Growing up, my parents really made an impression on me. This is relevant all over this list. As much as Tommy was important to me and was one of those parental observations and as Rubber Soul is likewise the same, Elton John's entire catalog could be on this list. For the sake of brevity, I will include what I consider the best Elton John record as the entry for this great artist. For me, Elton's best mix of musical styles and Bernie Taupin's finest country infused lyrical wisdom can be found on none other than 1970's Tumbleweed Connection. The album never had any singles and I think that makes it so pure and memorable. It's mixture of very stripped down songs to grandiose southern epics makes it a very unique recording in Elton's catalog as well. I think that is why when I want to listen to Elton John, I always return to Tumbleweed Connection.
It may also be my strange love for the old west that this album really means something to me. Stories of riverboats, old Civil War references and just the feeling of longing and searching for something better but finding difficulties seems interesting to me. Growing up, my mom would play this record on her old paper route and I would love every minute of it. Elto John also turned out to be my first real cocnert (not counting the free ones like The Band I saw when I was like, 6 or something and barely remember.) The song selection on Tumbleweed is just fantastic. Tracks like "My Father's Gun" and "Burn Down the Mission" are truly epic pieces of stylistic awesomeness. "My Father's Gun" is a southern Civil War epic with swelling strings and a gospel choir that bursts with melodic goodness. "Burn Down the Mission" structurally is a fantastic composition. It is also one of Elton's finest vocal performances of his early career.
One of my earliest memories of a song that really really struck me as passionate and fantastic is "Talking Old Soldiers." The story of two soldiers having a conversation in a bar is a stirring image both lyrically and musically. Anyone who tries to say that Elton John isn't that talented because he doesn't write his lyrics should listen to this song. The music itself tells the melancholy story jsut as much as the words written do. This struck me as a youngster as one of the most powerful songs I had ever heard. It still ranks up there as one of my all time favorites. Other stand out tracks such as the melancholy love song "Come Down in Time" is just a beautiful arrangement filled with harps and strings that whirl and swell inside you.
Tumbleweed Connection is an album that gave me a learned experience to really appreciate both musical composition and lyrical composition. If I could ever emulate the greatness of Elton John & Bernie Taupin even just a tiny bit, I'd be a happy man. The artistic beauty of Elton John here goes beyond pop music much like current bands like Arcade Fire or The Decemberists go. Without the pop music vision of this kind of baroque goodness, many bands today wouldn't have part of their influences. My appreciation for a beautifully crafted song and album may have started here without me even knowing it until much later.
1. The Who - Tommy
2. Beck - Odelay
3. Television - Marquee Moon
4. Weezer - Pinkerton
5. Brian Eno - Before & After Science
6. Wilco - A Ghost is Born
7. The Beatles - Rubber Soul
8. Grand Funk Railroad - Closer to Home
9. Foo Fighters - The Colour & The Shape
10. Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection
Next Up: Interpol's Turn On The Bright Lights