Sunday, 29 July 2018
Elton John - Caribou (1974)
Released June 1974
Recorded in The Netherlands, Los Angeles and London
In many ways, Elton John's 1974 "Caribou" album was his equivalent of Bob Dylan's "Self Portrait" from 1970. After some really impressive mature albums in the early seventies, followed by one hell of a crossover to merge reflective, moving adult balladry with glam rock in 1973's multi-million seller, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", so much was now expected of Elton John, both in the UK and, more importantly in the USA, where he was now huge. In the seventies, artists were expected to put out albums virtually every year and one got the impression that this often half-baked album was Elton and Bernie's attempt to say "it doesn't matter, if you pressure us to release an album before we're ready, we will release any old rubbish". Indeed, the track "Solar Prestige A Gammon" was populated with nonsense, meaningless lyrics, in an invented language, as if to exemplify that notion and prove their point. The problem with this album is that after "Yellow Brick Road" they just weren't ready to put out any more material. "Captain Fantastic" should have been the follow up, and great it would have been too (as indeed it was). It was Elton's "Goats Head Soup".
1. The Bitch Is Back
4. Dixie Lily
5. Solar Prestige A Gammon
6. You're So Static
7. I've Seen The Saucers
9. Don't Let The Sn Go Down On Me
There are, of course, two absolute classic Elton/Bernie hit singles on here - the exhilarating, in-your-face rocker that is the riffy "Bitch Is Back" and the now absolutely iconic "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me". The latter is a moving, singalong and lengthy ballad and even now is regarded as one of their classics. The upbeat, lively "Grimsby" is a good one too, a slice of nostalgia from Bernie about the Humberside town hear where he grew up in Lincolnshire. The tuneful and endearing ballad "Pinky" is not bad either. "Dixie Lily" is a jaunty slice of energetic country rock, with Taupin's Western lyrics to the fore once again. He had been mining this seam for several years now, lyrically.
As I said, "Solar Prestige", despite its rollicking, catchy melody and piano-driven beat, was a waste of everyone's time. "You're So Static" is acceptable, actually, a brass-driven funky and bluesy rocker that wouldn't have sounded out of place on "Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player" from early 1973. The brass parts are pumping and punchy and Elton's piano is manically impressive. I haven't heard this track for years and I am quite enjoying again, to be honest. "I've Seen The Saucers" is a bizarre song about flying saucers, and you feel they were going down the space path one too many times, but it has a sort of weird, late sixties Beatles-ish appeal. To be honest, it is really difficult one to categorise. It is good, or is it throwaway rubbish? Actually, it's sort of ok.
"Stinker" is, would you believe, a bit of a little hidden gem. Full of searing guitar licks, irrepressible horns and Elton on bluesy top vocal form, while pounding his pudgy fingers on those keyboards. "Ticking" has a most entrancingly beautiful and melodic piano introduction, and the song, in contrast, tells a tragic tale of a previously well-behaved young man who goes off the rails and pointlessly murders fourteen people in a bar. It is actually one of Bernie Taupin's most disturbing songs, and indeed is one of his lost classics. I had utterly forgotten this wonderful song. I am so glad I rediscovered it. Add it to any "Elton John obscure greats" playlist.
You know, I have really enjoyed playing this album again. Give it a listen. It has had a bum rap for too long.