Wonderful Crazy Night (2016)

    
1. Wonderful Crazy Night 2. In the Name of You 3. Claw Hammer 4. Blue Wonderful 5. I've Got 2 Wings 6. Good Heart 7. Looking Up 8. Guilty Pleasure 9. Tambourine 10.Open Chord *Bonus Tracks* 11.Free and Easy 12.England and America

 

When one looks back on the career of Elton John, one can reflect on quite a number of things. One of those things is the man’s volatility. It’s no secret that his wild, sometimes dangerous life is filled with many notable mood swings. Sadly, the guy has stuck his foot far into his mouth on some of his worst days. I’ve lost track of how many times he’s stated that he’s so disgusted with music/himself/other artists/the industry/whatever, that he’s retiring from music for good. Well, the good news is that 2015, for whatever reason, has found Elton in possibly the best mood of his career. So much so that when he went into the recording studio, he asked lyricist Bernie Taupin for only “happy” lyrics. One look at the album cover, the title, and the picture of the man himself automatically sets the tone for this record. This is definitely an upbeat, cheerful album.

Now, we must admit, that happy music, doesn’t necessarily translate to good music. In fact, when we’re honest, we note that some of the most prolific and respectable artists seem to produce their best work when they’re constantly miserable. That’s sort of unfair, somehow. After all, artists are people, and we should really only want happiness for all people. Right? So I’m very glad that Elton is going through a sweet spot of his life, and the music here really doesn’t suffer because of its merriment. Truth be told, however, there really isn’t that much here that distinguishes itself from anything that he has done since around 1992. It’s a pleasant record, done professionally, with more hits than misses, and will be enjoyed by most of his fans. It’s no classic either, but you could argue that such an achievement wasn’t really what Elton set out to do in the first place. No, I imagine that he found himself in a good mood, rounded up some musicians, called producer T Bone Burnett, and polished this whole thing off in a matter of weeks.

Speaking of T Bone Burnett, I was surprised after I listened to this record to find out that he, in fact, was the man behind the production of this album. I only say that because his other collaborations with Elton (his last two studio releases, The Union with Leon Russell, and The Diving Board) were much more low key affairs that were far more introspective and less “busy” in the musical accompaniment department. This record is much more akin to some of his more full-fledged affairs as opposed to being rather soft and/or quiet.

Out of the twelve songs here (the last two are “bonus”, but they feel as though they should be included as “normal”. Why they’re listed as bonus songs, I have no idea) about half of these songs are “really good” and the other half are “merely good”. Which means that this is a “pretty good” album. As mentioned, a lot of the tracks here don’t sound much different from everything else he’s put out as of late, so don’t be surprised if ten years from now, if he’s still playing three hour shows, that he ignores this album completely.

For my personal tastes, the middle part of the record is the strongest. I’ve Got 2 Wings is one of those great, upbeat “story” songs that owes much of its success to Bernie’s lyrics. The song is about an unfamiliar black Baptist preacher from many years back that would preach his sermons wearing cardboard angel wings while playing a Gibson guitar. Only Bernie could know about such a person. Good Heart is one of those power ballads that Elton seems to be able to master better than anyone, and it rivals his best love songs. He changes the pace quite abruptly with Looking Up that almost serves as a metaphor for the entire record. It rivals his classic I’m Still Standing in sound, mood, and lyrics, and is quite a fun listen.

I imagine he’ll tour to support the record. I imagine he’ll continue to play shows close to three hours. I imagine he’ll throw in about three cuts from this album in the set list. I imagine that after that, we won’t hear much from this record ever again. To be honest, though, we can say that about just about every Elton album from the last 25 years. People will always remember him and his music from the 1970s when he could do no wrong. That’s obviously o.k. with Elton, though. He’s truly having a wonderful crazy time and enjoying life – not really caring about whether or not he can pen another masterpiece at this stage of his life.


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