Monday, 30 July 2018

Elton John - Rock Of The Westies (1975)


Released October 1975

Recorded in The Netherlands and London

Released only five months after the phenomenally successful (and indeed magnificent) "Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy" this album followed what was proving to be a typical path for Elton John in the mid-seventies and eighties - one superb album, followed quickly (often too quickly) by a patchy one. As "Caribou" followed "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" almost before it should have done, this did the same, and the pressure to put out more product resulted in another dip in quality. Bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olson from the original Elton John Band had left, probably unfairly fired by a truculent Elton. Indeed, Olsson has since said it came as a complete shock.


1. Yell Help
2. Dan Dare
3. Island Girl
4. Grow Some Funk Of Your Own
5. I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford)
6. Street Kids
7. Hard Luck Story
8. Feed Me
9. Billy Bones And The White Bird
10. Don't Go Breaking My Heart (Bonus Track)

The album was what was now the formulaic but balanced mix of rocky material and big, punchy ballads. "Yell Help" is an unremarkable slice of funk-driven rock. It ends ends with some madcap clavinet and shrieking backing vocals interplay. A petty underwhelming start to the album, to be honest. "Dan Dare" is a "Honky Cat" soundalike typical piece of Elton John bluesy mid-paced piano-driven rock. Again, it just doesn't really ever get anywhere. "Island Girl" is different, however, a moderate hit single, it is a lively tale of a Jamaican prostitute in New York's City - "she wraps herself around you like a well-worn tyre...". If you say so, Bernie. Even less of a hit was another single, "Grow Some Funk Of Your Own". This was a shame as it is a vigorous and enjoyable bluesy rocker with some wryly amusing lyrics.

"I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford)" is actually an excellent mid-tempo, dramatic power ballad, like some of the material on "Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player". I am thinking particularly of "Have Mercy On The Criminal". "Street Kids" is a ballsy and bassy rocker with Elton hollering and yelping throughout his vocal, these were the days when he could reach those high notes. It ends with some decidedly "Sympathy For The Devil" "woo-woo" backing vocals. "Hard Luck Story" is a pounding slab of boogie rock that Elton could now do in his sleep. 

"Feed Me" is a laid-back ballad with some funky guitar, without the guitar it would sound like something from "Tumbleweed Connection". It features some fetching percussion from new percussionist Ray Cooper. "Billy Bones And The White Bird" has a sort of Bo Diddley, "Mona"/"Not Fade Away" riff/beat to it. Heaven knows what the song is about.

Overall, I find this album more patchy and less appealing than "Caribou", but it is worth the occasional listen.


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