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Elton John Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)

elton_john-captain_fantastic_and_the_brown_dirt_cowboy-frontalFrom donignacio.com

When I first reviewed Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, it caught me off guard. I hadn’t actually listened to it prior to reviewing it, and I was utterly shocked by how quickly I fell head-over-heels in love with it.

I liked it so much that it was immediately thrust right into my Top 10. I praised it endlessly as being a complete masterpiece from beginning to end as well as being one of the grandest pop statements ever recorded. Sometimes the danger of making such broad generalizations of an album I’m new to is overrating it. Sure, after cooling down a bit, I could learn I was just caught in the heat of the moment. But almost five years had gone by, and my high opinion of it hadn’t even once been called into question. This is still my favorite Elton John album!

Truth be told, my extremely high opinion of Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy is one that isn’t shared by any other reviewer that I know of. So, the chances that you, o unsuspecting reader, will think as highly of it as I do are pretty slim. And I’ll even go right out and say that I can understand why some critics don’t have such a high opinion of it. This is clearly part of the uber-polished era of his career, and it’s lacking that raw, earthy feel exhibited in his earlier works. And critics who judge music based on the radio hits were also let down by this album. The only well-known song on here is “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” a ballad that is still not as famous as plenty of his others. Most critics respect this album, but I still hold a bit of a deviant opinion here.

To answer the concerns of the first set of critics, since they raise the most valid points, I agree that Captain Fantastic is a heavily processed album ……… but, then again, so was Abbey Road. The production values are one of the reasons I like this album so much. It doesn’t get any better than those crunchy drums melding with bass guitar as clear as a bell along with nicely strummed acoustic guitar and Elton John’s classy piano chords. Oh man!!! This album is slick and perfectly refined. It’s like a very good table varnish, or something. (OK, that’s a terrible metaphor. I don’t feel like changing it.)

Since you already think I’m overrating this album, I’d might as well rant and rave about some of these excellent songs without restraint. (I don’t have much room left to talk about them individually in this review body, so I’ll have to direct you to my detailed track reviews.) Most of these songs squeezed A+’s out of me. The ones that didn’t probably could have, but I was trying my best to not go too “overboard.” The enormously endearing title track begins the album on a remarkably sweet note. It’s not a flashy song, but more of a subtle, gorgeous one that’s a bit like snuggling in a warm blanket. And even though it’s fairly reserved, it has those pangs of excitement interspersed throughout. Really, this is a splendid way to open the album!

And then there’s “Bitter Fingers,” which goes back-and-forth between a twinkly ballad and one of the most infectious dance pieces that Elton ever created. “(Gotta Get a) Meal Ticket” is also an infectious dance-pop number, and when you get a load of that crunchy bass groove, you’ll really begin to appreciate the album’s ultra-sleek production standards. “Tell Me When the Whistle Blows” has such an excellent use of a string section that I’m sure Barry White had a hard time restraining his intense pangs of jealousy! “We All Fall in Love Sometime” is one of his sweetest ballads… It’s not anything like that showy “Candle in the Wind;” there’s a real subtle class to it, and it gets me every time. The bold “Curtains” ends the album with a bang. The ultra repetitive chorus at the end rings of “Hey Jude,” and it’s surprising how close that song is in terms of quality. This is quite a special album! Perhaps one of the best ever created. That’s just my opinion.

Should I talk about the bonus tracks? I guess I should! Elton seemed to be into a sort of Beatles craze. He covers “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and the solo-Lennon song “One Day At a Time.” Both of these renditions keep what was great about the originals, but he treats them as though they were his own babies. I’m not very familiar with “One Day,” but he does things with “Lucy,” like ending it with a joyous chorus, that I would never have thought possible after hearing the original. Geez, this guy knew what he wanted to do! As fantastic as those were, the biggest gem in the bonus tracks is undoubtedly “Philadelphia Freedom.” It’s a song with real spirit, an incredibly infectious melody, and that string section is heaven.

Oh man. This album is just too good. If you don’t think this is the greatest thing in the world, then you should rethink your position. If you thought about it, and you still don’t agree with me, then please just humour me and pretend that you do. I can’t believe I’m the only person in the world who likes Captain Fantastic this much.

May 15, 2013 Posted by | Elton John Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy | | Leave a comment