I keep having the same experience over and over again with artists I’m relatively unfamiliar with, like Elton John: I listen to 2 or 3 or 4 albums and I’m unimpressed and then I get to like the 5th album (or sometimes even the 6th) and I have some kind of epiphany and suddenly worry that I was unfair to those first few. I’m not sure which is true: that this same pattern has repeated itself with this record, or this record is better than the other Elton John albums I’ve heard.
A lot of it has to do with the songs – well, specifically “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”. I’ve heard it before, of course, but I’ve never really listened to it before. And it’s a pretty great song. And maybe it’s because everything here is (pseudo) confessional that I find I’m connecting with it better. (I say “pseudo” because, of course, it’s Taupin writing, not John, but apparently the songs are about both of them?) The more I listen to them the more I’m liking Taupin as a lyricist and I guess the more I’m coming around to John’s aesthetic (which I’ve never entirely loved, hence why it took me decades to start listening to his albums). It’s certainly not John’s strongest set of melodies but I don’t mind that, and I guess that means I’m getting used to him.
The arrangements feel relatively restrained – there’s only one song with an orchestra this time (!) and though there are overdubs they rarely if ever feel unnecessary. There are a few times when it sounds like it could be live-in-studio (if the band was big enough).
The greatest credit I think I can give to an album from the past is that it sounds “good” decades later, and this one certainly does – there’s little here to date the sound specifically to 1975, as far as I can hear.
I guess I’m coming around, as this is the one I’ve liked the most so far, and it doesn’t seem like the consensus for his best.