One of my 1970’s musical heroes is Elton John and while he is not for everyone’s tastes I have liked his music since I first heard his album Honky Chateau around 1972. And like I did with David Bowie I have come up with the 10 albums that I consider his best, these are not in order of commercial success but the albums that I enjoy the most. Everybody has there own opinion and this is mine.
THE OUTSIDE ALBUMS
As with Bowie, there were more than 10 albums I like in his repertoire and many had to be left out but still deserve a mention. Not making my list were some good albums but just not good enough for me, The Union made with Leon Russell, Peachtree Road, Empty Sky and Sleeping With The Past were good albums but not good enough to make my list. So on to the top 10.
10) Elton John (1970) This was his second album but released in North America before Empty Sky, therefore many consider it his debut. This album contains 3 really solid songs including his first big hit Your Song, as well as Take Me To The Pilot and Border Song, however not to be overlooked are First Episode at Hienton and The King Must Die, the album was nominated for a Grammy in 1971.
9) The Captain And The Kid (2006) This was his 28th studio album and is a sequel to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and covers events in his and Bernie Taupin’s live in the years between the two albums. It only contained one single The Bridge which is just basically Elton and his piano, he has stated that it can “apply to anyone” at any time in their lives and having to move on instead of living in the past. They either cross the bridge, die trying, or fade away. Like most of his albums, there are hidden gems on there, songs like Postcards From Richard Nixon, Just Like Noahs Ark and the Title track The Captain and The Kid.
8) Caribou (1974) His 8th album contains 2 big hits, The Bitch Is Back and Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, both these songs hit #1 in Canada as did the album and was also nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy’s. other songs of Interest are “Grimsby”, “You’re So Static”, “Ticking” and “Dixie Lily”.
7) Reg Strikes Back (1988) This album most likely does not wind up on many top 10 Elton lists but for some strange reason, this is a favorite of mine. The album was considered a comeback for him and contains a good mixture of upbeat tunes and some good slower stuff, the four singles off this album were I Don’t Wanna go on with you like That, Town Of Plenty, Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters part 2 and A Word in Spanish. Japanese Hands and Goodbye Marlon Brando while not singles are as good as any others on this album. This one is definitely on my You have to listen to this album to appreciate it list.
6) Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (1973) Elton’s 6th album gave him not 1 but 2 number 1 singles in Canada, Crocodile Rock, and Daniel. And who couldn’t like an album that pays homage to 50’s Rock (Crocodile Rock) an attempt to record a song like Van Morrison( High flying Bird) a tribute to Marc Bolan (I’m gonna be a Teenage Idol) and a Rolling Stones homage (Midnight Creeper) as well as some rockers like Teacher I need You and Have mercy On The Criminal and a poignant love song like Blues For My Baby and me. The Title of the album is even a little nod and a wink to Oscar Wilde’s famous quote ” Don’t shoot the piano player, he’s doing his best, and the album’s cover photograph, which shows a young couple outside a movie theatre whose marquee reads Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player starring Elton John, also includes a movie poster of the Marx Brothers’ film Go West.
5) Madman Across The Water (1971) This album was his fourth album and was very raw sounding in comparison to his first 3, and while it did well in North America did not do well back home in England and contains the now classic Tiny Dancer and Levon. Indian Sunset, Razor Face and Holiday Inn are very good tracks that deserve a little more credit than they get and the Title track Madman across the Water is in my opinion as good a song as Tiny Dancer.
4) Honky Chateau (1972) Released after Madman it reached #1 in North America thanks in part to it’s biggest hit Rocket Man and to a lesser degree Honky Cat(which I prefer), some of the other songs on the album that stand out to me are Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters, Think I’m gonna Kill Myself and Hercules, while the song Mellow is a very solid ballad. but Honky Cat with it’s New Orleans sound and an obvious tip of the hat to Dr.John styling makes this album worth the listen.
3)Goodbye Yellow Brick Road( 1973) This double Album has sold over 40 million units worldwide and to most critics, it is his finest moment and it is hard to disagree but alas I put it at #3. From the opening song funeral For a Friend/Love lies bleeding through the hits Candle in the Wind, Bennie and the Jets, Goodbye Yellow Brick road and of course Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting the 18 tracks just keep you listening waiting for the next one. However I found some of the tracks were just filler to me and didn’t really mesh well, however, 3 songs that were not singles stand up just as well as the hits, The Ballad of Danny Bailey(1909-1934), All The girls love Alice and Your Sister Can’t Twist( But She Can Rock And Roll). And while I still listen to this album I tend to pick and choose my songs more on this one than the two I put in front of it.
2) Tumbleweed Connection( 1970) His third album and the only one of his ’70 era albums containing a song not written by Elton and Bernie Taupin, Love Song, was written by Leslie Duncan. This is also an album that had no singles released in Europe or North America but still hit #2 in England and #5 in Canada. The album itself is a concept album based on Americana themes like the Old West, songs like Ballad Of A Well known Gun, Country Comfort and talking old soldiers try to convey a turn of the century feel and succeed to some degree. Amoreena, Come Down In Time, and Love Song are very solid, well, Love Songs and Where To Now St Peter tells the tale of a dying soldier not sure whether his final destination is heaven or Hell, and is the song I like the best on the disc. A good Listen and not a bad song on it.
1) Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975). The autobiography of Elton(The Captain) and Bernie(The Kid) told through their words and music and like Tumbleweed not a missed beat along the way. It debuted in Canada at #1 and was certified Gold before it was even released, it also had only 1 single off it, Someone Saved My Life Tonight. Every song tells a segment of the history of the duo with Bitter Fingers, Tell me when the whistle blows, Better off Dead and Writing coming off as true Elton and Bernie Classics. Of Someone saved my life Tonight is a true story of a suicide attempt by Elton because of a failed relationship with a woman, and the someone? That was his old mentor Long John Baldry who saved him, bet you didn’t know that did ya? It’s an album that I rate high in my list of all-time albums and one of the reasons that I put this as his best, but also it was the last album with the original lineup of the Elton John Band (guitarist Davey Johnstone, bassist Dee Murray, and drummer Nigel Olsson). Murray and Olsson, who had formed John’s rhythm section since 1970, were sacked prior to the recording of the follow-up album Rock of the Westies, while Johnstone would leave in 1978.
So there it is, my List of the best Of Elton John, feel free to pick it apart.