In the world of popular music, few figures have garnered such across-the-board respect as Reginald Kenneth Dwight, better known as Elton John.
Initially beginning as a soft-rock singer/pianist, Sir Elton has found success in pop, glam rock, R&B and even country. Likewise, his influence has spread to all these genres and even further. In short, Elton John is a bonafide music icon. If you’ve listened to classic rock or oldies radio, or even watched “The Lion King,” you’ve surely experienced his work. A common problem with artists of John’s measure is that when putting out new material, the hype surrounding its release tends to leave the music itself as a disappointment. Audiences like the idea of new music from the artist, but more as a reason to see them on tour than actually buying the new album.
With all that going against it, Elton’s latest release, “Wonderful Crazy Night,” displays his wonderful consistency after six decades of recording. All 10 tracks are written by John and lyricist Bernie Taupin, with whom John has worked with most of his career. Also returning is Ray Cooper, Elton’s longtime drummer/percussionist.
Much of “Wonderful Crazy Night” has a fun, bluesy feel. Such is the case with the opening title track, with its driving piano riff and touches of gospel influence in the harmonies. The next track, “In the Name of You” is possibly the best song on the album.
Also carrying a significant amount of blues, “In the Name of You” has a similar feel to Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” and is highlighted by Taupin’s lyrics and the band’s overall tightness.
The most recent single from the album, “Blue Wonderful” is sure to strike a chord with fans of Elton’s soundtrack work. The melody is quite reminiscent of something from Disney and was an excellent choice to release as a single. A couple of tracks, “I’ve Got 2 Wings” and “Tambourine,” heavily feature acoustic guitars and sound like they could have been written by legendary folk-pop singer Cat Stevens.
“Looking Up,” another single, is a great, hard-rocking song complete with loud electric guitars and a pounding piano similar to Elton’s classic “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” On the other side of that coin, “A Good Heart” is yet another great soulful John/Taupin ballad along the lines of “Your Song” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.”
Altogether, “Wonderful Crazy Night” is far from being a classic the likes of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” but then again, most albums miss that mark. For an album so late in Elton’s career, “Wonderful Crazy Night” is amazingly strong. With its light-hearted, fun tone, the album is accurately named.
Elton John will perform at Johnson City’s Freedom Hall March 11.