Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
The Captain and the Kid
Genres: Folk, World Music, Pop, Rock, Classic Rock
The Captain & The Kid, written with his long-time writing partner, Bernie Taupin. More than 30 years after the release of their landmark #1 multi-platinum album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, the duo returns... more »
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The Captain & The Kid, written with his long-time writing partner, Bernie Taupin. More than 30 years after the release of their landmark #1 multi-platinum album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, the duo returns with this sequel. The new album features 10 new songs reflecting the intimate lives and public times spanning the long-standing songwriting partnership of Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin. In fact, for the first time, both John and Taupin are featured on an Elton John album cover. "The album is a celebration of our lives and our lifetimes, of our music and of the music we love. The Captain & The Kid continues our story. You can't look back, we're looking ahead," says John. Created in the tradition of those fantastic records of the 60's and 70's, The Captain & The Kid is a celebration of when music was the most important voice of our culture and the album was its prime vehicle. Much like Elton's previous records Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across The Water, and Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, The Captain & The Kid is an album meant to transport you back to that place in time when music mattered most. 35 plus years-later, Elton really has become Captain Fantastic and Bernie is most definitely The Brown Dirt Cowboy and they are as passionate about their music as they have ever been. "I find the whole album to be so touching and beautiful for me because I've lived it," Elton added. "I lived it with Bernie and we've come through it. We've gone over the bridge and here we are at the other side." The first single from the album, 'The Bridge" is one of 10 tracks which picks up where Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy left off. The album tells the story of Elton and Bernie from when they arrived in Los Angeles 30 years ago, through the ups and downs of their lives, to present day.
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You can't go back... but sure glad they tried.
C. Beyer | Los Altos, CA | 10/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having grown up with the radio during Elton John's reign on top of the American charts in the early-to-mid 1970s, I've always had a soft spot for his music, even after moving on musically in college in the 1980s. Especially since I learned to play piano by butchering his songs from this period, and was lucky enough to see him live at his famous Dodger Stadium gig in 1975 (my first rock concert) and in intimate shows like his pre-"Unplugged" tour with Ray Cooper in 1979. His classic albums from Madman through Capt. Fantastic were always within reach in my collection even when I more often listened to the Clash or R.E.M., and despite the lack of radio hits, Captain Fantastic was always my favorite, due to the strength of the highly personal songs and the superb production by the late Gus Dudgeon. I still recall listening to the album while poring over the "scrapbook" included in the packaging in my bedroom in southern California, wondering what a "Bank Giro Credit" and other Britishisms meant, and marvelling at how the flashy showman and his writer started out as a shy musical dreamers composing in his mother's living room.
So it was with some trepidation that I ordered The Captain and the Kid, given that a less-than-stellar outing from the Rocket Man would leave me with the feeling that they were trying to cash in on the old magic with longtime fans like me by releasing something not worthy of the connection to the great original. Like Paul McCartney, Elton is a musical genius who bears the curse of artistic survival and longevity, so that any new material released inevitably pales next to the timeless output of his peak years. Some will no doubt recoil at the McCartney comparison, as Sir Elton has clearly had more shining moments past his prime than has Sir Paul. But these are relatively few and far between when you look at the 1970s catalog, and we are all a lot older now. As Bernie notes so succinctly in the final track, "You can't go back, and if you try you fail..." But sometimes you have to try anyway, and the results can be deeper and richer than ever imagined.
The album opens with "Postcards from Richard Nixon," highlighting the wide-eyed wonder of the English-country and London-suburb "pale kids" as they hit America and their careers rocket to the stratosphere, with name-checks of Brian Wilson and Walt Disney to boot. A fun way to open the retrospective ride, picking up where Capt. Fantastic left off.
The debauchery of rock-star tour life is the theme of "Just Like Noah's Ark," a swampified southern R&B raver with a nifty organ solo and some dirty slide guitar from Davey, (the only time) cranked to an appropriate level. Living in Atlanta so long, it sounds like Elton has absorbed a lot more of the authentic feel of New Orleans R&B, Memphis blues and even Lynryd Skynyrd than in his previous English pastiches, like "Dixie Lily" off the Caribou album. Lyrically, the song shares a close connection to "Tower of Babel," which was superior in my view, but the infectious music pushes this one forward -- you can tell the band are enjoying themselves as this one winds down.
Things quiet down for "Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way (NYC)", Bernie's awkward paean to New York. Not his best lyrics, perhaps reflecting his reported ambivalence to the city over the years. In that uncanny way they have always managed, Elton matches this uncertainty with a musically unresolved verse that meanders down through minor chords and numerous key changes, before sliding into a celestial chorus. The meter of the words don't seem to fit Elton's tune in the chorus, but he moves the melody around in such a way to leave a poignant ache in the heart like the memory of an old girlfriend.
"Tinderbox" is another piano-driven song that reflects the strain of their close partnership toward the end of their chart-topping days, with a gorgeous chorus that echos "Harmony" off of Yellow Brick Road, and features the trademark backing vocals of Davey and Nigel in his classic years. This one really grows on you with repeated listening.
Next it's time to ramp it up again with the fevered, clipped R&B piano of "...And the House Fell Down." Bernie's most honest and evocative portrayal of Elton's drugged-up years is matched again with music and a vocal performance that perfectly suits the lyric, showing how all the hard work and they success they earned almost collapsed around them. As noted in another review, the musical resemblance to "I'm Still Standing" is no coincidence, and this song is also notable for Elton's jumpy, agitated R&B piano solo that is undoubtedly his best since "Bennie and the Jets."
While earmarked as a single, I did not love "Blues Never Fade Away," with its lugubrious piano and "We Are the World"-type vocals. It documents the loss of some of their closest friends, such as Gianni Versace and John Lennon, with a nod to Ryan White and an unidentified young woman. While no doubt sincere, the lyrics border on trite in spots ("All that matters is they came around and brightened up our lives"), and the overall feel is too charity-proceeds single for me -- sorry to be such a cynic. More typical of his recent work musically, it sounds like something he would have written for the stage or screen. I appreciate his talent in branching out that way, but it's not my favorite.
"The Bridge", the other rumored single, follows, and is another piano-only song that is much better in several ways. One, the music is stunningly beautiful, matched with his best vocal performance on the album. Secondly, Bernie's lyric is far more metaphorical than the previous track, and stronger because of it. Its mystery is part of the appeal -- is the bridge their career, their success where so many others failed? Or is it about overcoming other challenges in life and being a survivor? The choir-like coda concludes this beautiful song with echoes of the final track on Capt. Fantastic. Simply a gorgeous song.
It's back to a southern hoe-down with the bluegrass-tinged "I Must Have Lost it On the Wind," a close-harmony toe-tapper with a nostalgic look at their loves and losts, and some nice mandolin.
The album closes with two of the strongest and most personal tracks, wistfully and perfectly summing up their long career and friendship, with all of the ups and downs. "Old '67", referring to the year they met and started their long, hard climb to the pinnacle of the music world, is a nostalgic reflection of those simple, deprived days. You can see them shaking their heads and laughing at where they've come, set to another relaxed R&B piano tune. Davey contributes some nice slide guitar and steel guitar fills in something that sounds like it could have been recorded by The Band or Bonnie Raitt. The album then closes (perhaps too soon?) with the country/western twang of "The Captain and the Kid". Another simply perfect pairing of lyric and tune, this reprises the opening lines of Captain Fantastic before easing into a chugging brush-drum beat and the kind of hook-laden major-minor chord progressions that sold this guy about a billion albums back in the day. Just a song you could listen to over and over even if he was singing the phonebook. Bernie's lyric pretty much suffices as the entire summation of their brilliant career -- witty, sardonic, appreciative, sentimental -- it is all of these things without be cloying or predictable. If they had done nothing more than this song, it would have been a worthy cherry on top of the career cake. How nice that instead it can close the book on a fine album that more than lives up to the expectations of "completing the cycle," as Elton remarks in the liner notes.
A few minor quibbles. Clearly, Elton's soaring vocal range of the 1970s, epitomized by songs like "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," is long gone. This is not surprising, but I tend to associate some of his recent vocal sounds as much with the "Lion King" songs as with the occasional gem like "The One" or "I Want Love." But he opens it up a bit on the R&B/blues-tinged songs and reveals a much richer vocal sound than he had back in the day.
Second, the production quality is a big departure from Captain Fantastic's tremendous sound -- Nigel's booming drums, spacious instrumentation, and the soaring vocal mix. Many of the songs are recorded quite "dry" on the new album, giving one the impression having Elton in your car or living room (the beginning of the first track especially), but in turn losing some of that wall-of-sound quality that Gus Dudgeon created. He was truly an under-rated contributor to Elton's career and body of work during that period.
Finally, I would have liked to have heard more guitar from "Musical Director" and longtime collaborator Davey Johnstone. His subtle fills with acoustic guitar, mandolin, and slide guitar are great, but we're missing the recognizable electric guitar sound he created with rockers like "Meal Ticket" and "Saturday Night's Alright...", or the chunky Fender-Strat blues fills he brought to "Tell Me When the Whistle Blows." While Elton's piano work is as inventive as ever (bringing to mind songs from Tumbleweed and Madman), more electric guitar would have been welcome. Of course, the point was not to re-create Capt. Fantastic, but Johnstone's guitars were almost always a critical aspect of Elton's hit songs and classic album cuts like "Funeral for a Friend."
But these are minor complaints. Every Elton fan should have this CD, to me it is far better than Songs From the West Coast, and the personal, affecting lyrics are poignant and meaningful to anyone with the slightest appreciation for their remarkable career and the body of musical work that has enriched our lives. Thanks to the boys for saddling up one more time before they ride off into the sunset.
Parkin | PA | 09/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The sound on Elton John's The Captain And The Kid is a definite risk. It could have easily sounded like a lame re-creation. But it actually does sound like classic Elton John! There's a lot of piano, and instead of sounding outdated, it drives along his thoughtful lyrics and strong melodies like it always did. There are also no overdone or obvious hooks - the hooks are there, but they don't overwhelm the music. Elton also sounds very good, though perhaps with a little less range. Overall, this ranks among his better albums, even if not quite up to some of his old stuff."
R. Fleischer | Chicago, IL United States | 09/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been an Elton John fan since 1972 when I was 12 years old. Elton and Bernie were my introduction into the adult music of pop and rock and roll. I won his 1st Greatest Hits album from a local radio station and bought Goodbye Yellow Brick Road shortly thereafter. It was my 1st album. I remember buying Captain Fantastic the day it came out, the record cover seemed to be worth the price of admission alone. The songs on this album had a more unique and intricate structure than his usual pop hits and this soon became a very special and personal album for me. Its been my favorite. I love all of his classic work through Rock of the Westies and even though I followed all of his releases throughout the 80's, he kind of lost me along the way. While it was always a treat to see him perform live, his studio efforts just didn't reach me anymore.
While Songs from the West Coast was a return to form, it hasn't appeared in my CD player for a while. And now Elton and Bernie are releasing a follow up to Captain Fantastic? Why even try to attempt something so challenging? It seems that they are just setting themselves up for a big fall with this one. It would seem an impossible task to follow up that classic and it was certainly impossible to create anything 3 decades after Rock of the Westies that could hold a place in the pantheon of those classic early EJ albums. Yes, what they are trying to do here is totally IMPOSSIBLE!!!
Well ladies and gents, I have news for you. Elton and Bernie have done the impossible. You can read all the details about the songs and music in other reviews, but for this long time EJ and BT fan, a miracle has happened. This album is as tight as Tumbleweed, Honkey Chateau, and even Captain Fantastic. No filler, just that old magic that they must have sold their souls (once again?) to produce. And sentimental fools beware. When that final track begins, just try not to get all emotional when that familiar theme begins to play. Where Captain Fantastic ended with a melancholoy note, this new album ends with a uptempo ramble looking back on their success as they stayed true to themselves and ahead towards the promise of a bright future.
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy ride off into the sunset in grand style! Long may you run...."