As we near the end of the 1973 albums, we have the album today that became the #1 selling album in 1974. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, created by Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin, along with the core of what was now fully operational as John’s touring band, is an outstanding collection of work. It’s hard to imagine any other Elton John record topping this one, but I will keep an open mind. Rated #112 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Album of All Time, this double LP contains seventeen songs, seven of which I instantly recognized.
Side one is a complete blockbuster. Opening with the theatrical and powerful “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”, this remarkable composition fully exercises the musical and creative talent of Elton John. After that eleven minute blockbuster, we have the sincere and authentic tribute to Marilyn Monroe, “Candle In the Wind”, and side one ends with the faux live performance of “Bennie and the Jets”. John’s falsetto vocals on this song are pristine and mix so well with his soulful piano playing.
The hits continue with Side two, opening with the title track, yet another massive hit for Elton John. The album then begins to drift a bit more inconsistently after that, with some hits and some interesting choices. “Grey Seal” is another recognizable song on side two that I like, and we have the unfortunately titled “Jamaica Jerk-Off”, which is a pretty clever reggae take other than the horrific song title.
Side three is pretty uneventful, with the most notable track being “Dirty Little Girl”. It is a bit more caustic and aggressive lyrically than I would normally expect from John and Taupin; somebody must have really crossed them prior to creating this song. “All the Girls Love Alice” is the other recognizable track on side three.
Side four’s non-hit tracks don’t really get my attention despite several listens, but “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” is probably the single best and most rocking up-tempo song for Elton, and the album closes with the fully appropriate closer track, “Harmony”.
I listened to this album late at night in a very peaceful setting last evening, and I gave it another two spins in the car today. I’m grateful for all of the exposure and performances I have witnessed from Elton, and I really love hearing this album, even the songs I didn’t know or love, to see just how diverse, capable and gifted he was as a performer. That he found such a great songwriting partner and loyal backing bandmates was just a huge bonus.