Elton John, well known at this stage in his career for his flamboyance, has taken a back to basics approach on his 44th album The Captain and the Kid
. With his long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin, Elton has re-approached his classic 1975 album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
(the first album ever to debut at Number 1 on the Billboard chart). That album was an autobiographical document of two starving artists getting started in the music business, and their ambitions for the future. More than 30 years later, The Captain and the Kid
tells a very different story, but it's no less personal or ambitious. Think of it as a sequel: where Captain Fantastic...
was full of youthful optimism and big dreams, The Captain and the Kid
catches up with those two characters to find that their dreams have come true in a big way, and the route that was taken to get there. It's therefore a more mature album, but not a more modern-sounding one, something that's very much to its credit. John and Taupin are a masterful songwriting duo, and they rely on the basics that brought them continued success: Elton's piano and voice at centre stage, delivering Taupin's lyrics (in fact, on "Blues Never Fade Away" and the heartfelt "The Bridge", it's nearly two minutes before any other instruments are heard). The Captain and the Kid
is a rare and remarkable feat for a musician; it showcases Elton John at the height of his fame, not attempting to recapture his youth, but reexamining his career. It's an intelligent and thoughtful album, and Elton John's finest in many years. --Ted Kord
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