Monday, June 17, 2019


I haven't seen the film yet, but probably will soon enough. After all, this is the '70's idol for my generation, pretty darn close to Beatles-level excitement for a good three years. I'm getting a little weary of these partially fictionalized biopics, mostly from fear really. While the filmmakers cry 'art' and claim the need to make a compelling story outweighs the minor inconveniences of facts, there's also the small matter that about 1,000 times as many people will simply watch the film and accept it verbatim than those who read the real story in a biography. Anyway, this isn't a film review.

Still, a big part of being an Elton fan back there was knowing and appreciating his relative rags-to-riches story, the nerdy kid who became the world's biggest star. We learned it all from his albums, Bernie's lyrics and the comic book included in the Capt. Fantastic album. All the famous moments portrayed in the film (I've seen the trailer at least) came to us in magazine photos, such as his iconic bejeweled Dodgers uniform when he played that L.A. stadium, this was all part of the excitement. This story was always made for the big screen.

That time frame is pretty much where the soundtrack songs stay, from his career beginnings to mid-'70's superstardom. It's performed by the movie cast, mostly the star Taron Egerton, who was chosen for both his ability to portray Elton, and to do a pretty good job of performing the famous material. That's easier to do on-screen than not, since just by listening to this soundtrack we have to compare his performances to the originals. I'd give him pretty good marks really, especially on the quieter songs ("Your Song," "Tiny Dancer") and he does a great take on the Gospel flavoured "Border Song." Truly, give the guy a B-plus, and he holds his own with the star himself on the lone new track included, "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again," which is a fine Motown-like track that might even put Elton back in the charts.

Annoyingly, instead of using full versions of several well-known cuts, including
"Bennie and the Jets" and "Pinball Wizard," the soundtrack features the abbreviated takes included in the movie. Giles Martin's production is less than lively as well, with the instrumentation buried, something you never heard on Elton's originals. Perhaps again this is a function of the film, where the focus is on the Elton character, but as any fan from the time knows, the band members were stars too. There's some messing around with arrangements, again for film reasons, such as a slow start to Crocodile Rock, and these distract.

Big marks though to the filmmakers for using a few surprise album cuts, great ones too, such as "Amoreena" and "Hercules." There's the obscure early single "Rock And Roll Madonna" and the completely unknown "Thank You For All Your Loving," a pre-fame track that I can only find on bootlegs of early demos and an EP track from Portugal. Nice touch, and a pretty good tune too. So, no complaints about the main performances, Egerton certainly did his job, and the song choices are even better than expected. But turning this soundtrack into an album is where it falls down. Perhaps going with the best 40-50 minutes of material instead of the 70-some included here would have made for a better album.

Thursday, June 13, 2019


He grew up in Country Clare, immersed in trad music and the accordion and such, but somewhere along the line Darcy got charmed by singer-songwriters such as Christy Moore. Then he moved to Toronto, where he's been deep in the scene for several years. The accordion's gone, but the Irish brogue is still evident, and nothing sounds more forlorn than that voice singing "Walking down Yonge Street in the snow/Shiver as the cold winds blow."

Truly though, I think he's settled in just fine, as this homey collection shows. His first album features more North American than Irish instruments, his acoustic guitar along with pedal steel, dobro, banjo, mandolin, piano, fiddle and drums, sometimes rollicking, as on opener "Ballad Of A Rambling Man" ("Oh, don't be afraid to ramble/This life is nothing but a gamble"), sometimes tinged with life's struggles. He sounds a lot like that guy who's been out and seen a lot, soaked up the sadness and good times in equal measure, and knows you can't appreciate the latter without experiencing the former.

"Simple Drop Of Rain" sums it all up nicely, a partially biographical tale about taking in a new city, feeling out of place but fitting right in at the same time. He's caught the drifting bug, knowing there's a song around every corner. Ably produced/engineered/played by the many-handed Aaron Comeau (Skydiggers), who contributes bass, keyboards, electric guitar, mandolin and vocals, there's a fine blend of folk, modern roots and trad throughout. There are nods to Darcy's homeland, folk past and troubadour present. Remember that time you stumbled into a club by accident and there was a singer on stage who immediately wowed you? Darcy's that kind of singer.