Sunday, July 22, 2007

Amoreena

The influence of the Band- hugely popular in the late '60s and early '70s, especially among other musicians- on the sound of early Elton can't be overestimated. Fold in the pop-smarts of the Beatles and the vibe of other singer-songwriter types like Nilsson and Randy Newman and there you have the pre-Honky Chateau albums' sound in a nutshell.

"Amoreena" is an obscure side two track from Tumbleweed Connection, Elton's third US release and a record which, if not a concept album in execution, is certainly so in theme as Taupin works his preoccupation with the American Old West, the Civil War, and the rural, agrarian lifestyle on practically every cut. He lays on every Mother Earth metaphor you can imagine as he describes the titular inamorata, painting a picture of bucolic lust with lines such as

I can see you sitting eating apples in the evening
The fruit juice flowing slowly, slowly, slowly
Down the bronze of your body


It's sometimes a tad heavy-handed, as Taupin could often be (and believe me, this will be discussed a lot more the farther I go with this blog), but he avoids any really clumsy couplets and is quite successful in this case.

Musically, this is Band lite all the way, performed at a "Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" mid-tempo pace. It's also a really early appearance on record by the more-famous Elton John Band rhythm section of Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums, with Caleb Quaye on guitar instead of Davey Johnstone. John sings this in appropriately lower-register lasciviousness, influenced by Van Morrison, he said later. There aren't any solos to speak of, relying on tempo shifts for any dramatics.

It's a nice enough tune, but not an especially memorable one, and seems to be pretty much forgotten these days except by those who listened as much to the Connection LP in their formative years as your humble scribe did.

Edit: Reader "Charlie" reminds me that this song was used, somewhat incongruously, by director Sidney Lumet in the opening credits for the Al Pacino bank standoff film Dog Day Afternoon. You can go here to see it on YouTube.

5 comments:

Roger Green said...

Tumbleweed was one of my fav albums, but you're right about the particular song.

Charlie said...

IIRC this song was used over the opening credits of the movie Dog Day Afternoon. Never quite understood that one.

Johnny B said...

Hm. I didn't know that, and I've seen Dog Day Afternoon...guess I didn't pay attention!

Jonathan said...

I guess I like this song a lot more than most people. It's the sexiest song in Elton's whole catalogue, and my favorite by far from Tumbleweed (all of which I love). I'm surprised you don't find it memorable; I know it by heart and like to sing it at random moments. I particularly love the slow building of intensity and Elton's extreme melisma.

Johnny B said...

Well, every song is someone's favorite as the saying goes...and I don't mean to sound like I hate it or anything. Sidney Lumet must have liked it!

For what it's worth, I do find the opening verses that begin with "Lately, I been thinking.." memorable. After that, though, it gets kinda ramshackle in its construction, at least to my ears.