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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Elton John

Songs From The West Coast

Review by Gary Hill

Amongst the musicians playing on this album are Elton's longtime cohorts Davey Johnstone and Nigel Olsson. Also joining him are such musical icons as Stevie Wonder, Rufus Wainwright, and Billy Preston. The disc is a great testament to the fact that there is still a lot of musical life left in Mr. John. The album finds him coming far closer the musical styles of his classic period than any release he has done in a long time. If you give this one a listen, I am sure you will find yourself frequently singing along.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Emperor's New Clothes
The album starts with a melody driven sound that feels much like something that could have come from EJ's Captain Fantastic album. It's good to have the old sound back in this building number.
Dark Diamond
Based in a very funky sort of groove, this is an energetic piece. The texture of it feels a lot like the classic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album. It certainly gains something from the presence of Stevie Wonder, especially his harmonica work. The only regret is that Wonder only appears as a musician and doesn't join Elton at least on the backing vocals, if not in a duet.
Look Ma No Hands
The intro to this feels just a little like Caribou's "Ticking", but once the vocals enter, all similarities end. It feels a bit country at times, but overall seems like a classic EJ mellow rocker with an interesting arrangement.
American Triangle
With biting lyrics, this is a dramatic, and at times, rather haunting piece. It builds slowly based at first on just piano and vocals. The classic Elton sound is all over this one, and it features backing vocals by Rufus Wainwright. It is a very strong number.
Original Sin
Not of one of the stronger cuts on the disc, this is a competent, but somewhat forgettable, ballad.
Birds
Starting with percussion, this one is a bluesy, R & B tinged jam that's a lot of fun. It rocks out quite a bit as it continues building.
I Want Love
The first single from the album, this one has amongst its lineup the talents of Billy Preston. This has been all over the radio and MTV, but as a testament to the quality of this rock ballad, it still holds up.
The Wasteland
Another that features Preston, this one is Elton John does the blues. It is a pretty potent cut, and you have to give points to any blues track that talks about Robert Johnson.
Ballad of the Boy In The Red Shoes
A strong and poignant balladic number, the arrangement on this one gets very lush and powerful. It is a great composition that just screams early Elton. It is one of the strongest pieces on the album.
Love Her Like Me
This is a fun track about someone who loves a woman in the dream world. "You may have her in the real world, But if you could only see, How we rock this room in the twilight zone, And you can never, never love her like me". The song is alright, but doesn't really hold up to the rest of the album.
Mansfield
Another balladic one, this cut is a bit pedestrian. Still, even weak EJ is better than many artists' strong material, and this song does have its moments. The lyrics here are particularly strong, and the arrangement gets quite lush towards the end.
This Train Don't Stop There Anymore
Beginning with dramatic piano, this cut drops to a somewhat bluesy sort of balladic style.
 
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