Monday, August 6, 2007

No. 91: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Band: Elton John
Album: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Containing four of his best songs, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" is Elton John's opus. John ferries between genres, even hitting reggae in "Jamaica Jerk-Off" (no, it doesn't work). His facetiousness comes through in "This Song Has No Title" and his sincerity is on display with "Candle In The Wind."
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Say it with me... Double albums are packed with filler. One disc of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" would be plenty, but 2/3 of the second disc stinks.
Best song: The title track is among his best work. The 11 minute opus "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" is fantastic.
Worst song: "Social Disease" stinks.
Is it awesome?: Actually, it might be if it was only one disc.

Reginald Dwight is the father of modern piano rock like no one else. In the place of guitar-based rock, Elton John took from Little Richard in order to achieve a fuller rock sound. The piano normally doesn't work with rock music; Elton John, in the '70s, showed that it could.


Before it came out, Elton John compared "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" to the White Album. I don't know if he was trying to be obnoxious, but it certainly came off that way. The only things that this album and "The Beatles" have in common is that they're both doubles.

Still,"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" is a nice contrast to anything Billy Joel has ever done. The two artists are always lumped together and I'd disagree. Elton John makes rock and roll records. Admittedly, they're not hard, but they're rock and roll. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" lacks the musical showtuney-ness of every Billy Joel record, basically. Yes, Elton John is a tremendous showman (the glasses, the shows, the wigs, etc.), but his music is pretty straightforward.

And when it's not, it's still much better than anything Joel has ever done. "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" is a Meat Loaf-ish epic duel number is mostly tied in the second half's rock-ness.

Of course, the most famous two songs on the albums are slow piano numbers. "Candle In The Wind" is a lyrical mess, being that it's a tribute to Marilyn Monroe (which is nice, but who cares?). Still, if you don't listen to the lyrics, you'll enjoy the song. The title track, on the other hand, is probably the best song on the album. A ballad about a young artist's disenchantment with the so-called "Emerald City" of his dreams. It's an achingly sad piece, but it's wonderful and probably the best vocal performance that Elton John ever put to tape.

And, of course, there's the satire that is "Bennie And The Jets." Openly mocking glam rock (and on some level, himself), Bernie Taupin and Elton John piped in audience whoops and hollers to simulate the ridiculous of rock concerts at the time.

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