Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Elton John ~ Breaking Hearts

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Style: soft rock, pop rock, British
Label: Geffen
Year: 1984
Home: England

Members: Elton John ~ piano/vocals
Davey Johnstone ~ guitar/b. vocals
Dee Murray ~ bass/b. vocals
Nigel Olsson ~ drums/b. vocals

Additional: Andrew Thompson ~ saxophone



Who doesn't like EJ on some level? But, there's a problem when approaching his music - where do you start? There's the 70's EJ, there's the goodbye Bernie Taupin hello Gary Osburne era of the late 70's/early 80's EJ, there's the soft rock slick 80's EJ, there's the 90's even slicker EJ, there's the Broadway EJ & then there's the 2001 comeback Songs From The West Coast & later with Leon Russell EJ & I've probably missed a few faces in here. Everybody likes the classic 70's days, whether they like EJ on the whole or not, though I find I like his voice much better today as its gotten deeper, plus post-throat surgery, & some of the early songs are too quirky for my tastes. The Osborne albums I've always enjoyed & believe to be under-rated. The 80's/90's pop balladeer I have trouble with as every album sounds predictably same & just seem to work harder & harder as the years go on trying to ring out every ounce of emotion in turn killing any real emotion Taupin's lyrics might actually have. I like to think of Made In England where EJ & Taupin had gotten to the point where one word song titles was all they needed to make people swoon ... maybe. I expected the next album to be partial words, like the oh, ah, I. The Broadway EJ I've never cared about as his shows might have a different lyricist in Tim Rice, but the music doesn't do anything for me as it's as maudlin & predictable as ever. That might be the biggest problem I have with post 70's EJ - the music. He never pushes himself or steps out of himself & once he finds a particular sound he drives it into the ground & the result isn't that the trends finally come round to him as his savior but he just ends up sounding lost & tired & bored. But, that might be why I like his 2001 to the present comeback without abandon - EJ pushes himself, particularly evidenced in his country-tinged album with Leon Russell. These recent albums not just feature EJ experimenting like its the 60's again but Taupin is rejuvenated & inspired like he hasn't been in a long time creating some of his best songs that must be heard. For the first time in a long time both guys sound vibrant in their respective roles as lyricist & composer/performer. Let alone, the recent releases are anything but predictable mass appeal pop songs with no personality, like much of EJ's 80's/90's output. So, should one thus ignore two decades of EJ's career, or at least from 1983's Too Low For Zero on, the first album in a couple years of entirely Taupin compositions? Certainly not, but one should also know there's highs & lows, great songs & filler. Too Low For Zero is a great starting point as its not just Taupin's full return, previous albums split between Taupin & Osborne, but also finds EJ fully shedding the over-used disco mode feel, reunited him with his 70's touring band & churning out the hits "I'm Still Standing" & "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" which seem almost autobiographical for the time. The follow-up Breaking Hearts continues to ride this high & might be EJ's last solid album for awhile that hits more than misses. It doesn't have the memorable songs of other albums, but is a solid release just the same lyrically & musically, or at least its an enjoyable release from start to finish & strong in its own ways if not the best album of his catalog. In many ways its a nice bridge between the past & present as it skips over the disco & pulls the best of EJ's pop 70's feeling, yet also finds the balladeer beginning to take shape with a slimmed down sound. In retrospect the album also is the first of EJ's 80's trademarkable sound, a sound that would he would not vary from as much as push to its limit, but at the time this was still a fresh sounding EJ having fun again & coming off of a successful tour. Thus, once one hears Breaking Hearts the rest of the decade become obvious musically & personally skip anything else, unless there's a song or two of interest, & go right for the comeback. Another incentive to take this jump is that this might also be one of the last albums before EJ went super polished, super commercial, super radio friendly & his musical explorations became largely limited to the soul of 1989's Sleeping With the Past. If there's any big problem with the album it's in the lyrics. They are some of the weakest most uninspired catch-phrase oriented lyrics of Taupin's pen (for example, "Restless", "Lil 'Fridgerator"), though on the other hand it works perfectly for EJ's new pop sound & doesn't let the album sink under its own emotional weight as Made In England does. Highlights include "Slow Down Georgie (She's Poison)", "Who Wears The Shoes" & the ballads the title track, "In Neon" & "Burning Bridges" that all find a nice space between the 70's & the 80's EJ. Two interesting experiments are "Passengers" which aims for Jamaican rhythms without actually having a island rhythm & "Did He Shoot Her" which is a fun little number made for the radio with its tamboura background.

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