Thursday, February 11, 2016
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: ELTON JOHN - WONDERFUL CRAZY NIGHT
After a couple of more serious outings, 2013's The Diving Board and the album with Leon Russell, The Union, in 2010, this set offers a more lighthearted set from Elton. With a big, gap-toothed smile of the cover, and the carefree title, the message is that Fun Elton is here. Yes, the ratio of uptempo cuts to ballads is higher, but he's not doing his most outrageous stuff anymore, no piano bench-kicking. Saturday Night's Alright For A Nice Meal Out With Friends.
While the title cut may suggest a party, it's really about remembering a crazy night that happened in the past. As much as Elton hates looking back and wants new hits and excitement, even his lyric partner Bernie Taupin knows nostalgia is their bread and butter now, "what a wonderful, crazy night it was." It's all mid-tempo rocking after that. Elton's sounding and playing great still, the piano is up front in the mix where it belongs, the production is suitably glossy, courtesy once again of T-Bone Burnett. Everything is in place for a good album.
But then there's Bernie. Loyal to a fault, Elton's still relying on the spotty, high school poetry of Taupin, trying hard to shoe-horn it into solid pop tunes. It's now been decades since he wrote a bona fide hit song, and its painful to hear him trying to evoke the old Tumbleweed Connection-Americana style (I've Got 2 Wings) or blunder through bad metaphors, as in Tambourine: "You're a spin-around Gypsy in the moonlight, Cymbals flashing in the firelight."
Go back and check out those beloved '70's Elton albums, and ya, there were tons of awful lyrics there too, but at least the ratio was much better, You could live with a clunker like "catching the horney-backed toad," whatever that was, when the big line was "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." Here, there's almost nothing that's inspired. Too bad, with Elton firing on all cylinders, and up for a little fun too.