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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 5 March 2002
Wow! If only Elton could make music like this today.
'Rock of the Westies' was the last in a string of No1 albums stretching back to 'Don't Shoot me..'.This has been overlooked for being too up-tempo and critics claim it was rushed to allow Elton to start work on his own Rocket label.
Anyone who is searching back catalouges for classic Elton John work needs to take a close look at this one. As hard rock as Elton ever became, this album contains only one true ballad, the excellent 'I feel like a bullet in the gun of Robert Ford'.The rest a raw mix of dirty guitar, piano and drum kicking off with a medly of unfinished products that became 'Yell Help/Wednesday Night/Ugly'.'Island Girl' became a US No1, while 'Grow Some Funk of your own' is outrageous.
Elton fans like me will always be wishing for a return to the 70's. It's hard to imagine that this is the same artist that released such indifferent work in the 80's and 90's.
Turn up the volume, smile, and enjoy.
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on 19 June 2000
The Rolling Stone record guide (1979 edition) described 'Rock of the Westies' as 'one of the great hard rock records of the seventies', and they weren't wrong. I had the good fortune to be alerted to the existence of this forgotten gem by a schoolfriend of mine who said it was a duffer, which is the exact opposite of the truth. For those used to Elton John as a purveyor of saccharine ballads with the odd blues inflection a la 'Tiny Dancer', I've got news for you - with the exception of 'I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford)', every track on this album is at least a mid-tempo rocker, and sometimes much faster than that. The opening medly of 'Yell Help - Wednesday Night - Ugly' brings 3 unfinished songs together in a glorious club sandwich. James Newton Howard's ludicrous clavinet riffing after the false ending should have been enough to send Elton into permanent health farm residency. Instead he plunges on into 'Dan Dare (Pilot of the Future)', where Davey Johnstone shows Peter Frampton how talkbox *should* be played. 'Island Girl' is up next, a lightweight hit single with some memorable lines and general pina colada feel. 'Grow Some Funk of Your Own' is the standard Taupin American continental tale of bar-room brawling crossed with the then current Spanish holiday horror story transplanted to Mexico. Percussionist Ray Cooper has a field day on the run-out. 'I Feel Like a Bullet' closes Side One, perhaps the best John ballad of all time, with great vocal range and the all time classic line 'I tried not to look as I walked to my wagon'. Then it's into the hard rock of 'Street Kids', where Taupin's been 'bottled and brained.... squealers can't be trusted'. 'Hard Luck Story' is another great blues-vocal performance, a cover of a song written by the curiously named Ann Orson and Carte Blanche (put the names together and you'll see what's going on...) 'Feed Me' is 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight' as it would have been written for Barry Manilow, whilst the spirit of Bo Diddley pops up for the closer 'Billy Bones and the White Bird', where we're instructed to 'check it out'. I did, and it wasn't found wanting. Why on earth Elton doesn't remake this album with the best modern musicians he could find rather than persevering with his present doggerel I have no idea.
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Elton employed a new and larger band for this album, retaining some but not all of his previous band members. The resultant music sounds very different from anything that he recorded previously and while I haven't heard all of Elton's later music, I've heard a lot of it and it doesn't sound like anything I've heard from him.

Other re-masters of Elton's albums have as many as four bonus tracks. Here there is only one, but it's a classic. Don't go breaking my heart, recorded as a duet with Kiki Dee, became Elton's first British number one hit and at one time, it seemed that it would be his only such record. In fact, he eventually had four more. The hugely talented but seriously under-rated Kiki Dee never came close to number one as a solo singer, but another duet with Elton, this time a cover of True love (the Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly classic) made number two in Britain during the early nineties.

As far as the main album here is concerned, the major single here was Island girl, which was a number one hit in America but didn't come close in Britain, where it peaked outside the top ten. Unfortunately for Elton, the follow-up single (Grow some funk of your own) was a more modest hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The other side of that single (originally promoted in America as a double A-side) was the song about the shooting of Jesse James (I feel like a bullet in the gun of Robert Ford). Trust Bernie Taupin, with his reputation for strange lyrics as well as his enthusiasm for the old American west, to come up with a song like this.

This album is not one of Elton's masterpieces, although it is strengthened by the addition of Don't go breaking my heart. Nevertheless, I find it to be quite an interesting album, precisely because it offers such a contrast with all the other Elton John albums that I own.
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on 21 July 2012
Although this is not one of Elt's strongest albums, the material is still great, Island Girl, Get Some Funk and The Ballad... being the stand out tracks. The whole album has been very well remastered and the audio is top notch when played on audiophile equiptment. For me the disapointment was the bonus track, Don't Go Breaking my Heart. Apart from personally hating the track it bears no relation to the rest of the CD apart from being recorded originally around the same time. If you hunt out the US Import version of this CD you get 2 Out takes / B sides for your money which in hindsite would have been better. However I got this CD very cheap to complete my Elt collection. 4/5 and I would have give it 5/5 if it wasnt for DGBMH as the bonus.
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on 3 October 2012
I'd genuinely love to love this album, but i can't bring myself to. I've recently fallen in love with the mans music and his incredible work ethic. I'm almost overwhelmed with the quality of many of the Albums and can't believe i've spent 40 odd years being unaware of them. This is however, fails to connect with me.

It's competent, well played but ultimately charmless. I'm sure everyone knows the story of EJ completing Captain Fantastic and then ditching the classic line-up of the Elton John Band unceremoniously. Listening back to the Here and There concert recordings it is apparent that Nigel Olsson does play too fast on some numbers live, which is great for adrenaline but a nightmare if you're trying to fit all those words in as a singer. So in a way I understand why Elton wanted to change.

The problem with Rock of the Westies is it closely follows Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy which for me is the high water mark of Elton's Career. Sadly missing are Dee Murray's percolating bass lines, Nigel Olsson's light and loose drumming and the trademark backing vocals of Dee, Nigel and Davey Johnstone. In it's place is a bloated over-blown backing band where everybody is competing for attention, with the exception of the plodding rhythm section. In places if feels like Elton has done his parts and just left the band to handle all the overdubs unsupervised. This apparently was the standard EJ approach in those days but in the past he'd left his material in a safe set of hands, now it's a free for all. Ray Cooper is all over this recording adding Vibraphone, marimba, congas, tambourine and numerous other noises everywhere he can squeeze it in, cluttering up the sound in a display of ego driven show boating and lacking any sense of good taste.

The songs in the main are just not good enough, the one single from the Album is Island girl and even this sounds forced, take note of the clumsy join of chorus back to verse the second time around, a long pause having to suffice in the first. The majority of tracks sound like jams, I appreciate this was the rockiest of Elton's line up's but it also reminds me of Elvis's huge backing band. They only manage to really compliment the songs on the slower tracks, "Robert Ford" is a good example of when it works.

Perhaps it was an experiment, perhaps its the beginning of the end, or perhaps this just follows the pattern of good album bad album that started with Honky Chateau (good), Don't Shoot me (bad), Goodbye yellow Brick Road (good, Caribou (bad) etc. Blue Moves was to follow and this showed an improvement.

I've tried, but i just can't like it, i'm sorry Elton
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 October 2006
This is considered the worst album from Elton's classic years but....

Actually its an album that frequently rocks in way that most Elton albums don't. You can definitely hear an early 70's Stones influence on some of these tracks. Having said that my favourite tracks are the wonderful ballad "I Feel Like Bullet (in the gun of Robert Ford)" and the rocking "Hard Luck Story".

Eltons regular drummer and bass player (Nigel & Dee) had been dropped for this album and to some extent this accounts for the different feel to the album. I think this is also the first album where Ray Cooper played as regular member of the band. His distinctive touches are felt throughout the album, noteably his Conga and Vibes playing.

So perhaps not the best album of Eltons classic era, but its still a fine album.
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on 31 March 2006
I bought this album in a bargain bucket part of a music shop. A great classic album lying underneath a pile of pop flops. I got this album for 30p! Sadly though its only on tape. I didn't expect it to be too good, because it was so cheap, but after 3 or 4 listens I have grown to love it. This album has more of a rocky side to elton(although you can tell that by the title). The first two songs soud quite funky. "Yell help" is fantastic, and I can't help turning it up really loud. The first few songs are so catchy, and I love them more and more each time I hear them. "Dan dare" might be my favourite one on it, I can't help shaking my head about to it. The first 3 or 4 songs are rocky and fast, but then "bullet in the gun" slows down the pace. This is one of Elton's beauitiful slow songs. I listened closely to the words of it too. He is such a great songwriter. I haven't got that many EJ albums, but even if I got another 10, i'm sure this one would stay one of my favourites. its brill.
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on 1 September 2011
More soulful and funky than such EJ classics like Madman, Tumbleweed etc, but definately worth investigating. Released in 1975, the best known song being the hit Island Girl, but check out Grow Some Funk Of Your Own and the opening medley Yell Help / Wednesday Night / Ugly. His mega number one hit Don't Go Breaking My Heart, with the lovely Kiki Dee and not on the original album, is a welcome addition.
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on 12 March 2014
I bought GYBR when it was released on vinyl all those years ago and replaced it with a cd more than a decade ago. I still think it's the best collection of songs I've heard on one original album -- but, apart from a compilation, I didn't own any other EJ albums until very recently as I started to put this right.
IMHO there's only one dud track on RoTW which is 'Dan Dare Pilot of The Future' -- the rest are mostly good up-tempo rockers with a couple of 'Philly sound' soul-influenced pieces and one outright ballad (the excellent 'I Feel Like a Bullet In The Gun of Robert Ford'). The most recognisable songs in the UK are the calypso-style single 'Island Girl' and the bonus track duet with Kiki Dee 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart'. This may not be one of his very best, but it is still a very good album and I recommend it.
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on 8 June 2013
Elton's first album since the departure of Dee Murray & Nigel Olsen sees him reunited with some of the players from his earliest albums. He also goes in a more rockier direction with 'Street Kids' my personal highlight with it's thumping piano runs. While not in the same street as his previous six or seven albums,Rock of the Westies is well worth a listen & along with Blue Moves rate among the better efforts of the next phase in Elton's stellar career.
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