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Tumbleweed Connection (Remastered)
 
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Tumbleweed Connection (Remastered)

10 May 1995 | Format: MP3

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Format: Audio CD
'Tumbleweed Connection', issued in late 1970, is the second in the series of three highly orchestrated, dramatic albums produced by Elton John just as his career was taking off in America and before he became well known in Britain. The black 'Elton John' album established him as a major new talent, and this reputation was consolidated and developed in 'Tumbleweed', which contains several bluesey rock numbers but fewer orchestrated songs than its predecessor. However, the album contains no hit singles and thus tends to be known only by dedicated EJ aficionados.
Like the 'Madman' album which followed it, 'Tumbleweed' was very lavishly packaged originally, with numerous line drawings, and sepia photos of Elton and his co-writer Bernie Taupin and their musical associates, and most of this artwork is reproduced in this CD reissue. The album gives the impression of being loosely conceptual, with many of the songs seeming to relate to aspects of rural life in the American Civil War, although this is never explicitly stated. Throughout the album, certainly, there is a sense of nostalgia for mythical images of 19th century America, a subject which clearly interested Taupin, and the musical influence of the early albums by The Band is also evident.
Two songs in particular represent something of a stylistic departure for Elton in that the piano is not used. 'Come down in time' is a little known EJ song but one of his most sensitive ballads, with a haunting arrangement using harp, string bass and the oboe of Karl Jenkins (now well known for his 'Adiemus' orchestral composiitons) as well as the rich orchestration of Paul Buckmaster. 'Love song' is particularly unusual in that it was not written by Elton, but by English folk singer Lesley Duncan, who plays guitar and sings harmonies on the track.
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Format: Audio CD
I have always suspected that certain musicians resent being told by fans that one of their earlier albums remains a great favorite. I've always imagined that they would prefer that their fans share and appreciate their development and evolution: "this is my latest and it therefore represents my best work!" However, the album listener is not burdened by the pains of artistic growth. Rather, the music that I heard at a certain time in my life remains frozen in time and memory. For me, Tumbleweed Connection is the best album Elton John ever recorded.

It has been a long time since I actually sat down and listened to the album. But I purchased Tumbleweed Connection after someone dismissed John as merely a great showman and performer for whom the performance overshadows the music. I mentioned Tumbleweed Connection as an argument and got a blank stare. That is a shame because I had forgotten how good it was. Every song works, starting with Ballad of a Well-Known Gun through Burn Down the Mission. The only song in which John did not collaborate with Taupin, Love Song by Lesley Duncan, is a beautiful, haunting melody that remains one of my favorite John tunes.

Tumbleweed Connection was John's third album and was initially released in 1970. It also represents the height (for me) of John's collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin. Taupin was, by all accounts fascinated by life in the post-Civil War south and west. It should also be no surprise that Taupin was almost certainly influenced by The Band's album released that same year, "The Band", which contained songs such as Up on Cripple Creek and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Ironically the Band's album is ranked number 45 on the Rolling Stone list of greatest albums while Tumbleweed Connection comes in at number 463.
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Format: Audio CD
Before Elton John had really hit the big time, he was hard at work honing his stunning song-writing skills, and was allowed to explore themes in depth, and Tumbleweed Connection is a prime example of both of these factors. Bernie Taupin had a fascination with the 'West' and his lyrics inspired John to explore the theme to an extent that today seems slightly bizarre, but they get away with it for one simple reason, this album is stuffed full of brilliant songs that are 'off the beaten track' of what are considered Elton John 'standards'.
There are some real surprises in the content of this album, not least the full blooded attempts at country rock in 'Country Comfort' and 'Son Of Your Father'. There is also some of his most original and poignant tracks here too, as in the beautiful 'Come Down In Time' and 'My Father's Gun'. Simplicity is the key to another couple of tracks, including 'Love Song' which sounds more like Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' than anything else, and the slightly morose 'Talking Old Soldiers'.
But the highlights, as you might expect from such a potent song-writing force, are really something else. 'Amoreena' is a powerful, tight song with punching piano and Hammond Organ, and is sung with a passion so fierce, it blows you away. 'Where To Now St. Peter?' is as close to proper psychedelia that Elton John ever got, and has a fascinating lyric to boot. 'Burn Down The Mission' is a gospel-oriented song not far removed from 'Border Song', which has a punchy brass section finale at the end of each part of the song.
The CD also includes two extra tracks, one of which is really worth having, the original version of 'Madman Across The Water'.
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