Like Elton John's other 1970's double LP Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, his 1976 album Blue Moves was a diverse mixed bag of many different styles of song, but the focus and mood of the album is quite different. Here there are short instrumental snippets, minor-key laments, a couple of fast rockers that seem out of place on this set, and some moments of great inspiration (as on every Elton John album), but compared to the flamboyant optimism of the early part of the decade, we hear a rather downbeat tone creeping into many of the songs on this 18-track set.
The reason for this was that creatively the team of Elton and Bernie Taupin had almost run out of gas at this point after a fabulous splurge of records from 1968-1976 and the accompanying touring commitments and inevitable distractions (fame, money, drugs, relationships etc.) that had begun to dilute the optimism and fun of their earlier ascent. Blue Moves came out at a time when Bernie was writing "down" lyrics like Tonight (about a failing marriage), Someone's Final Song (about a suicide note) and If There's A God In Heaven (What's He Waiting For) (about blameshifting). Elton was singing better than ever, had mastered the high falsetto part of his vocal range , and was in huge demand as a concert attraction, but he too was evidently feeling the strain of trying to maintain his status amid the fickle entertainment world, and he was also about to encounter the critics' backlash that inevitably occurs when the music press starts to grow tired of the current "king of the scene". By now 29 and not exactly the textbook popstar appearance-wise, he was facing a career downturn. Elton responded with one of his finest songs : Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word - a wonderful lament with a Continental feel to it. This song epitomised the Blue Moves mood, and was the album's only sizeable hit. After 4 years of routinely topping the US and UK album charts, Elton missed the top spot with this set, and subsequently retired from view for almost all of 1977 to recharge his energies.
However, a lot of the songs are really good. I really like the tune Chameleon, which features great harmony vocals, as does the lovely Cage The Songbird (a tribute to French singer Edith Piaf) and Where's The Shoorah? These feature Elton's terrific singing, which he also displays on the mellow, jazzy ballad Idol. Tonight is very good, and has an extended instrumental intro with classic strings. One Horse Town is frenetic and quite exciting, while Crazy Water is a funked-up rocker which I feel is majorly underrated, and also very exciting. The interminable Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance) is a misfire; it's funky rock, almost dance but it doesn't match up to his other great 70's rockers. There's a meandering instrumental Out Of The Blue, which doesn't really add anything to the album, and the rather inconsequential, brief instrumentals Your Starter For and Theme From A Non-Existent TV Series, which likewise could have been left out. The Wide Eyed And Laughing is an unusual Elton song that I have never been able to get into, but which shows his more artistic, non-commercial side was still in a healthy state.
Mid-paced tracks include the Western story song Shoulder Holster, the impressive Between Seventeen And Twenty (which I believe to be an autobiographical Elton & Bernie song ? from the Captain fantastic era??) and the groovy Boogie Pilgrim.
Nowadays, I don't imagine there is a huge demand for this album, but for those who enjoy quality tunecraft from the master Elton John, I would suggest you include this among your selection of his best 5 or 6 70's albums.