Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy (Elton John) – Album Review

by Emilio Pérez Miguel on November 3, 2009

The Cover Of "Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy" Was Drawn by Graphic Artist Alan Alrdige

The Cover Of "Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy" Was Drawn by Graphic Artist Alan Aldridge

Notwithstanding all his successes, even by 1975 Elton was a somehow enigmatic figure. Many doubts were to be dispelled when this record was released. It was an autobiography of sorts, chronicling Elton and Bernie’s early stint as paid writers (“Bitter Fingers”) and the eventual forming of a true brotherly bond, culminating in the recording of the “Empty Sky” album.

The music is uniformly good, with Elton backed by his best ensemble ever (the classic band plus Ray Cooper on percussion). His voice was never sharper, and his piano skills shaped the melodic contour of the record with his usual fire.

It is also the one “classic” Elton John album whose lyrics meet with unanimous approval. Bernie did an excellent job here, painting vignettes about ennui (the Queen lookalike “Better Off Dead”, the orchestrated “Wake Me When The Whistle Blows”), the decadence of the rock & roll scene (“Tower Of Babel”) and a moving reflection on intent and dreams named “Curtains”.

He even touched upon Elton’s suicide attempt in the song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, a song which was to be a hit. That was all the more remarkable because it was a lenghty composition whose message was far from the standard fare Elton had been offering up to that point. The public was clearly listening to what Elton was saying.

Besides, “We All Fall In Love Sometimes” describes the moment when an artist realizes that music is going to be the ship where he will carry himself and us all to something better, or (at least) something which is ours alone. The song described what was one of Elton earliest gigs, with Elton realizing (through Bernie’s words) “something happened/it’s so strange this feeling/we all fall in love sometimes”. The song runs straight into “Curtains”, and the album ends a la “Hey Jude”, with a chorus that eventually fades away. What does not fade away, though, is the beauty of the preceding hour. It was Elton at his most open-hearted. It was Bernie at his most poignant up to that point. The record was (and will always be) a true landmark within their long career. “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – from the end of the world to your town”. Look for them – it is worth it.

Rating: 9.5/10

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