The Captain & The Kid
The Music Box's #4 album of 2006
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2006, Volume 13, #11
Written by John Metzger
Since releasing Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy in 1975, Elton Johnís recording career has been spotty and uninspired, but after spending several decades favoring cheesy pop songs over artistically credible confections, he finally managed to reconnect with his roots on 2001ís Songs from the West Coast. Granted, the endeavor wasnít a complete success, but it did make the case that a creative fire still burned within him, thus providing a hint that perhaps he still had something left to say. Unfortunately, on his subsequent effort Peachtree Road, he fell back, at least in part, upon his old ways. Despite its many flaws, however, the decidedly uneven affair continued his reawakening, leaving no doubt that John was fighting to escape the stagnant quagmire that had contained him for nearly 25 years. It would be easy to scoff at the notion that, for his latest project, John opted to create a sequel to his last classic outing Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Yet, the fact of the matter is that the resulting endeavor The Captain & The Kid not only is the culmination of his journey back in time, but it also is one of the finest efforts of his career.
On Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, John and lyricist Bernie Taupin examined the misery and failure that plagued their lives before they achieved financial success. By contrast, The Captain & The Kid catches the duo on the other side of their meteoric rise, and throughout the endeavor, they reflect upon their inability to cope with fame and fortune. Tucked within Wouldnít Have You Any Other Way (NYC)ís fond reminiscence, for example, rests a fallacious belief in their own indestructibility, while Tinderbox conveys the fragility of their tempestuous relationship. Elsewhere, Blues Never Fade Away is an utterly moving ode to those who died prematurely, whether due to AIDS, drugs, or murder, and The Bridge is both a pensive meditation upon losing oneís muse as well as a tale of perseverance that links Your Song with Someone Saved My Life Tonight. In viewing their lives from the wiser perspective of middle age, John and Taupin magnificently capture the true essence of their experiences together, and had The Captain & The Kid been conceived and recorded at any other point in their careers, the album never would have worked nearly as well as it does.
What helps to solidify The Captain & The Kidís importance is that, from start to finish, the collection contains the most satisfying batch of tunes that John has concocted in years. Where some of the melodic moves that he employed on Songs from the West Coast and, to a greater extent, Peachtree Road felt forced, the entirety of The Captain & The Kid unfolds in an effortlessly organic fashion. All 10 of its tracks are immediately ingratiating, and the passage of time does little to diminish their potency. A chorale of backing vocals combined with the majesty of Johnís arrangements lends the music a theatrical air that is well suited to the albumís grand, underlying drama. Fortunately, John resisted the urge to overdo it by slathering the set with the pomp and circumstance of a series of overblown string accompaniments.
Based around Johnís voice and piano, the simplified sound that permeates The Captain & The Kid lends a warm intimacy to the material that is akin to his 1973 gem Honky Chateau, while the glam-imbued textures of Just Like Noahís Ark and the fiery intensity of ...And the House Fell Down and Tinderbox provide positive proof that he is reinvested fully in his work. Undoubtedly, youngsters will dismiss The Captain & The Kid as the ruminations of an old man who hasnít been vital for years and is desperate to return to his glory days. Yet, in striking the perfect balance between his commercial aspirations and his artistic pursuits, John has sculpted an album that is nearly as powerful, as vibrant, and as bold as anything that he has ever done. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
The Captain & The Kid is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box