Monday, June 9, 2008

Goodbye

"Goodbye" closes out Madman Across the Water in similar fashion to the way that Shakespeare has his Puck close out A Midsummer Night's Dream, beginning with

And now that it's all over
The birds can nest again
I'll only snow when the sun comes out
I'll shine only when it starts to rain


Pointing out his, and his mouthpiece's often contradictory nature.

He then works in some self-effacing, and just a bit smirky, pseudo-religious imagery:

And if you want a drink
Just squeeze my hand
And wine will flow into the land
And feed my lambs


And references, in self-deprecating fashion, the Tin Pan Alley-esque nature of his profession:

For I am a mirror
I can reflect the moon
I will write songs for you
I'll be your silver spoon


But then closes with more mock humility, again with a smirk:

I'm sorry I took your time
I am the poem that doesn't rhyme
Just turn back a page
I'll waste away, I'll waste away
I'll waste away, I'll waste away
I'll waste away, I'll waste away

(lyrics © 1971 Dick James Music Limited)


And thusly delivers a kind of calling card as well as a mission statement, ostensibly to close out the record but also serving notice that the John/Taupin team have arrived as songwriters, far advanced from their early efforts. And although their greatest successes were still ahead, this was very true.

This message is delivered by Elton on piano, with a measured, calm-after-the-storm feel and with the full Buckmaster Philharmonic Orchestra accompanying him; appropriate since Elton would never again make use of Buckmaster's talents as extensively as he did on this album. Desiring to streamline and simplify, he cut out the ponderous strings on his next album, Honky Chateau.

Here's the song on YouTube:





And with this, the Solar Prestige a Gammon blog is concluded. I've pretty much made it through every Elton song that I consider of consequence in the 1969-1977 period; I have omitted some non-cover live tracks and a couple of Rare Masters demos that EJ recorded that were released by other people but not by Elton himself. I've had a small but steady readership, and a lot of great feedback and comments, and for that I'm thankful. It's been fun revisiting most of these songs (most of which I'd probably listen to fairly often anyway!) but listening harder, trying to glean some insight into them. It's a testament to the stylistic and lyric diversity of the John/Taupin team's body of work that it could provide enough grist for me to be able to write somewhat intelligently about it.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone who's been reading, even those who keep clicking on the link to the John Brown painting in the "Burn Down the Mission" entry, thus driving up my visitor stats. I don't know if I'll do any more dedicated music blogs, but you never know. Until then, don't forget the Johnny Bacardi Show and the Johnny Bacardi LiveJournal Show, still my primary outlets, and by all means if you so desire, continue to leave comments; I'll be notified and will respond when necessary.

From all of me to all of you, goodbye.

Curtains

Captain Fantastic's closing track doesn't exactly conform to the unwritten rule of concept records, that of a grand statement to provide contrast and clarification, not to mention closure, to the other songs in the album.

It's a slow-building track, which seems to be constantly working up to the Grand Statement about Their Career to that Point one expects, but Taupin undermines this by instead providing a backward-looking rumination on his childhood and his first songwriting efforts, culminating in this verse:

But that's okay
There's treasure children always seek to find
And just like us
You must have had
A once upon a time


...and if there's supposed to be some sort of summation or observation about where they stood in 1969, on the cusp of stardom, I'll be darned if I can see it.

Elton seems to be striving for a "Hey Jude" approach, with each verse accompanied by instrumentation that's similar in nature to their "Lucy in the Sky" cover, and eventually punctuated by chorus "whoa-oh-ohs" following directly after the verses are done. Then, in what surely seems to be a move to get lighters and hands swaying to the concert audiences to come, the chorus singers take over as Olsson's staccato drum fills and Johnstone's guitar/Elton's piano riffs play, Elton sings a line over and over again in a falsetto voice (which defies my best efforts to make out exactly what he's saying- sounds like "love to love again" or something like that), all building to...not much, really. The song plods on to its extanded fade conclusion, and Captain Fantastic is done. The lyrics are vague, the message is therefore muddled, and the music builds up to a cathartic moment that never really comes.

It's a lovely melody, but I don't think it achieves what it sets out to do. Others, I'm sure, will disagree.


Lyrics/sample

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Just Like Strange Rain

The breezy, blues-rocking "Strange Rain" was the B-side of Elton's third solo single, "It's Me That You Need", from 1969.

It's another searching-for-a-signature-sound attempt, again sounding a lot like Joe Cocker, Baldry or Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac; i.e., the British Blues Boom sound. As such, it's a success if a bit slight; Caleb Quaye's stinging guitar stands out, as well as Elton's fey Empty Sky-style vocal delivery.

Insofar as the subject matter goes, Taupin's lyrics are trying to emulate the Lysergic-tinged wordsmithing of the late 60's with its mention of colors and rainbows and "strange rain washing his thoughts away". In the Rare Masters booklet notes, he admits as much: "...very much an acid piece, we were trying to be part of the times. I think it was probably influenced by people like Traffic."



Lyrics/sample

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Seasons

A lyrically spare ode to young love, tricked out with the full Buckmaster Philharmonic treatment.

The first two and a half minutes are instrumental; strings and oboe predominant; the next minute-twenty five is Elton on piano crooning Bernie's almost sonnet-like lyric, a pledge of love and devotion that ends with the film's concept and title repeated twice. Just the thing for a movie soundtrack song.

It's a very lovely track, all things considered.