Tumbleweed Connection

Elton John

Island Records, 1971

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/11/2006

Elton John had made its namesake a star, propelling him to the "top of the pops." Various tour dates had further proven the showman and musician he was. However, there were still some detractors, most of who decried the over-production of Elton's previous album. The people wanted to hear more of Elton himself, and Tumbleweed Connection would grant their wishes. In the process, John crafted one his best albums, barely a notch behind Captain Fantastic.

It's evident from the start of Tumbleweed that things are going to be a little different from the Elton John many people knew and loved. There aren't any strings, any synthesizers; it's just John and his band. Tumbleweed emphasizes John's piano skills much more than his first two albums, and that is the highlight of the record.

Bernie Taupin and Elton consciously craft a record that attempts to sound as Americana as can be. The Old West unifies the lyrics and the music, for the most part; whether it's the country twang and steel pedal guitar on "Country Comfort" or the saloon piano intro to "Burn Down The Mission," the two try to paint a picture of the American West as they saw it. The result is an exaggerated, yet romanticized picture of "old Clay" or the "color of the grays."nbtc__dv_250

There are traces of Elton John throughout Tumbleweed Connection; the best example being "Come Down In My Time," which could have fit on the previous album. The track is one of John's most unknown ballads yet ranks up there with his best. There isn't necessarily a strong hook; the power of the song is in its unusual melody and production.

Tumbleweed Connection is rare in that its best songs lay smack dab in the middle of the album. "Son Of Your Father, "My Father's Gun, and "Where To Now St. Peter," are the cream of the crop, along with "Burn Down The Mission." "My Father's Gun" was recently used to great effect in Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown, and deservedly so. This song is an epic, gaining speed like a runaway train as the track progresses. Dee Murray's bass-work grabs you immediately, and slowly but surely more and more is added. Horns, percussion and gospel-flavored backing vocals come into play, resulting in a virtual wall of sound. Elton shows off his more soulful vocals as well, adlibbing for the last minute or so. To me, this song is in his top 5.

"Where To Now St. Peter" benefits from some tremendous Gus Dudgeon production. The song, which features a soldier killed in action as he faces St. Peter, revolves around an ethereal theme, so Dudgeon adds echo to John's stunning falsetto vocals and swirls them around the speakers as Caleb Quaye's guitar licks flicker like the flames of hell itself.

Tumbleweed Connection did not feature a single of any sort, but the track any Elton fan knows is the closer "Burn Down The Mission." The epitome of what Tumbleweed is all about, "Burn Down The Mission," has turned into a showstopper for John's live concerts. The song starts off simply enough, but accelerates in between the main verses in a matter of seconds, transforming the number into a rave-up rocker. The closing minutes echo that sound of "My Father's Gun" but to an extreme degree, almost reminiscent of "A Day In The Life," in terms of an orgasm of sound, but through it John's pounding of the ivories is the focus.

This is a record that should remove beyond any doubt how good Elton John was in his prime. Everything is clicking, and this at only his third album. John would not falter until Caribou, running off a brilliant streak of albums and music few have managed to match. This true explosion of quality began here, with Tumbleweed Connection.

Rating: A

User Rating: A


Comments

Amoreena is another song that was used very effectively in the film "Dog Day Afternoon", it made me run straight from the Theatre to Tower Records to pick up a copy! Nice Review ... I agree!








© 2006 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.