Try as I might, I cannot fall in love with Elton John’s music. I have listened to many of his records at this point – basically only from the ’70s – and I have quite liked one of them. The others don’t really connect with me yet and this one is just another of those.
It’s not the music, necessarily. John obviously has a strong command of melody and writes well-composed songs. There are no huge hits here but I don’t necessarily mind it.
I do find a least some incongruity between Taupin’s lyrics at this stage of their career and what I know about John. I get that this partnership has been incredibly successful both commercially and artistically. And I understand that Taupin’s lyrics are above average. And I understand that singing Taupin’s lyrics likely allowed John to have success in ways he might not have if, say, he was a confessional songwriter. But there’s something weird about a Brit singing about the West, especially given what I know of Elton John the person.
As a performer, though, I think he’s pretty great. He’s never particularly dazzled me as a pianist, but as a singer I think he’s show a pretty commanding presence through the years. He’s certainly not the greatest singer but he’s feels the words well – he sells what he’s singing in other words.
But I think my inability to connect more often than not lands on the aesthetic and the arrangements. I find this orchestrated faux country blues thing to be not my cup of tea. I listen to a lot of roots rock and John’s version of it has never quite seemed real to me. It usually feels like a suit of clothes. And that’s true on this record, which feels like it leans into that aesthetic about as much as any of his records ever did.
But it’s a fine record, synthesizing things that shouldn’t really go together in a polished and well-performed package. It’s just not for me.