Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Sgt. Abbey Road, Nov 23, 2021.
Taupin was his lyricist most of the time.
The Fox, especially side 2, is really one of his better efforts. The Chloe suite is fantastic - Carla is a great instrumental piece, and Chloe probably would be considered a classic had it come out in the early 70s. Elton's Song was another career highlight that obviously was a very personal song to him, and one that was daring. 21 at 33 was another good one that a lot of people overlook too.
What this thread needs is some Elton John fans!
One problem I 've often had with Elton's songs is that I don't have a lot of admiration for the lyrics ( written, in case you don't know, by his writing partner Bernie Taupin.) Don't know if that's a problem for the OP , but it is for me. He writes great melodies , great hooks, perfectly crafted pop music .But the lyrics are often muddled. Now I' m a huge Dylan fan, so I have no problem with lyrics that are challenging , mysterious , metaphorical or poetic - but I personally find a lot the lyrics of Elton's hits unremarkable and at times unclear ( less so in his early work) . My take, of course . I can understand you preferring Billy Joel - he also writes great hooks but his lyrics basically make sense. Narratives or love songs - Billy's lyrics pack a punch ( more often then not.)
So I' m not saying you can't explore the Elton's songbook, but if you're not feelng it, move on. There a many many musicians - from the last century through this one -.who write great music to enjoy .
If you are looking for suggestions for melodic pop /' soft 'rock musicians btw, I can supply, upon request : a long ( very very long , extremely long, maybe even too long for this thread ) list, starting with Mr Dylan ( who is not really pop but still an utter necessity ) .
But for a very short list of sixties / seventies great pop musicians , you can start with Harry Nilsson . And then there's this band - occasionally and only obscurely mentioned on this forum( ) you may want to listen to .....rumored to have created peerless melodies, lyrics, playing & production- the whole & complete real deal - ..some old band called - The Beatles . You may want to listen to them and report back
here . And if you get 'hooked' on them, you'll probably find one or two folks here who'd be willing to discuss them with you . They won't leave you confused at all.
Oh, and I do notice, by your moniker, you may have actually heard of these guys.
Yes, I struggled with Bernie Taupin’s lyrics for a while, too, until I bought a book of his lyrics from the 70s and read them out of the context of the music. His lyrics are often very abstract and impressionistic. If he tells a story in his lyrics, it’s often slightly coded. He more frequently meditates on a feeling, or creates interesting mental images that are left open for interpretation. I’ve grown to really appreciate their non-standard weirdness. I totally get that they’re not to everyone’s taste, but I do think it really shows how incredibly talented Elton is, to take these strings of abstract images and turn them into hit singles. Bernie’s writing clearly inspired him.
I was too young to pay attention to his early stuff, I grew up mainly hearing the 80s and later material so always dismissed him as pretty naff. But I found that box set of his five albums from Elton John to Don't Shoot Me in a 4-for-£10 offer in HMV, and bought it mainly just for "Tiny Dancer". I don't think I've ever changed my opinion of someone so massively, just a wonderful run of albums. And still probably the best bargain I've ever found.
If you like Billy Joel start with "Honky Château" and "Cpt. Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy". They are a very good introduction. If you don't like 'em I don't think you'll like Elton John.
For myself, the period up to and including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road held his best recordings. After that,…
Others opinions may vary substantially.
To paraphrase, "Everything up to 46 years ago is essential." Not meant as a putdown; I'm agnostic on Elton John, though he was big for me at one time; but just think about that. I'm the same way with Bowie, who was #1 for me growing up, though I've kept maybe three albums he's done since the first Tin Machine. That someone's early output could be so vital they can coast on its energy for another 40-50 years is saying something entirely.
out of the kindness of my heart I offer my personal ranking of Elton's albums in order of release. Studio albums only. You're welcome
Empty Sky - 2/5
Elton John - 4/5
Tumbleweed Connection - 5/5
Madman Across The Water - 4/5
Honky Chateau - 5/5
Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player - 5/5
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - 5/5
Caribou - 4/5
Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy - 5/5
Rock Of The Westies - 3/5
Blue Moves - 2/5
A Single Man 2/5
Victim Of Love 1/5
21 At 33 - 3/5
The Fox - 3/5
Jump Up! - 4/5
Too Low For Zero - 3/5
Breaking Hearts - 4/5
Ice On Fire 1/5
Leather Jackets - 1/5
Reg Strikes Back - 2/5
Sleeping With The Past - 4/5
The One - 3/5
Made In England - 4/5
The Big Picture - 2/5
Songs From The West Coast - 3/5
Peachtree Road - 3/5
The Captain And The Kid - 4/5
Haven't heard the rest.
No, I'm with you on this. For me, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is where it became something else... more showbiz? Perhaps that's unfair... not Vegas exactly, but less rootsy than his earlier stuff. The times were changing--so Elton changed with them, and became a superstar.
I like your ratings for "Jump Up!" and "Sleeping With The Past"!
I don't think I'm coming across an EJ album as frequently as "Jump Up!". And always for 5€. I wonder what that is all about. Blue Eyes?????
I forget where the quote comes from--Noel Gallagher, maybe?--"all anyone's ever got is 5 years." True in Elton's case, although I think that Bowie stretched it to ten, mainly because he refused to stay in one (artistic) place for too long.
Jump Up! Is worth the money if only for Empty Garden. In my opinion that track is when Elton started sounding like Elton again.
Everything from the early 70’s up to Blue Moves are worth getting. Afterwards it gets a bit more pick & choose with some gems to be found.
It’s not a bad idea to check out the Diamonds box set, Jewel Box and the Rare Masters set if you want some good comprehensive collections that represent Elton’s work.
I think it was almost impossible not to get Elton John if you grew up in the 70s and heard his music all the time as it was released. That stuff is generally magical because (I think) it was all so automatic and effortless. The persona, the singing, the performances, the melodies... all chemically came together in some amazing capture of the waning innocence and optimistic uncertainty of the era. Whereas to the original poster's comparison, Billy Joel was more about hurt and cynical realities of an autobiographical nature, Elton John to me had a more theatrical exuberance and metaphorical demonstration of emotion probably as a result of not being the lyricist.
I've never been a huge fan but I love the famous 70s stuff. The 80s and beyond to me has been a slow death march of mediocrity. And the lyrics that once seemed so whimsical started sticking out too much.
What is it about Elton that you don't "get"?
Perhaps it's Taupin's lyrics which, at least in the early to mid-70's were rather impressionistic. Billy Joel's written some great lyrics over the years too (i.e. most of the very Beatles influenced Nylon Curtain album) but his storytelling is much more straightforward.
I guess it’s the fact that his albums are often a mixed bags! Billy Joel recorded much less albums! I prefer quality over quantity
I'm listening to "Empty Sky" right now and even if I agree with your note, there are still some nice gems in this album>
"Empty Sky" "Western Ford Gateway" "The Scaffold" "Sails" "Skyline Pigeon"
Don't buy any of his studio albums if you don't get him Greatest Hits is probably more than enough of Elton for most people (except Elton fans)
The Pilot can though...
"Sir Elton John ~ Take Me To The Pilot"
of your soul!
An actual conversation Elton and Billy had around 2000:
Elton: "I think you should release more albums."
Billy: "I think you should release less albums."
This! I'm surprised that the amazing Chloe suite doesn't get more play. The Fox is an underrated album I think and I like most of it quite a lot. It plays well beginning to end as an album, which most of his albums post Blue Moves do not, at least not to my ears.
What I would recommend as someone who loves Elton 1970-76 is that if you are trying to understand why he was such a big deal in the 70's take the album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and listen to all of it. This album from 1975 contains everything of what made Elton and Bernie great in that now long ago decade. Captain Fantastic is incredible.
I also love Blue Moves which came out in 1976. This album features some new band members and a batch of instrumentals interwoven with the lyric songs over the course of two albums. I don't love it so much as to say it's better than his other double album the magnificent Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but there are still some killer tracks. Tonight is one of the best songs he ever wrote with Bernie.
From the S/T to Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy are brilliant, rest are worth investigating for the hardcore fan and pop purists but he/Bernie were never that great again after 1975
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