Sunday, November 18, 2007

Have Mercy on the Criminal

Even though it was John's avowed intent to get away from the ponderous orchestrations of Madman Across the Water, this resolve only lasted one album as Paul Buckmaster was invited back to score two cuts on Don't Shoot Me. This one's the less subtle of the two, its arrangement hearkening back to such previous efforts as "Indian Sunset" and Madman's title track.

Which is certainly not mean as a criticism on my part; I've always liked Buckmaster's work for not only Elton, but Nilsson, Carly Simon, and others. And this arrangement is certainly as dramatic and cinematic as the subject matter would suggest.

Taupin seems to be making a plea for tolerance by asking the listener to identify with an escaped fugitive; there are also echoes of another frequent theme in his Classic Era catalogue, that of escape from oppression via flight in different senses of the word. I think he's telling a story here; I don't believe he's really writing from any sort of personal point of view, except the part of him that believes in tolerance and forgiveness.

The arrangement is orchestral-driven all the way, with Elton, Johnstone, Murray and Olsson up top in the mix. Elton, professional that he is by that time, delivers another impassioned vocal, as the subject matter calls for.

It's never been one of the more higher-profile tracks from this album; while it boasts a good melody and performance, it does come across as a bit plodding and dull, at least to my ears.

2 comments:

Matt said...

This is one of several EJ tracks I was introduced to via the Live in Australia album. As such, that's always been the "version" to me, and I think it's got a bit more momentum than the album track.

Johnny B said...

I seem to recall that version (was that the one in which he wore the powdered wig ensemble?), but I guess it didn't make a strong impression. By then, I had tuned Elton out anyway.

I'm like that, though- sometimes the first version of something I hear becomes the definitive version, no matter when it was released...