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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

29 in 2009 - Elton John: "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"

The following post is part of a series known as "29 in 2009."  For more information on the series, click HERE.

Elton John:  Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Originally Released:  October 5, 1973
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Glam, and hints of Progressive Rock
Rating:  7 out of 10 Stars

I wrestled for a while on whether or not to give a rating to the entries in this series, ultimately deciding that for those who don't feel like reading, a rating is pretty helpful.  For those expecting my first entry in the series to be posted sooner than this moment, I apologize for the wait.  Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is quite an album to tackle, containing 17 wonderful tracks that each deserve an equal opportunity to be loved. 

I went into my first experience with the album with a general expectation of what I would hear based on my minimal knowledge of Elton John's music catalogue.  I've listened to and enjoyed his more famous tracks before, so I was expecting to have a good time listening to this album.  For the most part, my expectations were met and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road does live up to its "classic" status.

The leadoff track to this great album is, in my opinion, the album's finest song.  The 11-minute prog-rock influenced "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" is an absolute blast to listen to, particularly during the "Love Lies Bleeding" portion.  A piano-led rocker (as most John songs are), the song is filled with irresistible melodies and charming harmonies.  Over the last week and a half, I've listened to this song more often than any other Elton John song, and that's not just because it's the first track.  It is simply, a classic piece of music that I was surprised I had never heard before.

Also featured on the album is the original "Candle in the Wind" - a beautiful, humble ballad about Marilyn Monroe - and the instantly recognizable "Bennie and the Jets," which, honestly, needs no commentary on my part.  Add in "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and you have a handful of Elton John's most popular songs all on one album.  Who couldn't love that?  The surprising thing is how the quality of the songs on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road rarely, if ever, falter.  It's rare that you see a record of this magnitude achieve such greatness on every single track. 

To be absolutely clear, where the album does start to lose points from me is in its continuity, or rather its flow.  There is no logical reason for putting a soft ballad in between a prog-rocker and unabashed piano pop.  The album literally feels like you're listening to a greatest hits album because a.) all the songs are great, and b.) it feels completely disjointed.  Pick a genre that was around at the time, and chances are it's here in some form.  "Jamaica Jerk-Off" is an awesome song, but its tropical vibes feel misplaced between "Grey Seal" and "I've Seen That Movie Too" (another one of my favorites).  

My assumption is that the disjointed feel of the record is primarily caused by the limitations of the vinyl format.  When originally released, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was a double album consisting of four sides.  Obviously, you can only put so much music on each side and therefore tracks need to be shuffled around in order to make them all fit.  I get it, and surely this won't be the last time I run into this "problem" of listening to an older album on a modern medium.

Despite my nit-picking, one would be remiss to not listen to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  Though it sounds almost cliche to say, this is an album that truly does have something for everyone - assuming that you don't have a inexplicable desire to listen to German techno or Akinyele at all moments of your existence.  I enjoyed my experience with this album and will continue to listen to it for some time.  I recommend that everyone else do the same.  If you have any questions about my experience with this album, please leave me a comment and I'll get back to you.

Verdict: Classic


Gary said...

I know what you mean about Jamaica Jerk-Off - but can you really think of a place on the album where it wouldn't jar? lol. It's a bit of a novelty track.

I'm suprised you didn't mention one of the world's greatest ever closing tracks, Harmony. Even the background vocals on that track would make a deent song!

And I love Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock'n'Roll) - it's so fierce! And it segues so nicely into Saturday Night's (Alright For Fighting).

Anonymous said...

I do hope your review of 29 classic cds doesn't go the way of sufjan's 50 states...