1973 was probably Elton John’s most creative and commercially successful year. Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road both topped the charts, produced hit singles, and sold in the combined neighborhood of 24 million copies.
1974 found him preparing for a grand world tour and so Caribou was, in effect, a hurried and less ambitious affair. As such it didn’t have the creative consistency of the previous year’s two albums despite being brilliant in some places. Nevertheless, it marked his fourth consecutive Number One album in the United States.
Two classic songs tower above the rest of the material. “The Bitch Is Back” is one of his best known and enduring rock songs. The title came from a comment by Bernie Taupin’s wife about an Elton John rant. The guitar introduction is classic and the energetic vocal is backed by the legendary Tower Of Power brass section. And Dusty Springfield provides some of the memorable background vocals. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” is a timeless love song, featuring background vocals by Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, and Toni Tennille. It made a return on the charts in 1991 as a live duet with George Michael.
The rest of the album is a pick-and-choose affair but none of the songs measure up to the aforementioned two and, when taken together, make for an average group at best. “Pinky” has a nice melody but for once Taupin’s lyrics failed to match the quality of the music. “Ticking” is a piano based story song about a teenager on a shooting rampage. “I’ve Seen The Saucers,” whose title is self explanatory, and “Grimsby” which is about a man and a boat and not much else are both entirely forgettable.
The CD reissue of this album benefits from two of its bonus tracks. John’s cover of “Pinball Wizard” is memorable and well done. Also included is his Christmas song, “Step Into Christmas,” which is campy yet infectious.
In the final analysis Caribou remains an average listen at best and aside from the few better tracks is mostly forgettable.