it was for Reginald Kenneth Dwight during 1970.
Elton John released “Border Song” on the small Congress Label during early 1970. Picked up by the larger Uni Label during the summer, it reached number 92 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart during its five week stay.
“Border Song” was a laid back mid-tempo ballad. Elton John would produce a number of similar compositions down through the years.
It may have been an inauspicious start to a career but 64 more chart singles, including eight number ones, and hundreds of millions of albums sold would follow.
August 25, 2011
Elton John is now over 40 years into his career and has sold over 100 million albums and singles. He is considered a music icon.
Back in 1974 he released “The Bitch Is Back,” on September 7th. It reached number four on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.
It was Elton at his rocking best. It remains one of my top five Elton John songs, which considering the vastness of his catalogue and the quality of his material makes it very good indeed.
March 26, 2011
Elton John was on the verge of stardom when his label, Uni, was sold to MCA. His relationship with MCA would last eight years, and by the time he switched to Geffen, he was recognized as one of the superstars of music, as his records had sold in the tens of millions.
His first release for MCA was the single, “Crocodile Rock.” It was issued December 9, 1972, and would top the American Singles Chart for three weeks.
It was a nastalgic song of a by-gone era that was driven by an infectious sound. It was old style, up-tempo rock ‘n’ roll and remains a treat nearly 40 years after its initial release.
September 16, 2009
A new century had dawned and Elton John was 57 years old. Songs From The West Coast was his first studio album in four years. It was another set of songs that was heavy on ballads and continued his trend of issuing adult contemporary music.
This album was a back to basics affair. At its foundation it was vocal, guitar, drums, bass, and piano. While some additional keyboards and orchestration does appear at times, they are under control and are not overwhelming as on some of his past albums.
Bernie Taupin’s lyrics had been superior to Elton’s music on the past two studio releases but here the opposite is the case. When the lyrics are good they are very good but overall they are not as consistent as in the past as the meaning of some words on several tracks are fairly obscure. The music is catchy, sophisticated, and has a lot of textures that can be explored with repeated listening.
Elton John’s albums are usually fueled by hit songs. Times had changed as the 45rpm singles that had served him so well in the past were now a part of music history. The Billboard Magazine charts and radio stations had become specialized. Radio stations would select album tracks that fit their musical style and Billboard would base their non-album charts on the number of plays that songs received.
Under this new formula Songs From The West Coast would produce three hits. “This Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore” is the album closer and is a wistful ballad about aging. He is trying to come to terms with the fact you cannot go back as age 60 was looming. “Original Sin” is another nice ballad about the experience of first love. “I Want Love” is about looking for love if just for the short term.
The most powerful track is “American Triangle.” It is an emotional tribute to a gay American college student who was murdered. It is poetic and ultimately sorrowful.
There are several other songs of note. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a perfect album opener. You have a piano introduction and then his voice. “The Wasteland” can best be described as rock/blues with a gospel type vocal. “Ballad Of The Boy In The Red Shoes” was another smooth flowing song.
Songs From The West Coast was another excellent effort by Elton John. It had a cohesive feel to it as the songs fit together well. It proved that he was aging well.
September 16, 2009
The Big Picture was released in September of 1997 and remains Elton John’s last top ten album in The United States to date. Approaching the forty year mark in his career, he had settled into the adult contemporary pop/rock genre. In some ways this album and the ones which would follow are interchangeable as there is a sameness to them. As such, they are not particularly adventurous but they are solid, pleasurable, and present the work of a mature artist.
Immediately noticeable is the lack of a long list of instrumentalists which is usually a good sign on an Elton John album. Here he basically uses his concert band, so there is a tightness to the sound and probably a relaxed atmosphere in the studio.
For the second album in a row Bernie Taupin delivered a stellar set of lyrics. Here he is in a storytelling mode as he deals with such topics as fame, death, love, redemption and other realistic glimpses of life.
Princess Diana died between the recording on this album and its release. The first single would be issued with a double A side. “Something About The Way You Look Tonight” would be paired with a tribute version of “Candle In The Wind,” which is not on this release. It would sell more copies than any single in British history. It would be equally successful in The United States spending fourteen weeks at the top of The Billboard Magazine pop charts. In The USA “Something About The Way You Look Tonight” would be the side that would spend over a month at the top of The Adult Contemporary Charts. It is a wonderfully poetic ballad with a superb emotional vocal by Elton.
“Live Like Horses” is a second ballad that is of the same quality as the first. Taupin’s father had passed away and this was his tribute to him. The sound is filled in nicely by the use of strings and Elton John delivers another powerful vocal that presents the lyrical imagery well.
“If The River Can Bend” has a gospel feel to it and features some nice piano work. “January” is interesting musically as it has a series of mood changes which fit the romantic theme well. “I Can’t Steer My Heart Clear Of You” is another melodic ballad that is just very smooth. “Wicked Dreams” is a little different with some very interesting and surprising lyrical twists.
If I have one criticism of this album it is that it’s a little slow paced, as eight of the twelve tracks are ballads. Still The Big Picture is a fine album that finds a modern Elton John creating very listenable music.
September 15, 2009
Elton John returned in March of 1995 with his first true studio album in three years. He released Duets in 1993 and contributed a number of songs to The Lion King soundtrack in 1994. Made In England re-united him with lyricist Bernie Taupin and his own band. It would be representative of his output during the nineties and after the turn of the century, as it would be filled with solid songs with excellent lyrics and feature good production.
It is Taupin’s lyrics that are at the heart of this release. Song for song they form one of the better efforts in his long history. He writes about love, nostalgia, life, safety, and even throws in a little wit.
What immediately strikes you when looking at the track list is that ten of the eleven song titles consist of only one word. Only the title song is longer at three words. While this may not mean much, one can only wonder if this was planned. If it was they should have shortened the title song to just “England.”
“Believe” was issued as a single, and would continue his tradition of a hit song propelling the album’s sales. It comes close to being a power ballad as the vocals project emotion. The use of strings to fill in the sound was creative and excellent.
There were two other songs that stood above the rest. The title song is an autobiographical tune filled with catchy hooks plus a surprising and funny ending. “Belfast “ is a haunting and beautiful tribute to the city. It is a creative masterpiece as he uses traditional Irish music to fill in the background.
While the rest of the songs may not be the equal of the first three, there is not a weak one among the lot. “Please” has a sixties feel with a little rockabilly thrown in for good measure. “Man” finds him moving in a blues direction. “Pain” is the sort of nice uptempo rock that he is so good at creating. “House” may not be as good as some of his past ballads but it is still above average.
Made In England finds Elton John seemingly happy, healthy, and settled as he nears his fiftieth birthday, and the music reflects these facts. The album also has a good flow to it as the songs blend together well. Plus it is nice to hear Elton at the grand piano. All in all, this was an excellent album that still provides a pleasurable listening experience.
September 15, 2009
I am not big on cartoons or animated features as they are now called; the only times I will watch one is with my grandchildren. I have to say that The Lion King was okay, which is high praise on my part, but the music from the film was spectacular. Let me add that I have also seen the Broadway play which was one of the most creative performances I have ever witnessed.
While The Lion King Soundtrack is not an Elton John album in the strictest sense, it is strongly associated with him. He and lyricist Tim Rice wrote five songs, three of which were nominated for Academy Awards, ultimately winning the Oscar for “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” It also won a Golden Globe and a Grammy for best male pop vocal. The album has passed the 22 million mark in worldwide sales.
This soundtrack cannot be reviewed without mentioning Hans Zimmer, who co-produced the album and wrote five brilliant instrumentals which fit the movie well. He too received an Oscar, his being for Best Music, Original Score.
Elton John reworked three songs from the film for inclusion on its soundtrack. “Circle Of Life” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” were huge hits in the United States and both songs are pop music at its best. They contain two of the smoothest vocals of his career and have joined the ranks of his signature songs.
The version of “Circle Of Life” contained in the film — performed by Carmen Twillie and Lebo M with his African Chorus — was just about the perfect movie song. It is a philosophical celebration of life. And for me, watching the movie and listening to it with my grandchildren has served to make this song of the rise and fall of generations very powerful indeed. “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” provides a lot of fun and entertainment in just under three minutes. Elton John also provided a version of this song that captured its spirit well. “Hakuna Matata” was the third song nominated for an Oscar and features a nice vocal by Broadway veteran Nathan Lane.
The Lion King is a perfect soundtrack album. Elton’s work with Tim Rice may be different than his classic ’70’s material, but it is every bit as good. His contributions to this popular and creative release are perfect.