Monday, September 3, 2007

Blues for Baby and Me

A young couple boards a bus, heading towards their new life together, even though the young lady's father angrily objects. But love will prevail and we'll be happy, says the young man.

Taupin revisits another favorite theme from earlier efforts, freedom and escape, in this midtempo story song that boasts another big, beautiful Paul Buckmaster string arrangement and some incongruous sitar from Davey Johnstone that works very well nonetheless. If it reminds of Paul Simon's "America", well, that may have been an inspiration or influence.

I especially like the orchestral flourishes that Buckmaster adds after the couplet:

And the highway looks like it never did
Lord it looks so sweet and so free

"Blues" has always been one of my favorite tracks from the Don't Shoot Me LP.


brendan said...

Don't Shoot is probably my favourite EJ album, and Blues for Baby and Me definitely one of the best tunes on it. The band really get behind the tune and it has a great, swinging feel.

Johnny B said...

Gosh, I don't know if I CAN name a favorite Elton LP...I probably shouldn't, since I'm trying to be a *little* objective here.

Don't Shoot Me was my first, though, and is definitely top 5.

thom de plume said...

At 13, I found Elton with this particular album, so it's always been a sentimental favorite.

However, I recently read a review (AMG, I think) which claimed that too many of the melodies simply don't take hold. I suppose this might be one of those - pleasant, but unremarkable.

Conversely, I've just re-discovered Midnight Creeper which, to my ears, seems far more interesting than its obvious descendant, Gotta Get a Meal Ticket.

But I digress...

Johnny B said...

I've read raves and I've read pans of Don't Shoot Me; it's certainly an album which polarizes those who listen to it.

I think one thing that works against "Blues" is its oh-so-deliberate tempo- one reason why the chorus stands out as well as it does is EJ's shift to a slightly more urgent delivery in his vocal. Love that string arrangement, though.

thom de plume said...

Yes, the strings are nice.
Is it Buckmaster?

Also, I'm becoming increasingly interested in songs where it seems like Elton is having trouble getting the melody off the ground. Have Mercy on the Criminal comes to mind. I've Seen That Movie Too may be another one.

They come across as labored when compared with songs like Daniel or Goodbye Yellow Brick Road which sound as if they wrote themselves.

Again, I digress...

Johnny B said...

Yep, it was Buckmaster, who came back after sitting out an album. Almost like he was being put on his best behavior or something after the excesses of Madman...

Honestly, at least in the early albums, I don't see too many instances of John laboring to make a melody interesting. Sometimes, like in the case of, oh, "Dirty Little Girl" (just to name one at random) he's kinda being held back by the subject mater, which suggests a blues-rocker- not a style, I insist, that's conducive to melodic invention in most cases.

Now, later on, say around Rock of the Westies (e.g. "Hard Luck Stories", which is all disco vamping and little else- and I don't want to spoil its eventual review so I'll stop there- the inspiration really began to lag and by the time of 1978's A Single Man, which I found totally unmemorable, it seemed to have deserted him completely. Guess there's only so much water in that well.

thom de plume said...

Yes, it's harder to find an example on the early albums. I guess Elton and Bernie sound very inspired from Empty Sky through Honky Chateau. Afterwards it can sometimes sound like a job, rather than a vocation.

Dirty Little Girl is a good example. It sounds like he's pushing it uphill. Also, much of Rock of the Westies, as you point out. I guess it inevitably becomes product.

But this may be the turning point.
Have Mercy on the Criminal seems to fall into the 'forced' category. Although one of the friends of my youth thought it was the best thing Elton had ever done. (He also liked Danny Bailey, as do I).

A long, long time...