Elton John sometimes gets a bad wrap for not writing the lyrics he sings. To me, it's a much harder task taking someone's words and putting them to music that fits just right. Elton John and Bernie Taupin's career is huge and spans hundreds of styles. One of my favorite Elton John moments is his album Tumbleweed Connection. The record is old west meets Civil War themed Americana. Songs of riverboats, civil war and burning missions, an American songwriter's spirit of the South gets wonderful arrangements from a Brit. Strange, yet beguiling and fantastic. On no other recording is this stark, lonely landscape of a torn apart country is best captured on the stripped down track "Talking Old Soldiers." It's set up as a conversation between two men at a bar. Clearly shattered by the loss of so many friends and driven to drink alone, the two gentleman share a beer and a conversation. Sounds pretty straightforward, but Elton John utilizes his amazing ability to build emotion through his piano and deliver an outstanding vocal performance that is spine tingling.
Elton John has many songs that follow in a similar style. Story songs, even a story of a brief encounter like "Talking Old Soldiers" are where is skills as a piano player excel. When the emotions in the conversation build, the music parallels these welling up emotions with loud clangs and bassy piano chords. It's nothing short of breathtaking. Elton controls the mood with his voice and his piano playing and does perfect justice to Taupin's lyrics. It's a little song that packs a big punch and is utterly unforgettable. Tumbleweed Connection is triumphant and "Talking Old Soldiers" is it's peak.
Up Next: After a long delay in posting, In The Wake returns with The Faces