Released the same year as the superb “Madman Across The Water”, “Tumbleweed Connection” stands as one of Elton’s best-loved albums. No singles were drawn from it, and as a result it is never represented when it comes to “Best Of” packages. This makes listening to it all the more refreshing and novel, especially as more than a handful of compositions are as good (or better) than the albums both sides of it.
This time, there is a concept unifying the songs – they all revolve around the Far West. Bernie always loved the topic, and he concocts together stories of gunslingers, confederates, American natives and furtive love adequately enough. As I said before, it took Bernie some time to get places. But Elton was up to the challenge from day one, and he always managed to give his lyrics the right accompaniment. Leaving aside the lyrically accuracy or lack thereof, “Where To Now, St. Peter”, “Amoreena” and “Country Comfort” are A-side material, and so is “My Father’s Gun”, the song that would be featured 30 years down the line as the key tune to Cameron Crowe’s “Elizabethtown”.
On the other hand, the harp-propelled “Come Down On Time” might be one of Elton & Bernie’s best songs about furtive romance, and it was done in a really tasteful way by Sting on the tribute album “Two Rooms” in 1991.
The one song that was not penned by Elton and Bernie is a contribution by Lesley Duncan. It is named “Love Song”, and Elton and Lesley duet on it. While the song is usually written off as naïve I must admit that the melody and stripped-down approach (not to mention the singing) get to me every time.
Best is saved for last, though – “Burn Down The Mission” is the one enduring piece of the record, and from the very beginning it has been a vehicle for Elton’s extraordinary jamming skills. Just have a look at the version that was featured on Elton’s concurrent live album, clocking at over 18 minutes. “Burn Down The Mission” gave Elton his first truly energetic set closer, and he occasionally plays it to this day.
The album was clearly a step forward, and an important one at that. Phenomenal success was right on the agenda, and this album (and the three that preceded it) make it all too clear that the eventual feat of having seven consecutive number one records was not something arbitrary. As one of Elton’s least-represented albums on compilations and “best of” packages, “Tumbleweed Connection” comes highly recommended to those who are keen on the bespectacled piano genius yet are bored to death by “Your Song” or “Candle In The Wind”. And if you are a recent convert, this album will but solidify your new faith.