Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” Sucked AT MSG, So Here Is A Review Of Every Album He Recorded Instead

Written by | October 20, 2018 13:31 pm | No Comments

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The difference between Elton John at Caesars Palace and Elton John at Madison Square Garden is billing. In Vegas Elton gets second billing, he comes way after the gambling tables and he is there only to attract people who will spend money on the slot machines. At Madison Square Garden, Elton is the main event. In Vegas he was forced to tighten his grip , with less than two hours to fit and (hold your breath here) “…. more than fifty Top 40 hits, including seven consecutive No. 1 US albums, 58 Billboard Top 40 singles, 27 Top 10, four No. 2 and nine No. 1,” no time to play them,  John made less much more. Last night in New York Elton went on and on and on. For nearly three hours he jammed with his (admittedly) ace band. In simpler terms, in Vegas the songs averaged out at around six minutes each and in New York at eight minutes. That is huge, it meant every single song dragged on for an eternity or two, and while all kudos to the set designer, which rivals and expands upon the “Million Dollar Piano” state of the art one, it’s way too much and the ravishing visuals can’t change that. This piano is a motorized scooter that drifts around the stage and if only Elton had raced it…. but somewhere between the endless rock and roll jam codas and the oversinging, the magic becomes too overwrought. Some of the best songs ever and they drag and drag and drag.

How can so much energy be exerted on so many great songs at such a gorgeous and thrilling show and yet be so boring? Or maybe it is me? I’ve seen him every single time he has played since rock nyc began, and, really, have tended to not like him. I noticed way back when that there are two types of Elton fans, those who worship Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2, and those who worship Tumbleweed Connection. I belong to the former. So, sick of saying that the songs are too loud, too histrionic, too overblown, and way way too much, let’s have a look at the catalog as he begins his 30 month trek to the finish line…

Empty Sky (1969) – It did have “Skyline Pigeon – C

Elton John (1969) – The first side has “Your Song” and “Take Me To The Pilot” – B+

Tumbleweed Connection (1970) – Americana, terrible Americana – C

Friends (1970) – The movie was a teenage daydream of adulthood and the title track terrific. The rest of it incidental music  and worse – C+

17-11-70 (1971) – The first side is pretty good, fun to hear “Honky Tonk Woman” covered, the second side is a deadly blueprint for the Farewell tour, the eighteen minute “Burn Down The Mission” is worse than the tedious turkey we got stuffed with last night – B-

Madman Across the Water (1971) – Here we go, it got to # 8 on the Billboard 200 back when that meant a lot. That “Indian Sunset” is Taupin at his nadir  and three songs were performed off it last night – C

Honky Château (1972) – If you can forget how you feel about “Rocket Man” now and remember how you felt about it then and if you love “Honky Cat” half as much as I do (if you have to listen to just one Elton song by all means make it “Honky Cat”) (he never performs it live -at the gig he said he was playing songs he most enjoyed performing, I have no idea how he could prefer performing “Rocket Man” to “Honky Cat”), you must agree that this pays off everything you ever wanted from Elton – A

Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (1973) – This was the height of my love for Elton, a pop masterstroke and a huge hit. Listening to it today, it doesn’t stand up as well I remember it, but “I’m Gonna Be a Teenage Idol,” (written about Elton and Bernie’s buddy Marc Bolan) sounds better. “Daniel”, a low light at the show, was given an explanation, apparently “Daniel” was a fighter pilot shot down in a war… though would he then be TRAVELLING??? – A

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) – Yes, NINETY SEVENTY THREE!!! ELTON RELEASED TWO OF THE BEST ALBUMS EVER!! Oh, sure, it didn’t sound like that yesterday. The worst moment of the night? Probably “Requiem For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”. In 1973, the album was a double (yes, really) with terrific artwork in the gatesleeve, and the thrill we don’t get now,  of this glittering glammy multi-colored, spectacular thing. One complaint, it was too light for cutting up your coke  – A-

Caribou (1974) – It had “The Bitch Is Back” (his best Stones steal) and “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” and it went to # 1 but for me, the thrill was over – B

Elton John Greatest Hits (1974) – what can you say? With the exception of Bob Dylan Vol II, the greatest greatest hits ever – A+

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975) – An autobiographical attempt to build off Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’s bright, dreamlike, animated, gorgeousness. It fails but if Elton had included  “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, “One Day at a Time”, and  “Philadelphia Freedom,” it would have made it. The question is, was “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” enough? No, but close – C+

Rock Of The Westies (1975) – His hardest rocking album ever and the better for it – B+

Here And There (1976) – “Here” is a concert recorded at the Royal Festival Hall in London during the summer of 1974; “There” is a concert recorded at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on 28 November 1974 – so what? – C

Blue Moves (1976) – I remember being deeply depressed by this album, but punk was there to save me… “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” is the exception – C-

Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume II (1977) – Nearly as good as Vol I except for “Levon” -on stage last night, if Elton had sung “He will be…” one more time or I was gonna scream  and ugh, and the way he enunciates “Levon likes his muunehy” – A

A Single Man (1978) – Gary Osborne wrote the lyrics, the song is dance pop for housewives – D+

The Thom Bell Sessions (1979) – The sound of Philadelphia R&B, go for the complete sessions if you can. Apparently Bell and Elton didn’t get along, a real pity because these songs work very well – B+

Victim of Love (1979) – If you can get past the worst version of “Johnny B Goode” in existence, this is fine disco – B

Lady Samantha (1980) Odds and Sods – C

21 at 33 (1980) – The Tom Robinson song is lovely and the one about cocaine ain’t bad – C+

The Fox (1981) – A sort of sad album, earnest but unable to grip at all – C+

Jump Up! (1982) – It has one of his best songs, and, along with a Paul Simon track, the best tribute to John Lennon ever written, “Empty Garden”  – C+

Too Low for Zero (1983) –  Side One includes the smash “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” and “I’m Still Standing” the former given a strong workout last night, and some fair to middling not 1970s but not bad songs – B-

Breaking Hearts (1984) – Features the classic line up of John, Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson. Dee died back in 1992, but Davey on lead guitar and Nigel on drums both performed last night. Unfortunately, they performed last night the worst version of one of my fave Elton songs, first heard here, “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” and well remembered for its use in a commercial: “Sassons Say So Much” -I adore the ending of this song: “When every little bit of hope is gone, sad songs say so much, when all hope is gone…” Call it a character defect but I am never happier than when all hope is gone, Elton trampled the song and smashed it to pieces – B

Ice on Fire (1985) – A dog but George Michael sounds terrific on “Wrap Her Up” – C

Leather Jackets (1986) – At this point Elton is suffering from the Woody Allen problem, he is releasing an album a year whether he has anything to say or otherwise. Elton called “Heartache All Over The World” the worst song he had ever written  and he might be right, the song with Cliff isn’t much better – D+

Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (1987) – For the concert Elton wore a Beethoven wig! I found it on youtube by the way – C-

Elton John’s Greatest Hits Vol. 3 (1987) – Extremely depressing, Elton couldn’t fill a third volume – C-

Reg Strikes Back (1988) – Wait a second… What? “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Part 2)”. Bad, bad… “Goodbye Marlon Brando”? Not good… D+

The  Complete Thom Bell Sessions (1989) – As good as you could possibly hope for. I know what Elton didn’t like about it, Thom forced Elton to not use his husky voice – B+

Sleeping with the Past (1989) – Elton ended the decade on a high note, this is a sweet and soulful album and the hit single “Sacrifice”? I hope he performs it when “Farewell” reaches the UK – B

To Be Continued… (box set) (1990) – As good a way as any to listen to Elton, includes a coupla songs from his Bluesology days – B+

The Very Best of Elton John (1990) – The first disc is awesome, the second disc falls off a cliff half way through – B+

The One (1992) – The Eric Clapton featured track is excellent and the effort Elton takes helps make it a fine representation of the newly sober Elton – B+

Greatest Hits 1976–1986 (1992) – This is probably the best way to acquaint yourself with a painful ten years, it really hangs well considering the options – B+

Rare Masters (1992) – Not unlike The Beatles Past Masters, it is all the stuff that didn’t make it onto the albums… including John and John doing “I Saw Her Standing There” at MSG – B+

Duets (1993) – Not great but it does have Elton and George Michael on “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down To Me” and also reminds you how comfortable Elton is with disco. The early P.M. Dawn song is superb as well… – B-

The Lion King (soundtrack) (1994) – Look, I know, and I sympathize, but how about “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” and “Hakuna Matata”? – A-

Made in England (1995) – “Believe” was godawful last night but the good news is it’s godawful here as well -sincerity just doesn’t wear well in popular music, apparently everybody is allowed one atrocious song about Ireland and Elton has “Belfast”. The title track is a goodie and the rest isn’t  – C-

Love Songs (1996) – Elton continues to mine his back catalog with this useless product – C

The Big Picture (1996) – A dreary piece of shit plus strings – D

Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida (1999) – Lightning doesn’t strike twice, crap songs, crap performers, terrible on Broadway as well – D+

The Muse (soundtrack) (1999) Mostly incidental music BUT the Albert Brooks movie  was excellent – B-

The Road to El Dorado (2000) – Yes, it is terrible, of course it is terrible… BUT “It’s Tough To Be A God” with Randy Newman is worth tracking down – C-

Elton John One Night Only – The Greatest Hits (2000) – At MSG (I was there and walked out), it was about as bad as last night, though it sounds better without the visuals – C+

Songs from the West Coast (2001) – His voice is really strong, and the sound is Americana, it can be too slow but I prefer it to, say, Tumbleweed Connection. And since you’ve read this far… here is a gift for yalll… – B

Greatest Hits 1970–2002 (2002) – How much is enough? To be fair, Elton had a had a strong coupla years and if nothing else it saves “This Train Don’t Don’t Stop There No More” – C+

Peachtree Road (2004) – This is a seriously lovely though somewhat dreary AOR, I enjoyed it when it was first released but listening to again after all these years nothing stuck with me – B-

The Captain & the Kid (2006) – Or  Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy  Part II, thoroughly enjoyable after two somewhat wearying albums – B

Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits (2007) – Phew, we hadn’t had one since 2002 – C+

The Union (Elton John and Leon Russell album) (2010) – So tasteful and sincere it makes my teeth ache –  C

Gnomeo & Juliet: Original Soundtrack (2011) – Mostly a greatest hits but the Nelly Furtado duet on “Crocodile Rock” is worth searching out – C

Good Morning to the Night (2012) – Elton with Australian trio Pneu performing house with lots of Elton samples – B-

The Diving Board (2013) – I remember liking this but I guess I am wrong, I didn’t… blame the always shitty T-Bone Burnett – C

Wonderful Crazy Night (2016) – This is as close as Elton could possibly get to the Piano Player/Yellow Brick days, and close it gets, with one vigorating, ear candy rocker and boogie song after another. I guess the time has passed. “Blue Wonderful” is a final great Elton-Bernie song- A-

Diamonds (2017) Yes, folks fifty diamonds because… well, why exactly? – B

Back to the show, the audience loved it, absolutely. And if you have never seen Elton you should see him at least once and this is the only way to do it…

Grade: C+

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