AllSongsList began in 1984 when I started collecting any info and item about Elton John. It was quite difficult those days to find something about his music, thank God to fanzines like Hercules and specially East End Lights. Masters like Bernardin, Turano, Rosenthal, Hayward, Higgins, ... some of them I got the chance to meet in person. And in 2007, I began this non-profit blogsite, used only for entertainment, with no affiliation to Elton John's oficial one only to share our passion: Elton John
7 Feb 2016
Masters Of Class Series (I): "Looks back to the 70s while bringing us forward to today" by Elizabeth Rosenthal
Born 25 March 1947, as Reginald Kenneth
Dwight, Elton John is one of pop music great references. "I discovered
Elton John in 1989. Over a decade after his commercial heyday. But better late
than never. Besides, there was lots of music of his to discover. To this day, I
keep discovering it." Elizabeth J. Rosenthal's passion for Elton is
well-known. More than 70s concerts on her shoulders: "I act like a 13-year-old,
climbing over seats to reach the stage at the appointed time". Her first
book, "His Song: the Musical Journey of Elton John", was published in
fall 2001 by Billboard Books, an imprint of Watson-Guptill Publications.
Elton John says he wanted to make a
“joyous,” “jingly-jangly,” uptempo record to showcase his current mood and show
the uninitiated how he and his band rock out on stage, night after wonderful,
crazy night. The result is Wonderful,
Crazy Night, truly a “festival” of music, as Elton’s co-producer, T Bone
Burnett, observed recently. It needs to
be heard! Hear ye, Elton’s stuck-in-the-70s fans; all sorts of Elton fans of
all eras, ages, sexual orientations, body types, and ethnicities; and misguided
people who were never his fans! As Elton
says, this album looks back to the 70s while bringing us forward to today. It
was recorded live, with his regular, as the man himself terms it, “kick-ass” band.
Every band member has shining moments on this album, and Elton again proves
he’s got more piano licks up his sleeve than there are species of animal life
on this planet, and that his voice gets better and better as he gets older and
older. Plus, Bernie Taupin has come up with another set of evocative lyrics
that can be pored over with fascination.
Here is my track-by-track overview:
CRAZY NIGHT: A joyous and rollicking
opening to Elton’s 33rd studio album, which sets the tone for an
uplifting, 10-song cycle. Thinking back
to a fun summer night of young romance – and plenty of eating, drinking, and
Taupin writes: “Ice cubes on the back of your neck/ Warm wind blowin’ through
the parking lot/ Radios hummin’ in every car/ And you feel like the clocks have
stopped…. Loose clothes and a cool, cool drink/ A greasy breeze from the
chicken stand/ Hearts on fire just one last time/ A
wishbone snappin’ in every hand.” Elton’s piano goes through amazing changes,
sometimes pounding loudly, other times chasing some rapid runs. New bassist
Matt Bissonette displays on this and several other tracks his ability to recall
the late Dee Murray’s playing, but with his own thumping, melodic style.
IN THE NAME
OF YOU: This bluesy, funky, infectious
track recalls several others – “Wake Up, Wendy,” Elton’s contribution to the
1998 South Park album, Chef Aid; “My
Kind of Hell,” a bonus track on Elton’s 2010 album with Leon Russell, The
Union; the Commodores’ 1977 hit, “I’m Easy,” in guitarist Davey Johnstone’s
searing guitar solo; and any number of songs by the 70s band Bad Company, but
with much better singing.
HAMMER: Elton says that this one starts
off like Steely Dan, continues like Little Feat, and ends up, with some very
effective jazz-synth horns by keyboardist Kim Bullard, like Peter Gabriel. The
Byrds are also audible, in the jingly-jangly mid-section of the song; Elton’s
abstract piano outro, which inspired Bullard’s synth horns, recalls some of
EJ’s extemporizing on the live version of “Madman Across the Water” that he and
the band played on many a night just a few years ago. Taupin conjures up some
interesting imagery about someone who is extremely hard to know: “You’re
buttoned down/ All sewn up / You’re an archeological soul…. You’re gonna need a
claw hammer/ Oh, my Lord/ To bust on through/ And break down your walls.”
WONDERFUL: About someone’s love for a pixie-like spirit affected by wanderlust,
this is an exquisite, mid-tempo ballad that Bob Dylan really ought to cover.
Elton’s voice begins with a soft vulnerability that’s new to his recordings. He
pleads with his magical sprite: ‘Go where you want when you want to/ Just don’t
let the wind tear you free / Stick around the light that brings you home /
Don’t ever hang around with the breeze.” T Bone Burnett, though not officially
part of the band, contributes some atmospheric, sonorous guitar work, as
Elton’s sensitive piano lines gently lift it up.
I’VE GOT 2
WINGS: I choked up the first time I
heard this, but it’s not sad, just moving. It’s about the real but elusive
Elder Utah Smith, an African-American preacher who lived a positive, uplifting
life, traveling around the South during the time of Jim Crow wearing gigantic
paper angel wings and playing an electric Gibson guitar as he preached mercy,
peace, and love to black congregations.
It has a folky vibe; Elton hums at the beginning and end a mystical melody that breaks into
song about this fleeting , spiritual man: “I was here/ And I was gone/ Just a
heartbeat from the past/ But I went from paper wings to the real thing at
last.” Echoes of pre-rock guitar
noodling that the real preacher might have played haunt the last few minutes of
the recording, heightening the song’s emotion.
HEART: A power ballad, but an
emotionally honest one. Elton says this could be about him and David (his
husband), or possibly about his writing partnership with Taupin, although the
former option fits better: “Don’t be afraid of all my years/ What you see or
what you hear/ It’s all yours and yours alone/ Yours for the taking/ So take it
home.” This tune has country leanings, but is otherwise of a kind with “You’re
Never Too Old,” from Elton’s 2010 collaboration with Leon Russell, except this
one sounds more urgent and more personal. Elton’s strong, supple, hopelessly
romantic vocal is the stand-out of the album.
This is the one we all heard first, when it was introduced to British and
American radio back in October. Don’t be fooled by its deceptively simple
verse-chorus hybrid structure. This is quite a tour de force in musicianship,
and one of the three purely rockin’ numbers on the album (the others being the
title track and the one coming up immediately below).
PLEASURE: Elton says this is the album’s
most “raucous” number, and thinks that it could have been his punk anthem. The electric guitars roar throughout, the
melody is angry and defiant, and the whole thing moves like a hurricane. It is
probably the most simplistic of all of the songs on this CD. Still, I recommend CRANKING IT UP and jumping up and
down to the beat in your “Rock Lobster” sandals.
TAMBOURINE: This track is the most 60s-style,
jingly-jangly of the 10; Davey Johnstone’s guitar parts come through
squeaky-clean – you can almost touch them – as if he were playing right next to
you. Instrumentally and vocally, it bears a striking similarity to the 1975
Rock of the Westies outtake, “Planes,” as well as the1976 Blue Moves album track,
“Cage the Songbird,” but the melody here is more memorable and just plain
lovelier. Better yet, on “Tambourine,” Elton hasn’t sounded so young in ages!
CHORD: This song is among the most
gorgeous on the album, even with its rock edge.
Elton has revealed that “The Open Chord” was inspired by his
late-in-life fatherhood and that of Taupin’s with the lyricist’s young wife.
The open chord is: “A new broom/ Sweeping up the scenes I no longer play/
cleaning out the corners/ Clipping off the horns/ That the devil used to make
me wear all day.” As Elton sings, with evident happiness and satisfaction,
“You’re an open chord I’m gonna play all day,” we see how he feels nowadays, as
an Elder Statesman of Rock who loves what he does professionally and, with all
his heart, the family he goes home to. More about Liz: After graduating magna cum laude with a
journalism degree from SyracuseUniversity's Newhouse
School of Public Communications in 1982, Liz Rosenthal attended Rutgers-Camden
School of Law, from which she graduated With Honors in 1985. Subsequently, she
was admitted to the bars of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
For the past 20 years, Rosenthal has been a civil servant, writing regulations
for New Jersey
state government, testifying before the state legislature about pending
legislation affecting the civil service system, and serving as liaison to the
State Attorney General's Office.
Eventually, her passion for writing,
discovered in the third grade where she was doing the school paper, merged with
a newly-acquired love of wild birds, and her current book "Birdwatcher:
The Life of Roger Tory Peterson" (Lyons Press, 2008) chronicles the life
of the naturalist and conservationist man, a birding guru to millions, the most
resourceful of scientists in his tireless
sharing and synthesizing of information the world has provided.
Liz owns a blogsite on
http://www.elizabethjrosenthal.com/ as well she has contributed to a variety of
print publications and blogs. Among them are the following:
“Elton John and Ray Cooper at the Royal
Opera House.” Official Program of the Charity Concert in Aid of the RoyalAcademy
of Music Organ Appeal 28 January 2011.
“Watching Sparrows, a DVD by Michael Male
and Judy Fieth." Birdfellow.com, December 7, 2010.
Film Review - “Ghost Bird, [directed by]
Scott Crocker.” Bird Watcher’s Digest, July/August 2010.
Book Review – “Birdscapes: Birds in our
Imagination and Experience by Jeremy Mynott.” Bird Watcher’s Digest, November/December 2009.
"Birding with Roger." Bird
Watcher's Digest, July/August 2008. “Foreword.” Essential Elton John: A
Step-by-Step Breakdown of Elton John's Keyboard Styles and Techniques (Keyboard
Signature Licks Series), Hal Leonard Corp., 2006.