Elton John

75 albums, 540 tracks

Born in Mar 25, 1947

Pop/Rock

Narratives

"Elton John"

Feb 25, 2019

Elton John Has Had A Long And Storied Career Which Greatest Hits Collection ‘Diamond’ Luxuriously Captures

taylor
Written by @taylor / 8 mins read
#ClassicPop#Diamonds#EltonJohn#Pop#PopSoftRock#rock

How many times have I heard the classic song “Tiny Dancer” or the epic glam rock ballad “Bennie & The Jets” over the airwaves? A bazillion times, that’s how many. Yet two truths must be told; one, that I have never been in love with these hits which have tickled folks for decades, and two, that I have never ever heard an Elton John album in its entirety. After listening to this album Diamond, I still can’t say that I am in love with Elton John’s music, nor could I say that I have finally listened to an album of his because I haven’t technically, as this is a greatest hits collection, though this is not explicitly stated on the album art. So here’s my thing – most of these songs are the big joints, and I am of course reminded of the ones I have heard but didn’t know the name of, etc, yet, I think I would have really loved to hear some songs that are both great and not overplayed on the radio. It makes me wonder – who is this album for, as super fans already own greatest hits collections, and novices like myself already have heard many of these tracks which are sort of ‘blah’ in my personal view. Great musicianship? No frickin’ doubt. Obviously good vocals and lyrics as well, but I suppose the only way to explain my lukewarm feelings in reference to the Sir Elton John Diamonds experiment is to take a stab at the pros and cons I detect within this greatest hits collection, and of course, celebrate my certain level of excitement over the few songs on Diamonds that I am hearing for the very first time. I’m sure some of you out there will scream ‘you’ve never heard “Mama Can’t Buy You Love”’, but it’s true, I’ve never heard this swanky disco rock track before in my life.

Staple Hits Serve As A Great Introduction To Elton John

“Goodbye Yellowbrick Road” is to my ears a mix of the Glam Rock of early David Bowie, and The Beatles, yet of course, the distinct piano forward style is very indicative of what Elton John contributed to Rock music history. While doing some research on the star, I discovered that he is widely considered to be the ‘King of the Keys’, sharing top ten lists with other notables such as, obviously, Liberace, but also Little Richard, Warren Zevon, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Well, if you like piano, all of these tracks have that in spades, and the reason why piano is of such importance in the arrangements is because of the facts that not only was Elton John classically trained before turning his interests towards Rock music, but his greatest influences, he has stated, are classical pianist/composers such as Chopin, Beethoven, and Mozart. On “Tiny Dancer”, the piano takes center stage, adding so much color, syncopation, and creative flourish to a song that would have been a little too standard without it. I do love the pauses, detours and breakdowns, which is the best part about seventies era music, and I really love the piano plunking soft build up that grows and grows, until this huge shouting crescendo takes the song completely over. I have always been fond of the Rock intensity of this particular soulful chorus, yet, I don’t exactly know why, but I just can’t stand the terminology that is being sung; “Hold me closer tiny dancer / count the headlights on the highway / lay me down in sheets of linen / you had a busy day today.” Confusing as hell, and so I decided to check out a site of the writer’s, Bernie Taupin – discovering that this was all about an English narrator’s perception of 1970s LA women, who were free spirited, hippyish, and willing to mother you as well as sleep with you. The ‘sleeping with you’ part is self explanatory, but the mothering nature came in the form of embroidery, where they would stitch cool hippy shit on your blue jeans, etc, and inquire about your health afterwards I guess. Now, it’s just my opinion, but I would have vastly preferred that they didn’t say ‘tiny dancer’ but rather their other options on the table, ‘little dancer’ or ‘small dancer’ – but in general, I have always hated how the words tiny and dancer were showcased so much on this track – because all this time, while hating it, I pictured some little ballerina in the palm of the piano player’s hand – sort of enraged about what the hell that, or the song, really meant. Now I know, and I guess it changes my perception a little bit, yet I’m still not in love with the track.

Exotic Tracks, From ‘Island Girl’ To ‘Mama Can’t Buy You Love’, Are A Surprise

‘Island Girl’ is not bad - just a little cheesy to my ears, yet I loved hearing it for the first time on this greatest hits collection Diamond. In the same disco vein is the much better “Mama Can’t Buy You Love”, which has an Ohio Soul vibe, with a funky bumpy little beat and heavy string orchestration. The lyrics are kind of odd and manipulative, though delivered in a super upbeat manner, where the narrator explains to his paramour that her daddy, her mama, and her friends don’t want or love her - the way that he does and he can. Kind of reminds me of the same creepy but cool sentiments expressed by Prince on “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” Though I didn’t know “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, and while it is Disco Funk-lite, it really has some frickin’ amazing chord changes and a really great call and answer duet performance between Elton John and singer Kiki Dee. This is the type of track I could have totally accepted on a Paul Thomas Anderson movie such as Boogie Nights or Magnolia. It just has this particular boogie ballad vibe which contains equal parts excitement and melancholy – perfect for a coked out film epic about the excesses of Los Angeles. Though Elton John is a Brit, lots of this music is sun-kissed, with some occasional Laurel Canyon Country-Folk twang. By far, the greatest discovery for me was a perfect and ghostly piano ballad called “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”, which just builds upon echo layer after echo layer, until, as guest George Michael is at his highest vocal level, the song launches into a great gospel moment. I now understand that the original, released on 1974’s vinyl album Caribou, naturally features only John’s main vocal, but I rather like this Michael duet.

Apparently, This Greatest Hits Album Is A Bit Limited

Inspired to find out more about the artist, I sampled a few other more traditional albums and found some pretty cool joints on I guess what could be considered a more obscure record such as Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy. The decent song “Philadelphia Freedom” is in fact on this Captain Fantastic album, but there are some other awesome songs that contain the songwriting style I think that I prefer from Sir Elton John – but like most times in popular music history, they might have been too complex to pass muster as easily digestible Pop. This is why I sort of feel that this greatest hits collection has limitations – I mean honestly, what is the reason to put out the same sounding compilations every few years, if not to simply cash in on more profits, feel me? The beneficial byproduct of listening to Diamonds is that it provoked me to check out two more recent albums of his that I did not know existed; 2013’s The Diving Board, and 2016’s Wonderful Crazy Night, which each possessed a few stand out tracks I enjoyed. But in so far as Diamonds is concerned, I really don’t need to listen to the obvious joints anymore, such as “Candle In the Wind”, “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)”, “Your Song”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Benny and the Jets”, and, however guilty of a pleasure it is, “I’m Still Standing.” A greatest hits collection is generally a waste of time, and listeners would do themselves a solid by just buying the cds and vinyl as they are meant to be played, or of course, stream, but stream in chronological order, to get the real experience. I mean, the catalogue of one of my favorite artists, Stevie Wonder, also tends to suffer whenever compiled with the ‘radio hits’ in mind – with the album highlights always tending to be tracks like “Part Time Lover” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Apparently, the Deluxe 3 cd set of Diamonds contains a lot more eras of the artist’s music – and so that could prove to be a more worthwhile experience.

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Biography

"Elton John"

Born

    1947-03-25

Active

    1962–present

Label

  • Philips
  • Congress
  • DJM
  • Uni
  • Paramount
  • MCA
  • Geffen
  • Rocket
  • Island
  • Mercury
  • Island Def Jam

About

Sir Elton Hercules John CBE (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, 25 March 1947) is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin as his songwriting partner since 1967; they have collaborated on more than 30 albums. John has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world. He has more than fifty Top 40 hits, as well as seven consecutive number-one albums in the United States, 58 Billboard Top 40 singles, 27 Top 10 singles, four which reached number two and nine which reached number one. His tribute single "Candle in the Wind 1997", rewritten in dedication to Diana, Princess of Wales, sold over 33 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling single in the history of the UK and US singles charts. He has also composed music, produced records, and has occasionally acted in films. John owned Watford F.C. from 1976 to 1987, and 1997 to 2002. He is an honorary Life President of the club, and in 2014 had a stand named after him at the club's home stadium.
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