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The Captain & The Kid (Bonus Tracks)

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Album Review

Ever since 2001's Songs from the West Coast, Elton John and his longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin, have been deliberately and unapologetically chasing their glory days of the early '70s, but nowhere have they been as candid in evoking those memories as they are on 2006's The Captain & the Kid, the explicitly stated sequel to 1975's masterpiece Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. That record was an autobiographical fantasia of John and Taupin's early years — the days when they were struggling to make their mark, right up till their glorious success — and the idea behind this album is to tell the story of those salad days, which not only isn't a bad idea at all — it's clever and well-suited for John, the most self-consciously unautobiographical of all major rock artists — but fits right into Elton's desire to make records like he used to; after all, if he's trying to sound like the way things used to be, he might as well sing about the way they used to be, too. And The Captain & the Kid is nothing if not a proudly nostalgic piece of work bearing no modern touches; even the synths that occasionally color this country-ish rock are old fashioned analog synths. It sounds like an dream project on paper, but like a lot of dream projects, The Captain & the Kid doesn't quite live up to its lofty ideals. Part of the problem is that John has patterned the music not after Captain Fantastic — which lived up to its glamorama title through intense flights of camp and glitz that helped give its narrative a theatrical flair, not to mention a hell of a lot of color — but after the stripped-down, country-tinged pop and rock of Tumbleweed Connection and Honky Chateau. That is the sound at the core of most of his best music of the early '70s, but it's not necessarily the best choice for this album, since it doesn't quite fit with the original Captain Fantastic or the gaudy story of their success; it's a tale that calls for bright neon colors, and everything about this album is muted and tasteful.

It might not quite seem like what a Fantastic sequel should be — in fact, it seems more like a sequel to its direct predecessor, 2004's Peachtree Road — but that's hardly a bad thing. Like that album and Songs from the West Coast before it, The Captain & the Kid is a sharp, professional piece of work by sharp professionals conscious of their past and no longer wishing to rest on their laurels, so they're consciously evoking their best work without quite recycling it. They might not hit their mark directly, but they get close enough — it may be a little self-conscious and the production is a shade too clean, but the performances are warm and intimate, so this music feels right even if it doesn't necessarily feel exactly like Elton's '70s heyday. And the more familiar this song cycle becomes, the easier it is to admire the craft behind it, particularly in individual moments like the slow build on "Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way (NYC)," or how "Tinderbox" hearkens back to "Somebody Saved My Life Tonight," or the lightness of "I Must Have Lost It on the Wind," or the lazy blues of "Old 67," or how "The Captain and the Kid" brings to mind not Tumbleweed Connection but Billy Joel's approximation of that album on Piano Man. So, no, The Captain & the Kid isn't quite the second coming of Captain Fantastic, but it's hardly a cash grab by an aging diva — in other words, it's no Basic Instinct 2. John's intentions are pure and even if he doesn't quite make an album as good as his '70s work, it does stand alongside that work nicely — it's clear that he and Taupin are really trying, and it's far better to have albums like this and Peachtree Road that fall short of the mark but nevertheless get close than to have an endless series of well-produced but empty records like The One and Made in England.

Customer Reviews

The Elton Album We Been Waiting For

In 2001 Elton gave us Songs from the West Coast an excellent return to form, recalling the flavor of some of his classic 70's albums. This led to the critically hyped but much more uneven offering in 2004 Peachtree Road. I think in part because many of us were hoping for a return to a Tumbleweed type sound, and aside from Porch Swing in Tupelo in didn't deliver. The wait continued, the wait is over! The Captain and the Kid is a instant classic. As I write this I'm immersed in my second listen & it just gets better. Postcards from Richard Nixon is a upbeat tale that picks up as if it were first cut on Captain Fantastics Non-existent 3rd side. Dig that little acoustic guitar action from Davey at the end. Just like Noah's Ark continues the narrative of our 2 heroes first experiences in Hollywood. Strait forward Rocket Man rock N roll with a great organ solo followed by some Pyrotechnics from the Afro mentioned Mr. Johnstone. And another smoking finish. Things slow down abit for Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way is a fond remembrance of NYC which grows on you upon repeated listens. Tinderbox, a up tempo song letting us in on the complexities of EJ & Bernies relationship. Any song that can reference Godzilla in song and make it cool to sing is great in my book. But I digress. Great lyrics & music. And the House Fell Down continues to juxtapose great rock piano w/ very intimate lyrics. Blues Never Fade Away is the first really great ballad on the record. If you don't shed a tear to the beautiful way Elton sings & Bernie writes about missing John Lennon you have no heart. What makes this song remarkable is that while they sing about personal people they have lost & how it makes them feel it's lyrics are general enough for anyone who has survived life while losing loved ones feel like their feelings are being given voice. Elton sings with power about the questions we all ask when bad things happen to us. And the Hey Hey Hey invokes Hey hey Johnnie. Superb! The Bridge is the first single & ironically I think the weakest song on the album. Not that its bad, its just the other songs are so strong it seems lacking. Don't get me wrong it is a great song. But the previous 6 tunes are above average. Must Have Lost It On the Wind opens w/ a great harmonica & then that warm familiar country tinged Elton that I love. Again great very personal lyrics that have personal relevance if you lived & loved in the 70's. Old 67 might be the most personal of all the lyrics. Two old friends sitting around and talking about what a life they shared. Complicated relationships couched in a rocking bluesy piano melody. Classic great Elton John, Bernie Taupin story telling ala 60 Years On without Tennessee Williams drama Finally we get the familiar strains of the first cut from the classic 75 record abit more uptempo and then it morphs into a slide guitar tinged story of where The Captain & the Kid are now & where I hope musically the keep going. Dropping a couple lines from a few of there greatest songs to explain there personalities one would think would be contrite. But its not it works as it continues the intimate & personal nature of the record. All I can say is thanks Elton, thanks Bernie from a fan of 30 plus years, who's first album, a 13Th birthday present was Caribou & first purchased album shortly there after was Honky Chateau, this is the kind of record I've been hoping for since about 1975.

Big surprise

I wrote an i-tunes review of "The Bridge" a few weeks ago saying that if the new album "The Captain and the Kid" was anything like this that it boded well for Elton John and Bernie Taupin. I downloaded the album today and am almost shocked, to be honest. Where did this come from? I mean, this material is stellar. And I mean, stellar. After so many years of being out in the wilderness, this is a MAJOR return to form, artistically. This could have easily been the next album after Captain Fantastic 25 years ago (minus a couple of tunes that harken to recent times - but no less strong stuff). I'd say, screw the hip-hop promise and stay right here where it's safe and definitely sound. Friggin' good work! Wow.

Wow. I Never Thought I'd See The Day.

Growing up during the 60's and 70's, much of my life was spent listening to and idolizing Elton John and Bernie Taupin. From Madman Across The Water through Captain Fantastic I was blown away by the song writing of Elton. There were sparks of that old Elton magic on Blue Moves, Made In England and Songs From The West Coast, but I hadn't heard anything by Elton since Captain Fantastic that rocked my world like his first several recordings. I thought I'd never hear Elton at the top of his game again. But thank God, he's back. No more schmaltz, just Elton sounding like he's having fun again. Thank you Elton, Bernie, Davie, Nigel and the boys!!!


Born: March 25, 1947 in Pinner, Middlesex, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Elton John was the biggest pop star of the '70s, grabbing headlines and generating hits throughout the world. As it turned out, this was merely the first act in a remarkable career that kept him at the top of the charts for over 25 years. He charted a Top 40 hit single every year between 1970 and 1996, a sign that he knew how to both change with the times and mold the times to fit him. Initially marketed as a singer/songwriter, John soon revealed he could craft Beatlesque pop and pound out rockers...
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