1973, Music

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

The double album (LP edition) is such a fraught proposition for the artist: on the one hand, for serious fans, it’s the opportunity to hear even more of one of their favourites and so its a treat to cherish – and it should come as no surprise the number of bands whose dedicated fans regard their double album as their best album – but for non fans they are daunting listens, even something as catchy as a Stevie Wonder double album, or this record, can be a log due to length alone.

Even though I am yet to become a fan of Elton John, I think I get why this record is often considered among his best, if not his very best; three of the first four tracks are among his most famous songs and John and Taupin must have been just hitting on all cylinders when they managed to produce three tracks which have become staples of classic rock radio and another which was later adapted into the best selling single of all time. It’s impressive. If this album was 40 minutes long and those four tracks made up a sizeable chunk of it, I might bump up my rating.

But John and Taupin’s songs rarely do it for me; even their hits move me only so much because I’ve heard all of them so many hundreds of times that they are incredibly familiar (thanks classic rock radio). I don’t know what it is exactly, as John has a really strong sense of melody and Taupin’s lyrics are always at least decent, sometimes much more than decent.

Maybe it’s not the songs but the aesthetic. John is a middle-of-the-road musician; basically every song is meticulously arranged, there’s just enough grit for some but enough polish for most, and there’s always lots of instruments. There is always a little ambition on his records but never too much to scare anyone off (or to fail spectacularly). Everything is just so, it seems, and that’s never been my thing. I don’t know that I’ve ever listened to an Elton John song and connected like I do with my favourite songwriters. And, again, I’m not sure that’s comment on his songwriting or Taupin’s lyrics so much as it is on the way the songs are presented, as middle of the road ’70s pop rock.

So this is just too much for me; I can’t imagine sitting through it again unless I needed to re-review it. It’s far from bad, but it’s just too damn long and most of the material doesn’t measure up to the four most famous songs. Maybe one day I’ll listen to an Elton John album which will connect with me, but I doubt it will ever be this one.


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