Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

AllMusic Review: It was designed to be a blockbuster and it was. Prior to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John had hits — his second album, Elton John, went Top 10 in the U.S. and U.K., and he had smash singles in “Crocodile Rock” and “Daniel” — but this 1973 album was a statement of purpose spilling over two LPs, which was all the better to showcase every element of John’s spangled personality. Opening with the 11-minute melodramatic exercise “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” — as prog as Elton ever got — Goodbye Yellow Brick Road immediately embraces excess but also tunefulness, as John immediately switches over to “Candle in the Wind” and “Bennie & the Jets,” two songs that form the core of his canon and go a long way toward explaining the over-stuffed appeal of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This was truly the debut of Elton John the entertainer, the pro who knows how to satisfy every segment of his audience, and this eagerness to please means the record is giddy but also overwhelming, a rush of too much muchness. Still, taken a side at a time, or even a song a time, it is a thing of wonder, serving up such perfectly sculpted pop songs as “Grey Seal,” full-bore rockers as “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock & Roll),” cinematic ballads like “I’ve Seen That Movie Too,” throwbacks to the dusty conceptual sweep of Tumbleweed Connection in the form of “The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-34),” and preposterous glam novelties, like “Jamaica Jerk-Off.” This touched on everything John did before, and suggested ways he’d move in the near-future, and that sprawl is always messy but usually delightful, a testament to Elton’s ’70s power as a star and a musician. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” 11:09
2. “Candle in the Wind” 3:50
3. “Bennie and the Jets” 5:23
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” 3:13
2. “This Song Has No Title” 2:23
3. “Grey Seal” 4:00
4. “Jamaica Jerk-Off” 3:39
5. “I’ve Seen That Movie Too” 5:59
Side three
No. Title Length
1. “Sweet Painted Lady” 3:54
2. “The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34)” 4:23
3. “Dirty Little Girl” 5:00
4. “All the Girls Love Alice” 5:09
Side four
No. Title Length
1. “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)” 2:42
2. “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” 4:57
3. “Roy Rogers” 4:07
4. “Social Disease” 3:42
5. “Harmony” 2:46
Total length: 76:20

 

 

Schill Score:  9.5/10

 

Listen to Album

 

Elton John – Madman Across The Water (1971)

AllMusic Review: Trading the cinematic aspirations of Tumbleweed Connection for a tentative stab at prog rock, Elton John and Bernie Taupin delivered another excellent collection of songs with Madman Across the Water. Like its two predecessors, Madman Across the Water is driven by the sweeping string arrangements of Paul Buckmaster, who gives the songs here a richly dark and haunting edge. And these are songs that benefit from grandiose treatments. With most songs clocking in around five minutes, the record feels like a major work, and in many ways it is. While it’s not as adventurous as Tumbleweed Connection, the overall quality of the record is very high, particularly on character sketches “Levon” and “Razor Face,” as well as the melodramatic “Tiny Dancer” and the paranoid title track. Madman Across the Water begins to fall apart toward the end, but the record remains an ambitious and rewarding work, and John never attained its darkly introspective atmosphere again. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Tiny Dancer” 6:17
2. “Levon” 5:22
3. “Razor Face” 4:42
4. “Madman Across the Water” 5:57
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Indian Sunset” 6:47
2. “Holiday Inn” 4:17
3. “Rotten Peaches” 4:58
4. “All the Nasties” 5:09
5. “Goodbye” 1:49

 

Schill Score: 9.5/10

 

Listen to Album