1976 would find Elton John depressed, substance addicted, and the center of unwanted attention due to his sexuality. All the while, his professional relationship with long time lyricist, Bernie Taupin, was deteriorating. It was against this personal background that he released his second double album, Blue Moves.
It would be a long and somewhat rambling affair. It was also introspective and an unintended look into his troubled psyche. It was a lot less commercial that most of his past work and would be his first album since Honky Chateau not to reach number one in the United States.
I can’t help but think that it would have made a pretty good single disc release unlike his other double album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which was solid from beginning to end.
So what songs should have made the cut if this had only been one disc?
“One Horse Town” is a tune about boredom; its textures are anything but, however. There is a sophisticated use of strings and the tempo goes through a number of complicated changes. “Chameleon,” which follows it, features some wonderful harmonies courtesy of some of the Beach Boys. “Cage The Songbird,” a semi-accurate biographical song about French singer Edith Piaf, is somewhat reminiscent of the tone that “Candle In The Wind” previously evoked. The vocal support by David Crosby and Graham Nash, in particular, help the song to soar.
“Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” is a classic, if depressing, ballad about unfulfilled love and revenge, its single reaching the U.S. top ten. “Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance!)” is a club-type track that comes close to disco in its sound, especially in the second half. It was also issued as a 12” single, which was typical of the time period. “Between Seventeen and Twenty” is a poignant song about the break-up of Bernie Taupin’s marriage although it could also be applied to his partnership with Elton John at the time. Finally, “Boogie Pilgrim” and “Crazy Water,” while average at best, are at least a little fun when compared to the rest of this release.
And that’s about it — a single album’s worth of good material culled from the original’s four sides.
Today Blue Moves is only for the serious Elton John aficionado. If you just want his best or are seeking an enjoyable listen then there are a number of studio albums and greatest hits compilations that are more worthy of your time.