Review Summary: An underlooked record in Elton's classic years!2 of 2 thought this review was well written
In my opinion, this is one of Elton John's best and most underrated album in his catalog. This was Elton's last record with Hookfoot, as Davey Johnstone would soon become Elton's guitar player. However, at this point he was just featured on several tracks here. This would be Madman Across The Water, which being a huge Elton fan surprised me that this is not in the top 500 albums of all time. I mean, come one, you have two radio staples, (Tiny Dancer, Levon) followed by Razor Face (featuring Rick Wakeman from Yes on organ) and Madman Across The Water (classic track). Anyway, this album came out in November of 1971 and here is a breakdown of how I would rate each track.
Tiny Dancer: 10/10 - The introductory piano chords reminds me of listening to a music box. What a wonderful, yet simple chord progression. (C to F/C) I think Springsteen would borrow part of this melody for the intro to Jungleland. Anyway, you have Paul Buckmaster's grand orchestra and several key back-up singers (Lesley Duncan and Dusty Springfield to name a few) who provide great passion for this track. Although the song is over six minutes in duration, it doesn't matter, Elton's falsetto in the chorus is what makes this song so memorable. Let's also not forget Taupin's great lyrics (Pretty-eyed, pirate smile).
Levon: 10/10 - Another classic by Elton John. I remember reading a Rolling Stone article where they panned the song because lyrically they didn't understand it. Whether it was inspired by Levon Helms or if it's about religion, I think we need to just enjoy the song for what it is. As we all know, music can be interpreted many different ways. Another great piano intro by Elton.
Razor Face: 10/10 - I've always liked this funky sounding song. It reminds me of a drunk old man who has trouble living life out on his own. Elton's piano is simple yet in your face which is what I love. The transition from C/E to F is a wonderful progression. By the chorus, Wakeman's organ comes into full effect and Elton slips numerous times into the chorus. I prefer this version more than the original because it's shorter.
Madman Across The Water: 9/10 - As much as I love the Tumbleweed outtake of this track, this one is the winner for me. It's a much cleaner and shorter version of the song. Davey's acoustic riff throughout is breathtaking and Elton's chords (Am, G, D) in the intro captivates the listener. I think I've listened to it too many times and it only makes me wish that Elton would break out in some piano solo during the song.
Indian Sunset: 10/10 - When first listening to this song, it sounds like it has no direction, but eventually you can hear the beauty of this piece. It modulates various times and Elton sings with so much passion in this song. We start in Ebm, then move to G (I take only what is mine lord), which reminds me a little bit of She's Got A Way by Billy Joel. Hey, the albums were released around the same time! Finally, we move to the final part which is in Em. I've always wondered why Elton stops on a D chord at the very end. After thinking about if for a while it made perfect sense, the next song is in E Major.
Holiday Inn: 8/10 - Yes, the title of the song is exactly what the track is about and sometimes it wears a little thin, but Davey saves this track in my opinion. His mandolin playing is wonderful and can best be heard in the outro.
Rotten Peaches: 10/10 - A highlight track on the album for me. I don't care if the subject is about prisoners picking peaches or something along those lines. Elton's gospel singing and playing is outstanding. The chorus is catchy and bass piano notes are always rocking.
All The Nasties: 10/10 - Once again, another great song for me. Elton's chord choices are awesome. He starts with a C/G, then moves to G/A, Bbmaj7 then C. This is the same progression he uses at the end of the piece which is my favorite part of the song. Sure the outro is repetitive ("Oh my soul") but it displays Elton's great singing range. Also, at the time, Elton was getting hammered by critics by releasing too much in such a short period of time. This was a way of getting back at the critics without being too nasty. (Bernie Taupin quote from 1971) Also, this song is interesting because it first hints at Elton's sexuality, as this was years before he came out of the closet.
Goodbye: 8/10 - This song is more of a coda, and has a beautiful Cm9 chord in the intro which is neat. Anyway, the most depressing song on here, but that only adds emotion to this beautiful sounding record.
I would reccomend this to peole getting into Elton and definitely Elton fans. The #1 thing to remember with any album is "give it a chance." Believe me, I wasn't much of a fan of it at first, but eventually you will see why Elton John became one of the most popular artists in the early to mid 1970s.
Grade: 86/90 = 96% A