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Songs from the West Coast

Songs from the West Coast

Elton John – Songs From The West Coast – CdThe appearance of “Rocket Man”-era cohorts Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone as backing vocalists touches this CD with one of the trademark sounds of Elton John’s 1969-75 LPs. John has acknowledged those records–his most typically singer-songwriterish–occasionally, if mostly to revisit audience favorites in concert (1987′s Live in Australia, a late-’90s VH1 show). But on Songs from the West Coast, his admiration of Ryan Adams and Rufus Wainwright (a guest here) inspires him to recall the stripped-down, lyric-driven sensibility of his early days. The tone of the words Bernie Taupin feeds this notorious diva is elegiac, rooted in a wearier version of the romanticism that fueled oldies as diverse as “Your Song,” “Love Lies Bleeding,” and “Burn Down the Mission.” West Coast sidesteps bombast with a couple of exceptions; only “The Wasteland,” with its invocation of Robert Johnson, is enough to provoke a dismayed “oy.” The standout track is “I Want Love,” a Lennonesque rumination that’s their most impressive writing, separately or together, in more than a decade. –Rickey Wright

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3 Responses to Songs from the West Coast

  • 35-year old wallflower says:
    38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Brilliant Return To Form, October 3, 2001
    By A Customer
    This review is from: Songs from the West Coast (Audio CD)
    Wow. Who would have thought that Elton, at this late date, still had this in him. As a long time fan, I’ve been dismayed with his 90′s (and most of his ’80′s) output, and had pretty much given up hope.
    But here’s Songs From The West Coast and suddenly, Elton sounds vital again. The album opens on a stunning note: “The Emperor’s New Clothes” starts off with a great piano intro and then Elton’s voice kicks in; the chorus finds ’70′s stalwarts Davey Johnstone and Nigel Olsen joining in on backing vocals with cymbal brushes from drummer Olsen, and you find yourself wondering what decade it is. Only the deeper register of Elton’s voice gives it away. But Elton sounds fine on this album, with his most soulful and nuanced singing in years. And Lyricist Bernie Taupin gives him plenty of quality stuff to wrap his pipes around. There are plenty of standout tracks: “Original Sin” is one of the most beautiful ballads he’s ever written. The country-ish “Birds” harkens back to the Tumbleweed days and sounds like it was recorded on somebody’s back porch. “The Wasteland” is a gospel blues that invokes delta bluesman Robert Johnson and rocks convincingly. “I Want Love”, the first single, is Lennonesque. “The Ballad Of The Boy In The Red Shoes” sounds like something from the Madman sessions. “This Train Don’t stop There Anymore”, the wistful album closer, would feel right at home on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
    Producer Patrick Leonard also does a fine job, finding a nice balance between modern recording and the backwards-looking quality of this music. The shlock of most of his ’90′s recordings is gone.
    Songs From The West Coast goes a long ways towards restoring a reputation damaged by too many Disney projects and not enough attention to his music. On Songs From The West Coast, Elton John has rediscovered himself.
    It’s about time.
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  • Anonymous says:
    23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    It may be a tired rave, but this is Elton’s best in decades!, April 13, 2004
    By 
    35-year old wallflower (Seattle, WA USA) –
    This review is from: Songs from the West Coast (Audio CD)
    After the mid-1970s, Elton John’s superstar days diminished in a litany of personal problems, addictions, and insecurities that effectively rendered his glory days over. His commercial successes still continued along virtually unabated, but after 1976′s double album BLUE MOVES, the majority of Elton’s albums were hit-and-miss affairs with some occasional glimmers of brilliance, but more than a few amounts of coasting. But at the start of the 1990s, Elton finally cleaned up his life and got back on the ball creatively for the most part. However, in the rush to re-establish his commercial dominance, the genius that had characterized his early works had been soft-pedaled. Then at the start of the new millennium, Elton & his lyricist Bernie Taupin (who Elton had worked with only sparingly throughout the ’90s) were essentially reborn thanks to 2001′s SONGS FROM THE WEST COAST.
    While to claim it as one of Elton’s all-time best would be a rush to judgement, it’s still nonetheless astounding that with SONGS, Elton finally tried his hardest to create another masterpiece like his early ’70s music, using the same intelligent songwriting that was reminiscent of TUMBLEWEED CONNECTION and CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, along with getting back behind his piano on a larger basis than before. The only thing that is different is that Elton’s voice is now deeper than it was in the early days, owing perhaps to age or the long-lasting signs of his addictions. But it’s a voice of experience nonetheless, and SONGS shows just how far Elton has come after 3 decades of celebrity.
    The first single “I Want Love” was hailed as Elton’s finest in almost 20 years, and this John Lennon-inspired ballad is certainly worthy of that honor. While the singer may want something a little akin to a one-night stand rather than truly lasting love, it still speaks to any listener who has wanted some kind of affection, no matter what. Not since the title track to 1992′s THE ONE had Elton created such an affecting ballad.
    Elton’s ballads have always been the surefire winners in his career, and those on SONGS do not disappoint. “Original Sin”, the heartfelt “Ballad Of The Boy In Red Shoes” & the anthemic closer “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore” (perhaps hinting at a final break with his decadent past) are further additions to that long list of great slow songs in Elton’s catalog. The fact that producer Patrick Leonard decided to give the album a more roots-based production (he’s Elton’s most sympathetic producer since Gus Dudgeon) makes the strengths of these tunes even more crystal clear.
    But of course, “American Triangle” is the reigning king of the album’s ballads for its emotion alone. An intensely moving tribute to the late Matthew Shepard, you can tell Elton felt a kinship with Shepard, as an openly gay man himself. While the lyrics could be misinterpreted as homophobic, this is definitely not the case, and is just simply a case of not whitewashing its subject. Hopefully, one listen to this song will turn any hateful person around.
    Because Elton’s most recent big hits have been Adult Contemporary-leaning ballads, his status as a credible rocker back in his early days is often overlooked. Yet SONGS helps put paid to the fact that Elton still can rock, and perhaps even better than before. The opening “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is the siren call that Elton the rocker has returned. “Dark Diamond” is a borderline funk experiment with the welcome help of Stevie Wonder on harmonica. The blues-based “The Wasteland” has been denounced as a sour apple, but it’s not half-bad, even if it does warrant perhaps a finer-crafted experiment on the next album.
    The other songs do indeed take a while to register, but once they do, you can’t overlook their stellarness. “Look Ma No Hands”, the countryish “Birds” (finally seeing Elton return to TUMBLEWEED CONNECTION days successfully), “Love Her Like Me” (which is a slight descension back into AC gloss) & “Mansfield” all work their ways into your subconscious eventually. Just give them time!
    At Elton John’s age (he just turned 57), a veteran like him would maybe be expected to lose the genius of their early years & just let the accolades from the product of that era keep rolling in. After constantly being accused of coasting along for the last two decades or so, re-energizing himself was probably the last thing Elton could be expected to do. But with SONGS FROM THE WEST COAST, he did that and then some. Hints of the album may point to being a certain valediction (Elton commented a year or two ago about it being his last album), but I don’t think Elton is leaving us for good. He could just be weary from all the activity of the last few years, and is in need of a rest. When he does come back, we can best be sure that another modern masterpiece like SONGS FROM THE WEST COAST is definitely in the offing.
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  • Anonymous says:
    2.0 out of 5 stars
    not a good buy, July 22, 2016
    By 
    Verified Purchase(https://www.amazon.com/gp/community-help/amazon-verified-purchase/157-0023577-4885476', ‘AmazonHelp’, ‘width=400,height=500,resizable=1,scrollbars=1,toolbar=0,status=1′);return false; “>What’s this?)
    This review is from: Songs from the West Coast (Audio CD)
    Cd skips on a few songs would not burn to my computer. Tried cleaning it and still does not burn. And still skips
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