The Elton John CD Review

The Captain and the Kid (2006)

1.Postcards from Richard Nixon
2.Just Like Noah's Ark
3.Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way (NYC)
4.Tinderbox
5.And The House Fell Down
6.Blues Never Fade Away
7.The Bridge
8.I Must Have Lost it on the Wind
9.Old 67
10.The Captain and the Kid

 

Before you can fully understand the meaning of this album, a history lesson is in order. In 1975, when Elton was at the peak of his popularity, he decided to release an autobiographical album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. The album detailed a timeframe of about 2 years - in between when Elton and Bernie Taupin first met around 1967 up to their first commercial (yet somewhat lukewarm) release Empty Sky. The album was loved by fans and critics alike and the original LP included trinkets such as scrapbooks and photographs from the time period, that the listener could browse through whilst listening to this beautiful album. It doesn't seem too unlikely, then, when Elton decided to do a sequel to that masterpiece. The problem is that it's now been 30+ years since that first album came out, and almost 40 years since the "conclusion" of part one of this musical autobiography. When you look at the history of this performer, you realize that there has just been too much that has happened over his career to fit all one on album.

Had this maybe been a "Chapter 2" for example, like from 1969 - 1973, it could have been more easily digestable. But he tries to cover the entire timeframe up to the present instead of a brief period in his history. At the risk of sounding crass, there's enough of Elton's life story to complete a box set of material instead of just one album. There have been drugs, suicide attempts, a failed marriage, more drugs, retirements, friends passing away, AIDS awareness, soundtracks, coming out of the closet, and even more drugs. Fortunately, even though these songs can't even begin to adress all of this, when all is said and done - this is a truly great album. So it's best not to look at this as a "We Didn't Start the Fire" album of Elton's history (and Bernie's too), but to just view it as some great, introspective songs.

Of course, when the CD starts, Elton and Bernie try to do just what they set out to do - write part 2 of their autobiography. Postcards from Richard Nixon is a great little album opener (I really dig the 45 second piano intro prologue) that describes their first arrival to America around 1970. Those who know the history of Elton John, know that this is where his success story really begins - starting at the famous Troubadour club in Los Angeles in the summer of 1970. The next song Just Like Noah's Ark is really just about the unique friendship of Elton and Bernie's, and how they experienced all this new fame and fortune together at this time (Remember that this album is supposed to be about both of their lives, not just Elton's). After that, the "history" becomes a bit muddy. I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way (NYC) is a love song about New York City, but does it really belong on an autobiographical album? Haven't they already done a bunch of songs already about that place? Again, though - it's a great song. We then jump to about 1976 or so with Tinderbox about Elton and Bernie's separation. It was never anything personal they claimed, they had just been together too long and experienced too much together and needed a break.

The next several songs go into the gradual physical decline during the 1980's. Most of the stories we've heard before in other songs although Blues Never Fade Away about the death of so many of his friends is a beautiful tear-jerker. The only song that doesn't really seem to fit is Old 67 which is supposedly about their commitment several years earlier that there would be "no more mediocre albums". O.K....um...that's cool, but are you telling us that you used to purposely release mediocre albums? And what about Peachtree Road, arguably the most mediocre album since he became sober? Fortunately, they close the album in a nice way with a one song retrospective appropriately titled The Captain and the Kid. They even borrow the riff from the title song on the first album. Of course, upon completion, one has to wonder why more songs weren't included here? 10 seems a bit small for such an ambitious project. The album is in fact so good, that it leaves you hungry for more at the conclusion (probably a good thing, I guess). They do in fact include lyrics from 2 other songs in the booklet that aren't featured on the album (again, they did something similar on the first album). Fortunately, one of them Across the River Thames could be found if you searched around the internet. Again, this was another great song- yet it was left off the album. Why?

Note: In an effort to combat piracy, upon purchasing the CD at certain retailers, you were given a unique code to download a live version of We All Fall in Love Sometimes / Curtains.

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