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Martin R. Taylor "mrtpiano" (UK)
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Made In England
Made In England
Price: £5.01

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An average album, though it's Elton's best of the 1990s!, 9 Mar. 2004
This review is from: Made In England (Audio CD)
After the releases of the celeb-packed novelty "Duets" album and his move into Disney film scores, this was Elton and Bernie's apparent attempt to get back to basics and what they're essentially great at (Some of the promotional blurb for the release of this album had the slogan "Made in England...By true craftsmen"). Certainly, on a stylistic level this album is evocative of the "Elton John" album of 1970 (his first great album)...grand classical allusions, slight R'n'B, the odd rocker, and lush simple ballads. For the sweeping orchestral arrangements, Elton enlisted the help of the man who figures largely on his eponymous album and other notable songs of the period...Paul Buckmaster.
With producer Greg Penny at the helm (who's work, such as K D Lang's "Ingenue" album, Elton had admired) this album was a brave attempt to hark back to his very early years and, as such, the songs are deliberately littered with past references.
At the time of this album's release, Bernie Taupin had been vocal about his appreciation of John Lennon's songwriting style and the influence is all too apparent in the lyrics here....Taupin's sparse writing and construction is quite quite different from any other time of his songwriting career, and so makes an interesting pointer in his oeuvre. Apart from "Made In England", all the song are one-worded titles which is very Lennonesque. It would also seem that Bernie Taupin had been checking out the solo-Beatle's "Plastic Ono Band" album were the lyrics were at their most stark, simplistic yet direct. However, thats where the resemblence ends because Elton opts for the lush chamber-music ensemble, in the style with which the record-buying public have come to expect. It would take him another six years to break the mould and make a truly great album again.
To start the album off, and a song which was also the lead-off single is "Believe"...the most direct John Lennon lyrical influence...its a song of epic proportions and boosted by Buckmaster's grandiose arrangement. Its powerful but does chug along in a linear way with its predictable Minor chord progressions. It's interesting to speculate what this song would sound like had it been handed in during the alt.country style of the "Songs from the west coast" recording sessions six years later. As the song dissolves into descending violins, we hear industrial mechanics that precede "Made In England", a rocker which sounds like "Runaway Train", "I'm Still Standing" and "I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That" all rolled into one with the type of Taupin lyric which raises a smile (he tends to write them occasionally!).
After this, the songs just coast along..."House","Man" "Please" and "Pain" sound like Elton just rattled them off in ten minutes (he probably did!) and there isn't much interesting musicianship going on. "Belfast", whilst having good wordplay and evocative images is, to be quite frank, overblown to the point of nausea.
The album picks up at the end..."Lies" is a catchy pop song with multi-layered vocal harmonies in the chorus which is reminiscent of Abba. Despite hackneyed lyrics it wins through for its joie de vivre alone. "Blessed" is a fine end, a love song to a future offspring (Bernie's?) which includes a lyrical nod to "Your Song".
"Made In England" is perhaps the best Elton John album of the 1990s. Like all his post-"Blue Moves" work, its a patchy affair with some worthwhile moments, but nestled between "The One", "Duets", "The Big Picture" and all the Disney/Musicals hokum...it stands out pretty well.


The Big Picture
The Big Picture
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.78

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A few good songs here and there, but overall uninspired., 8 Mar. 2004
This review is from: The Big Picture (Audio CD)
After the release of 1995's "Made In England", a tidy album which Elton and Bernie bravely attempted to hone in on the songwriting craft, along with a major world tour and the subsequent "Tantrums" and "Audiences with..." tv shows, came the recording sessions for what became "The Big Picture" album.
In the midst of this came the shocking news that his friend, Gianni Versace had been murdered outside his home, which had obviously resonated onto this album. A short time later, as he was about to release the lead-off single "Something About The Way You Look Tonight", Princess Diana was killed. With arrangements being made for Elton to perform at the requiem, the single was withdrawn and reassembled with the addition of "Candle In the Wind" which became the biggest selling single in UK chart history. Such events caused a significant benchmark in Elton's career and one that's still,unfortunately, almost always drawn back to, for whenever there is need for an emotional musical touchstone, Elton seems to be at the top of the list. At least he now seems to realise that this could be his albatross which he's successfully escaping from.
The album is lush, dark, yet somewhat directionless and bland. The surprising choice for the opening track, a quiet introspective piece, represents the overall mood of the album.
The rather beautiful, though slightly overcooked "Live Like Horses", minus Pavarotti, is one of the highlights of the album and contains one of the best Taupin lyrics in recent years, which, with its allusions to mortality and spiritualism, lost all its emotional impact on the operatic single release.
"If The River Can Bend" is excellent rock-gospel, with plenty of key-changes and chord progressions to keep you interested.
One other highlight is the title track...strongly evocative of the songs on "Madman Across The Water" it prefigures Elton's creative shift into Ryan Adams-style alt.country that became "Songs From The West Coast" four years later.
"Something About The Way You Look Tonight" is worthy of its single release, though its representative of the standard Elton John love song he can easily churn out.
The rest lacks sparkle and sounds complacent and uninspired. Its interesting to note that during the subsequent tour to promote the album, he hardly touched on the album at all. To top it off the cover painting by the otherwise brilliant artist Julian Schnabel is dismal. Shame.


Victim Of Love
Victim Of Love
Price: £8.36

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Elton's worst album. For hardcore fans only!, 8 Mar. 2004
This review is from: Victim Of Love (Audio CD)
Between 1977 and 1979 with the songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin undergoing a break, Elton pondered into new territory. He involved himself with sessions with Philly-sound pioneer Thom Bell as well as work with new lyricist Gary Osbourne which resulted in "The Single Man" album. A year later, probably inspired by the likes of Rod Stewart,The Bee Gees and, to some degree, The Rolling Stones (along with his nights out on the Studio 54 scene too!!) he decided to make a disco album with Pete Bellotte (colleague of Giorgio Moroder).
What was probably felt as a fun exercise on Elton's part, ended up as a travesty and in no doubt, the absolute nadir of his creative life. There are 7 songs in all....not one of the songs has Elton playing any keyboard parts at all, let alone any songwriting input. Even when disco was at its worst, its nothing compared to the horrific cliches contained on this album. At a stretch, "Victim of Love" is the only standout.
It's baffling that at the time Elton dismissed the previous Thom Bell sessions as "long and over-produced", whilst those sessions weren't a high-point in his career either, songs like "Mama Can't Buy You Love" and "Are You Ready For Love" are much better danceable catcy disco-fare than this album could ever be.
Avoid at all costs. For extreme hardcore fans and completists only.


Live In Australia
Live In Australia
Price: £7.49

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Elton's finest moments. Best live album ever???, 29 Feb. 2004
This review is from: Live In Australia (Audio CD)
With his new 13-piece band, augmented by a brass section, Elton toured the world during 1985/86 (one of the memorable highlights being his over-the-top stage costumes, the likes of which had out-matched his 70s gear!!). Following the rather abysmal and uninspired "Leather Jackets" recording sessions, Elton began a 27 concert tour of Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Rock concerts with orchestras was nothing new but a full tour of a country was something else, and few artists with the professionalism Elton has could pull it off.
Elton expressed a wish for this unique event to be recorded and televised, and on the 14th December (the last night of the tour) this album is the result. Live albums are notoriously difficult to sound good, and the logistics of combining the dynamics of a rock band and an eighty-eight piece orchestra have always been fraught with problems. With the help of Gus Dudgeon and engineer Clive Franks, experiments were made with new microphones placed in certain locations on the instruments to get the best possible sound. The album's depth, clarity and precision is a testament to the sound crew and is certainly one of the best live albums by anyone in popular music.
That year (and the following year after the tour) was probably Elton's worst time in his career in terms of his personal life. His drug addictions and marriage took its toll, and during the concerts in Australia his voice broke down which, at the time of this recording, was feared to be throat cancer and a career end.
His voice is ragged, raw and broken but determined. The courage and professionalism of the man to see these performances to the end is astonishing (5 days before, on December 9th, he even collapsed onstage!)
The songs performed are predominately from his early work, 6 of them from the "Elton John" album which is his most orchestral studio album. It was a great opportunity to revisit songs that had long been forgotten and performed..."Sixty Years On", "The Greatest Discovery" and "Have Mercy On The Criminal". "Take Me To The Pilot" and "Burn Down The Mission" are just cooking with gas! The classics are here too: "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word", "Tiny Dancer" "Your Song"...all songs which are meant to be played live with an orchestra! Not forgetting "Candle In the Wind"...a version which was released as a single in 1987.
Because the album's duration was just short of 80minutes, there's no room for the performances of "Carla/Etude" and "Saturday Nights Alright" which are released elsewhere ("To be continued" 1992 boxset, and "Live In Australia" video respectively). But this is still the great live album that was released in 1987, and now newly remastered it is even better.
For one album that is the epitome of Elton John the artist...this is it. BUY IT!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 30, 2011 6:25 PM BST


Ice On Fire
Ice On Fire
Price: £7.79

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Elton brings in brass section but still lacks the soul, 29 Feb. 2004
This review is from: Ice On Fire (Audio CD)
After the Breaking Hearts 1984 tour, Elton announced, yet again, that he would not tour for some considerable time. However, the following year brought Live Aid, and a 30minute set with a new band bolstered by a brass section. This line-up is showcased here on "Ice on fire" released later that year. It's clear that Elton wanted a change in musical direction...the last two albums "Too low for zero" and "Breaking hearts" reunited his original 70s band (Davey,Dee and Nigel) with producer Chris Thomas at the helm. Here, only guitarist Davey stays on with the addition of top 80s session musicians such as Charlie Morgan, Fred Mandel, Pino Palladino and Dave Mattacks. Gus Dudgeon, arguably Elton's most successful producer returns after almost a 10 year gap.
Unfortunately, apart from a few exceptions, the songs are lacklustre despite good studio production and musicianship. The sound is brighter and snappier, owing much to the "onward international horns" and the aforementioned ace musos, but Elton's attempts to get into a more 80s soul/funk feel doesn't succeed. Even George Michael (then, at the top of his game) fails to improve matters.
The album kicks off with "This Town" (a song Elton performed on Channel4's "The Tube" to promote the album),is all slapbass and brass stabs with Sister Sledge backing vocals...it's catchy enough to deserve its place. "Cry to Heaven" is one of those classic Elton moments...a plaintive A-minor piano piece, good vocals, awash with string padding. Elton was convinced it would be a hit, and duly filmed a promo video for it dressed as a clown! Alas, it barely scraped the top 40, which was a shame because it's one of his best songs of the 80s and certainly the standout track here. "Soul Glove", "Candy By The Pound", "Tell Me What The Papers Say" and "Satellite" are pretty much standard album filler...some of which are good for a few listens but ultimately forgettable. The only other standout is the lyrically-dated "Nikita" and that's saying something!
Mystifyingly, this re-released cd omits "Act of War" and in its place includes three pointless live songs from the Breaking Hearts tour. However, one welcome addition is the Song For Guy-type instrumental "The Man Who Never Died" which was the B-side to "Nikita"....written in the aftermath of John Lennon's death (hence the vocal "Imagine he's the man who never died" coda) it's a pleasant piano piece which some fans may enjoy.
For the newly initiated Elton fan, there are some interesting moments here but its not one of his best 80s albums and nor is it his worst. Mediocre really.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 8, 2012 8:16 PM BST


Jump Up!
Jump Up!
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £6.97

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Elton's third album of the 1980s. Time for major rethink!, 28 Oct. 2003
This review is from: Jump Up! (Audio CD)
By the end of 1981 through to February 1982, Elton was recording at the Air Studios in Montserrat with producer Chris Thomas with what became the "Jump Up" album. By April '82 the record was on the shelves. Very much cut from the same cloth of his two previous albums ("21 at 33" and "The Fox") he continued to collaborate with various lyricists, the songwriting had the emphasis on quantity rather than quality, and the album's artwork still was rather uninspiring. However, one of the strengths of Elton John's oeuvre, that even at his worst he was still very much capable of some worthwhile moments on record.
Whilst not the worst Elton John album (that accolade must surely go to the derisory "Victim of Love") "Jump Up" is representative of Elton's creative nadir he was experiencing in the early 80's.
The problem lay in the fact that since 1979 Elton had acquired lyrics from various sources, all whom had different world-views, and stylistically were ,in many respects, poles apart. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but Elton's melodic approach didn't focus on any cohesion. This was hinted at on the last two albums but with "Jump Up" it as all too apparent.
Still, like all Elton's albums...there were fine moments: "Empty Garden" a tribute to John Lennon was, along with "All Quiet On The Western Front", one of Taupin's best lyrics since the 70s peak and a major return to form. "Princess" and "Blue Eyes" were melodies of Elton's that complemented well to Osbourne's lyrical simplicity. The early pairing of musical wordsmith Tim Rice with Elton for "Legal Boys" was decent enough and even the poppy Motown tribute "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?" earned it's place. Now, even with these good songs, they just sat very uneasily with each other.
The rest was just not good enough. "I am your robot" is possibly the worst John/Taupin song in their catalogue, and the dreary "Dear John" and "Spiteful Child" just plod along.
One astonishing fact is that Elton gave up some fairy good songs in the "Jump Up" sessions to B-sides ("Take Me Down To The Ocean" "Hey Papa Legba" "The Retreat") all should have been on the original album in my opinion.
This album is for completists only. It isn't the worst but the significant thing one can say with this album is that, by its release, it finally brought Elton and Bernie together to make a fully realised and more collaborative effort since Captain Fantastic which was "Too Low For Zero".
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 8, 2008 6:59 AM GMT


Breaking Hearts
Breaking Hearts
Price: £7.78

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars below par album. face saved by beautiful title track!, 28 Oct. 2003
This review is from: Breaking Hearts (Audio CD)
With the commercial success of the previous year's "Too Low For Zero" which spawned a return to form, a return to his classic band, and a return to the sole lyricism of Bernie Taupin, Elton went back with producer Chris Thomas to Air studios in Montserrat and cut "Breaking Hearts"....effectively "Too Low For Zero: Part 2"!! The two popular songs here, "Sad Songs" and "Passengers" reached the UK Top10 during the hot summer of '84 whilst Elton was performing successful shows at Wembley.
Whilst containing some fairly ok songs, the overall feel of this album lacked the cool detachment and cohesiveness of its predecessor. The impression here is Elton treading water, being fairly complacent and concentrating on quantity rather than quality. That said, it is by far a much better effort than "Jump Up" and "21 at 33".
The jewel here is the title track, a dark brooding early 50s style ballad with an instant memorable melody, it benefits greatly by the fact that its just piano and vocal (no overblown orchestration here thankfully!) with The Platters-type harmonies of Davey, Dee and Nigel which harks back to the Yellow Brick Road era. This song has long been forgotten and deserves its place on any compilation or love song collection. That it should lead into the silly "Li'L'Frigerator" is a major fall from grace. There are other interesting moments: "In Neon" is a pleasant countryish song with lyrics, perhaps a paen to the trappings of fame -or the lack of it- in the shimmering city of Hollywood:
"Lipstick and Lashes, the traces of stardom
Lit up on a billboard so everyone see's them in neon"
"Slow Down Georgie" describes the situation of a friend who's in love with the wrong kind. Its let down by some hackneyed lyrics but is saved by a certain joie de vivre. The same applies to "Who Wears These Shoes", another pastiche of 50s pop which, at the time, was undergoing a musical resurgance.
So that's pretty much it. An below average Elton John album of the calibre he was releasing in the 1980s. The remastered sound has improved, but again sadly, no bonus songs to encourage any further interest.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2013 6:47 PM GMT


Nixon [DVD] [1996]
Nixon [DVD] [1996]
Dvd ~ Anthony Hopkins
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £14.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oliver Stone's Finest Film. Hopkin's Greatest Role., 27 Oct. 2003
This review is from: Nixon [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
This is Oliver Stone's epic "Nixon", perhaps his finest film to date. It's certainly one of Anthony Hopkins greatest roles he has ever undertaken as the tragic disgraced 37th US President. The overall presentation of this film which marks Nixon's rise and fall along with the usual milestones (childhood, early political life, the wilderness years etc) is stylistically akin to Stone's "JFK": deft camera work, rapid edits, use of different types of film, whilst the story and its characters zigzag back and forth. Befitting the subject, it's complex yet utterly compelling.
Its a lot to take in at first, and it does help if you have some knowledge of Nixon's life before and during his presidency (i recommend the Nixon screenplay book which includes essays and the full unedited script with footnotes), but with repeated viewing it all comes together. If Shakespeare were alive today I'm sure he would have found the figure of Nixon, the architect of his own downfall,hard to resist. The story is the King Lear or Othello of the modern age, and Stone's cinematic patchwork along with Hopkin's astonishing delivery in the role (though robbed of the best actor oscar award). The final scene depicting Nixon's farewell speech to his staff is an acting masterclass,full of pathos, brilliantly poised and executed, it could well be Hopkin's finest moment. Its hard to even imagine how Jack Nicholson would have fared! (He was reputedly in second place for the role)
The White House interior sets are breathtaking, the use of historical archive footage fits well, the legendary John Williams is on top form with a brilliant score, and a superb supporting cast just add to the spectacle. This is one of the best drama films of the 90's.
My only negative criticism would be the DVD itself. The US release is far superior, as its a 2 disc set and includes numerous deleted scenes which are featured in screenplay book, and were also put into the actual theatrical trailer. All that is in this DVD is a five minute featurette. It really deserves better. Hope rests with the arrival of a possible DVD Stone boxset Volume 2 over here.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2011 12:00 AM GMT


The Complete Guide to the Music of "Fleetwood Mac"
The Complete Guide to the Music of "Fleetwood Mac"
by Rikky Rooksby
Edition: Paperback

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing addition to a great book series., 19 April 2003
The great Fleetwood Mac deserve a guidebook on their music, after all, having released numerous studio and live albums, not forgetting the countless compilation sets, its time someone put it all in context, and give some insight into their songs and how they were made amidst all the various band member changes. This guide is part of series by Omnibus Press, which gives a song-by-song critique on each album. There have been fine moments in this series...Brian Sweet's "Steely Dan", Johnny Rogan's "Neil Young" and the excellent "Leonard Cohen" by Maurice Ratcliffe, unfortunately, this Mac guide by Rikky Rooksby doesn't reach the same standards.
Sure, the writer is obviously a keen FM fan, giving fair equal editorial space right from their debut album, through the "wilderness years" circa 1970-1975 and onto the much celebrated "rumours" era of Buckingham-Nicks. Each song gets the right amount of detail on its melody, lyrics, origins and performance. However, what irritates here is Rikky's frequent silly remarks, sometimes sarcastic.
On Stevie's "Straight Back" song found on the album "Mirage", Rikky writes thus:
"..Nicks breaks rule 5 in the book of 'how to write a great song': never write lyrics about writing a song because this almost always means the song will turn out fit only to be served on plate at Thanksgiving" (Er...i take it that you mean that the song is a turkey! A word that should NEVER be used in decent proper journalism!!!?) Rikky continues: "..scientists are still trying to find out why this should be so" (Although the writer acknowledges Elton John's "Your Song" as a song about songwriting as 'the only honourable exception'...may i advise Cohen's "Tower of Song") Anyway, ending this particular song critique, Rikky describes "Straight Back" as:
"...it's more woolly than a siberian mammoth...It may reduce your heating bills in the winter." (SORRY??!)
I must emphasise the point that i do have a sense of humour, and in person i might appreciate Rikky Rooksby remarks and slight wit, however, in print it comes across ridiculous, crass and not in the least bit ironic.
To write that Lindsey Buckingham was "..hellbent on not allowing 'Tusk' to become 'Rumours Part 2: The Accountants Strike Back'...", however true the experience, is not the sort of thing i like to read with any serious thought-provoking intent.
I can appreciate remarks like that if the writer was being consistent. But, Rikky goes from being mildy interesting to overtly clever and then being sneering and patronising, such as the writer informing us of another rule in songwriting which can be found in regards to the song 'Blue Letter': "...rule number 34 of great pop: no noodling!"
In essence, this book is average, it has its moments but is let down by a total lack of any redeeming academic quality which, on the discussion of songwriting and song production should aspire to the heights of "The Beatles Revolution In the Head" by Ian MacDonald. In this case, it could have been better.
Rule 57 on being a writer: Don't let it be a turkey.
'nuff said.


Duets
Duets
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £4.81

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cohen and Elton? Yes please!!!, 1 Sept. 2001
This review is from: Duets (Audio CD)
This album is perhaps one of Elton's lowest moments. An exercise in "what can i do now? Oh i know, i'll gather some of my showbiz chums and make a xmas-selling duets album just like ol Frank Sinatra!" Er...elton, no thanks! There are some good moments here though. "Teardrops" (Kd Lang hardly appears much sadly) and "If you were me". But...the best moment of all, and worth every penny, is the Cohen-duet "born to lose". Broken, sincere, cynical, with the killer ad-lib from Cohen's deadpan voice "and now Elton, i'm over you".The collaboration is perhaps Elton's more inspired choices of co-singers in his career. For those who don't know who Leonard Cohen is, and shame on you, he is a pioneer in singersongwriting and poetry, of whom both Elton and Bernie are big fans. The "elton john" album from 1970 was mostly inspired by Cohen's work. For me, this album is only worth buying for this song alone.Wonderfully arranged, and well-delivered.A true gem.If its not to your taste then you either can't grasp the pathos or you're into the humdrum mediocrity of the sort of vocalists that "music fan from sheffield" (reveiwed here) likes to listen to. Not that Elton hasn't been mediocre...at times he's been wholly wretched. But this song just shows that he can pull off a sublime, inspired duet.


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