Based upon the title, the cover, and the presence of “Island Girl”, I thought this was going to be John’s Caribbean record. (I thought “westies” meant “West Indies”; I didn’t know it was a spoonerism.) So colour me surprised by (most of) the actual content.
Speaking of “Island Girl”, it sounds an awful lot to me like a Billy Joel song, especially in the chorus. Of course, Billy Joel wasn’t really making that kind of music quite yet. So, really, I’ve discovered that plenty of Billy Joel songs sound like this one Elton John song. As you may know, I’m not a Billy Joel fan. So this kind of makes me laugh.
Otherwise, this is not John’s best set of material by any means. As any good British recording artist would do, he released his catchiest song of the time as a non-album single. (Though the fact that it’s a duet may have played into that.) But I definitely find everything outside of “Island Girl” to be kind of forgettable. And the fact that there is more than one song about the tropics but he recorded this whole thing in Colorado is weird. But whatever.
As others have noted, the vibe of this record is considerably funkier than earlier Elton John albums. But much like the faux country thing of his earlier albums, this doesn’t quite feel lived-in like, say, the funk and soul of David Bowie absolutely does. Perhaps my biggest quibble with Elton John is that he takes genres and turns them into his own British pop rock version of those things. That’s fine if you like that, but I don’t. Giving the songs a bit more rhythm and bringing in prominent backing vocalists isn’t quite getting me there in this case.
I’ve heard people complain about the lack of prominence of John’s piano in the mix but, honestly, this is not something that bothered me when I listened to the record. To me, the issue is more the material and the arrangements, rather than the mix.