Thursday, September 20, 2007

No. 158: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy

Band: Elton John
Album: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: A concept album wherein Elton John and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin are described as Western movie heroes in the title track. The concept of this album is mostly the timeline of the duo's rise to the top of pop music. It's the last Taupin/John collaboration of value.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: As far as concept albums go, it ain't Sgt. Pepper, it ain't Tommy... hell, it isn't even "The Soft Bulletin." Overall, it's not a fantastic record.
Best song: Without a doubt, "Someone Saved My Life Tonight."
Worst song: "Better Off Dead" isn't great, but it's short.
Is it awesome?: It's not terrible, but it's not awesome. It's just good. All the songs are pleasant enough.

There is something incredibly masturbatory about writing a whole album about yourself and how you became a rock star. Certainly, most fans probably want to know about their idols, but it's more often self-aggrandizing ("Studio 60") than it is award-winning ("Seinfeld," season four).

And so goes "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy." It has nothing in the way of hits, save for "Someone Saved My Life Tonight." It's not particularly experimental, musically.

Still, everyone seems to love it. As I've recounted, I'm a pretty small-time Elton John fan; "Yellow Brick Road" and "Greatest Hits" is about enough for me. I imagine there's some sort of nostalgia for the Taupin/John days. "(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket" is a pleasant song. The fantastic album finale, "We All Fall in Love Sometimes" is also great. Still, "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" is amazing. The back story is pretty amazing and John's extensive use of the bass notes on the piano really fill the song well.

It's not great. It's good and it pales in comparison to other concept albums.

(Also, our good friend Wikipedia has a fantastic writeup of the album. It's incredibly detailed.)

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