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Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection

Review: 119
Date: 14 Mar 03

 


Rating: 5 Stars

Musicians:
Bernie Taupin – Lyrics
Elton John – Keyboards & Vocals
Paul Buckmaster – Arranger
Gus Dudgeon – Producer
Robin Geoffrey Cable – Engineer
Nigel Olsson – Drums and Backing Vocals
Lesley Duncan – Backing Vocals and Composer of ‘Love Song’
Caleb Quaye – Lead and Acoustic Guitars
Dee Murray – Bass and Backing Vocals
Dave Glover – Bass Guitar
Ian Duck – Harmonica
Roger Pope – Drums and Percussion

Tracks Listing:
1. Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun
2. Come Down In Time
3. Country Comfort
4. Son Of Your Father
5. My Father’s Gun
6. Where To Now St. Peter?
7. Love Song
8. Amoreena
9. Talking Old Soldiers
10. Burn Down The Mission
11. Into The Old Man’s Shoes
12. Madman Across The Water (Original Version)

 


After years of session work and songwriting for other people, Reginald Dwight changed his name to Elton John and formed a songwriting partnership with a certain Bernie Taupin (Elton wrote the music to Taupin’s lyrics). After the release of two studio albums, they hit pay dirt with the release of this, their third album (1971), and their first hit single ‘Your Song’, taken from the previous self titled album.

Surprisingly there were no singles taken from this collection, taking Elton John on a wonderous journey into superstardom that was to spiral out of control. But for now the next 4 studio albums ‘Madman Across The Water’, ‘Honky Chateau’, ‘Don’t shoot me I’m only the Piano Player’, and the ‘Double Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ were all landmark albums in the world of rock. Unfortunately by the time of Elton’s 9th Studio album ‘Captain Fantastic’, and the ‘Dirt Brown Cowboys’, it had all gone terribly wrong with massive egos taking over, all band members being fired and the partnership with Bernie Taupin terminated. The live shows were still great, but Elton’s album output throughout the eighties and nineties was tedious at best, consisting mainly of Sub-Chicago plod-rock, before a welcome return to form last year with ‘Songs from the West Coast’, which, not surprisingly, co-incided with him reuniting with Bernie Taupin and his old band mates, Nigel Olsson and Davy Johnstone.

But, back in 1970 with ‘Tumbleweed Connection’, this was the first time a road band as such had been used in the studio, making it more the Elton John band rather than just Elton on his own. Nigel Olson had been offered the drum stool whilst in Brit Heavy Rockers Uriah Heep but, seeing the potential, made the job his own. He was joined by the amazing Dee Murray on bass, and the job that would soon be filled by Davey Johnstone was done by Caleb Quaye of label mates Hookfoot for these sessions.

It really was a case of everything was in position for world domination.

The album opens up with the blues rock of ‘Ballad of a well-known Gun’, the story of a gunslinger reaching the end of the road. From there on out you are taken on a wonderful musical journey through the album’s original ten songs, with a recurring wild west of America theme.

At all times the musicianship and songwriting is faultless, with Elton putting every ounce of emotion into Bernie’s lyrics. The production by Gus Dudgeon was to set standards for years to come, and Paul Buckmaster’s arrangements of the musical scores, both with band and strings, is nothing short of perfection, whether on epics like ‘Burn Down The Mission’ (an amazing live version, which was laid down with just piano, bass, and drums on the band’s live album 17.11.70, where you can actually hear Elton kick his piano stool away in the excitement), or on the tender ‘Love Song’. This only song on the album, not written by John/Taupin, is a beautiful Lesley Duncan song, which Lesley also sings on this version. But it is when Elton sits at the piano alone to regale us with ‘Talking Old Soldiers’ that his talent really stands out. This story of an old warrior looking back on his youth whilst addressing a group of youngsters, is a shot straight at the heart.

“I know what they are saying, son
There goes old mad Joe again
Well, I maybe mad at that, I’ve seem enough
To make a man go out his brains”

The remastered edition of Tumbleweed connection for C.D has two bonus tracks ‘Old Man’s Shoes’, the b-side to ‘Your Song’, which fits in perfectly with the rest of these songs. But the real treat is left till last, the original recording of the next albums title track ‘Mad Man Across The Water’, featuring Mick Ronson on lead guitar (Ronson was just about to hit the big time himself as lead guitarist and musical director for David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars band). It is a completely guitar based version clocking in at nearly nine minutes with the piano-bass-drum format used as a rhythm section, whilst Ronson lays down some rip-roaring lead axe. He dominates this song in the same way as he did on David Bowie’s ‘Moonage Day Dream’, which he made his own. The price of the C.D is worth it for this song alone.

Add to this the artwork included in the sixteen page booklet, ‘Tumbleweed Connection’ is a real gem.

 

Pawed by Mott The Dog
Remastered by Ella Crew

E-mail: review@mott-the-dog.com


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