Elton John's new album: The Captain and the Kid

Some of you may know that I'm a huge EJ fan, perhaps even more intensely fanatic (historically) over his best music than I am fanatic over the Sopranos. Largely because his best, most consistent efforts as a songwriter ended in 1976, the passion waxes and wanes much more than with the Sopranos.

But he has a new album out, a consciously undertaken sequel to 1975's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. That album covered his and lyricist Bernie Taupin's days as struggling songwriters, just up to the point where they got their big break. The new album, which steals its title, The Captain and the Kid, from a line in the 1975 title track, takes the story of their lives and creative partnership from the point of that big break up until the present day -- about 36 years.

I've heard all the songs and will be buying the CD, of course, as soon as I decide on which version of "extras" I want. But was curious if any other long-time fans have bought the record and have any comments or impressions to share?

Re: Elton John's new album: The Captain and the Kid

Capt. Fantastic is my favorite Elton album, so I have to wonder how this one sounds. However, his track record is not so good these past twenty years - as if he forgot how to write Rock and Roll. The last one I actually bought was The One in 1992, I think. I'd love to hear yours and other's thoughts on how it stacks up.
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Re: Elton John's new album: The Captain and the Kid

Several tracks (Postcards from Richard Nixon, And the House Fell Down) show a clear, conscious effort on his part to actually weave some detail and texture into his piano parts. In other words, he's actually trying as a composer.

I know this sounds silly, but he so often these past 30 years just plunks down chords in some plain or hackneyed rhythmic texture and superimposes a melody on top. He gets away with it because sometimes the melodies and harmonies are just that good . . . good enough to overcome his laziness as a composer/arranger. One such song is The Last Song from the album you mentioned. Beautiful song with a melody, chord structure, lyric, and vocal performance that rescue it from the ho-hum instrumental accompaniment "inspired" by his piano part.

But this kind of song contrasts starkly with much of his classic music of the early and mid 70s, songs like Tiny Dancer, Blues for Baby and Me, Burn Down the Mission, Honky Cat, etc., where definitive textures, riffs, and motifs originate in the piano part and permeate the entire arrangement, giving everything a more cohesive feel. Several songs on this record mark a return to that kind of compositional effort, and the results are very, very satisfying.

I like Postcards a LOT. A nice, jaunty, irresistably syncopated tune that perfectly matches the lyric, making it sound just like what it is: a fond memoir about two awestruck English kids who found overnight success in America.

And the House Fell Down is a very odd song by Elton standards. It's about his years of drug abuse, and there are some extra musical effects included (amplified, reverberating ticking of a clock; sinister laughter; a dull chorus/Leslie effect on a keyboard that for some reason reminds me of the house of mirrors at a carnival.) There's even a quasi rap -- I kid you not -- in the middle of the song that leads into a piano solo.

And it's his pianism that makes this song truly remarkable. He offers a bevy of flourishes and percussive attacks in the verses and in the solo that blend blues, rock, and a hint of jazz together in that uniquely "Eltonic" way, and it's the closest he has ever come in a studio recording to showcasing the kind of piano playing that he is famous for in live performance. On top of all this, it has a catchy, double-time, straight up rock chorus to contrast with the bluesy swing texture of the verses.

Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way is one of those "growing" songs that first seems to suffer from a musically rambling verse. But repeated listens -- and the instant melodic hook of the chorus -- give it a quirky appeal.

A number of publications and old-school EJ fans alike have singled out Tinderbox as the kind of mid-tempo pop/rock song that made EJ a household name in the 70s. I don't go nearly that far, but it is a catchy tune and has "throwback" written all over it. It's no Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but it's much closer to it than the Disney and Broadway fare EJ has been churning out these past 12+ years.

I appreciate the bookend approach taken with the title track. It is the last song on the CD and features the intro and outro of the original Captain Fantastic song (in a different key). While it is musically no where near the gem that the original Captain Fantastic was and is, it's nostalgic lyrics impart a good deal of poignancy and make it, for huge EJ fans like myself who will catch all the little lyrical and musical hints at their past, a very affecting song.

This is already way more than I intended to say. So I'll end with the general observation that EJ has only put out a handful of albums since Blue Moves that I would ever recommend to fans of his early music, and even then only with the caveat that there's a lot more filler/junk on the newer albums than there ever was on the early ones and far fewer moments of real art. That said, I'm inclined to put this album near the top of that post '76 recommended list.

Re: Elton John's new album: The Captain and the Kid

Cool. I may even pick up my copy this weekend.

But they are releasing several versions (including a vinyl!) and I still haven't heard authoritatively what extras come with what versions. I know one is supposed to include and EJ/BT DVD interview which would interest me, but so does the deluxe CD version with the supposed extra foldout lyric and scrapbook sections, again a throwback to the outstanding artwork and packaging that were part of the original Captain Fantastic.

Re: Elton John's new album: The Captain and the Kid

I remember listening to many of the Elton John Records that belonged to my brother and his wife in the mid 70's, I guess I am an old school person because I still love the classics on Vinyl.
I am not musically talented, I cannot even play the radio, so I envy those that have the talent, but I love to listen.
I have a very different taste when it comes to music, I love the 70's and 80's stuff, I went through the hair band phase and the hard rock, and I like some Country Music as I get older, but I have to say that I do not like much of the new stuff out today.
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Christopher:" His house looked like shit. "

Re: Elton John's new album: The Captain and the Kid

Billyv wrote:I've loved Captain Fantastic and much of Elton's earlier work. So glad to find this thread, Fly, as I'd never heard of this sequel and can't wait to revisit The Captain and The Kid who I so much identified with during my on e upon a time.
So cool, Billyv. Probably my favorite all time EJ album. And I did catch that reference to "Curtains" in your post.:icon_biggrin:
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