This is the quintessential Elton John album. It has some pop masterpieces, some filler, some embarrassments, some songs whose lyrics wouldn’t work anywhere else but here, a couple of songs that have inexcusable words, and (on the whole) songs that scream out “this guy sure plays and sings with gusto”.
The cuts that work obviously include the larger-than-life hits “Bennie & The Jets”, “Candle In The Wind” and the title track. Personally, I find it impossible to assimilate that these songs stand as part of a bigger work and not as isolated pieces that are played on the radio every five seconds, and that can sit next to anything. These songs are likewise the ones where Bernie does its job correctly, and even more than that on the perennial “Candle In The Wind”. The album also has the live favorite “Saturday’s Night Alright For Fighting” – it was actually the first single, and it hit higher in the UK than in the US, which was something unusual for Elton at this point. The song also was covered by The Who for the John/Taupin tribute “Two Rooms”, and their version (with Who archivist Jon Astley on drums) can be found on the “30 Years Of Maximum R & B” boxed set as well. It is certainly a “British” song – it deals with Bernie’s early years on the countryside (Lincolnshire), and the images of boys and girls preparing for a long night out surely factored heavily in its success. Continue reading