Monday, December 9, 2013

'Too Hot For The Band?'

This post is an unintended one. I was going to mention the Grammy nomination...or lack of...for the last album, but I couldn't think of very much to say. It didn't get any nods and the sun still came up. But what prompted me to do this was my friend on Facebook, Karen Rooney, throwing out a question on her Fans Of The Elton John Band group page. A query on what next for Elton in the studio. The live aspect is in good hands, the best in the world fact. So I'm going to combine both topics, pick and mix so to speak. I tried to bite my lip...or my fingers so I couldn't type...but I failed! I've no desire to revisit TDB, like a Shooting Star it rose very quickly and burned out just as soon with even quicker velocity. There's plenty of people around who can speak on it's behalf. I don't want to be accused of being a detractor...or a detrailer. A quick word first on the Grammy nominations and this will lead into answering Karen's question.

I have no idea of any of the other nominated albums nor any insight to how the final shortlist is determined. All I can speak about is from the perspective of looking at things from this angle. The thing is, and I could have told anyone this months ago, there's a feeling of too much product out there with that producers name on it recently. People are fatigued of him in some ways, he's had so many albums out over the last ten years with his name on it that it's a case of over exposure at this stage. On one hand having his name on it and rave reviews from Rolling Stone may have been enough a couple of years ago, but it may actually have worked against Elton in some ways now for this holy grail of a Grammy. The fact he didn't get any nomination in any category tells me that. The producer has a huge following in the US, his name alone on an album gets his people out in droves. Didn't happen this time. Has the hipness hopped away from him? Time will tell. Or the fact that the album just isn't as good as the hype would lead you you believe. But again, I'll leave that to weightier minds than mine to elaborate on why that would not be. 

What I want to drive home too is the complete and utter pointlessness of these gongs. If you like TDB, the fact that it was nominated or not in some or none of the categories won't diminish your feeling for it. The classic era albums never won a Grammy for best album for example. What won them in those years? Haven't a clue...don't know, don't care. GYBR has it's 40th this year. You can't buy that longevity. Or be awarded it. You can't pin it on a chart and hope to find the answer...anyway, what's is one worth worth now? About as much as a Rolling Stone review. They hammered most of Elton's albums over the years. So they have as much credence as a Grammy nomination. They both have views like the weather...changeable. They're either right some of the time about some of the albums or right all of the time on all of the albums. Pick and mix again. I love the film North By Northwest. When I sit down to watch it I don't suddenly go into a tailspin of rage because Cary Grant never won an Oscar. In fact he only ever had two nominations if memory serves. I watch John Wayne in True Grit. His best performance? A great film, but not his best performance. A dozen years earlier in The Searchers maybe, most certainly just over half a decade later in The Shootist. The point being having or not having those shiny bits on the credits don't lessen the films or albums impact on you. Getting them for the sake of it because you were overlooked in the past is a further nail in it's crediblity box. . 

The question whether the band should be on the next album is a yes. Anyone who knows me and has read this blog is fully aware of my stance. I'm not going to into every reason why, needless to say they outweigh the why not's by a landslide. Check out earlier posts for greater details. What Elton does need...and this is the most glaringly obvious part of the a producer. Not a facilitator. In other words, someone who just provides a studio and some session musicians and lets Elton do whatever he wants and just accepts it. No questions, no challenging, no input. Somebody like a Gus Dudgeon or a Chris Thomas, someone who would not be afraid to stand up to Elton and tell him if a song isn't good enough, to go and rewrite it or rework it. An editor who can sort out the wheat from the chaff. Someone who thinks outside the box and can work with unfamiliar musicians...the band...and try get something from them that nobody else can. Rather than just getting his own people in and everyone saying yes sir, three bags full sir. More no's than yes's are required. Popping in for a few days and writing songs then recording them may have worked years ago, but maybe more time is needed now. Determining a style and hoping that will carry the day is stretching the concept. Made In England had a tonne of work, time wise, put into it. Elton went through a raft of ideas before he got what he wanted. Helped by Greg Penny. Another person who knew what the DNA of an Elton album was in the past and how to recreate it in the now as it was back then. 

But if the desire is to steer clear of anything even remotely touching the classic sound, then so be it. What will result from that avenue is more of the same. But I go back to the DNA reference. If you interfere in the basic DNA of what an Elton album is, then the life form that results from it will be of an undetermined species. The producer has no concept of the feeling there is the Elton world for the band. Never mind the fact his ignoring of them up to this point is tantamount to cutting off noses to spite faces. Why any producer would not want access to their collective input and thinks what he has to offer supersedes all that knowledge, feel and insight certainly sets new standards in arrogance and ignorance. If it were an Olympic sport, he'd be dope tested for setting so many records. Dope in all senses of the word...

Elton should know that as well as we do. But what I am certain is now, if there were even a microgram of doubt it's been evaporated to oblivion. He is damn sure in no doubt what the reaction has been on the ground. A future blog post rounding up this years tour will put meat on that bone. My prediction? The next album, if of course there is one, will feature the band. Whoever produces it will have that mandate thrust upon him or her. If the ghosts of the past are too much for the current producer to try and either replicate, imitate or recreate, then hand the baton over to someone who wouldn't have any such hangups. Accept the challenge. Produce an 'Elton' album, not one of your own and by doing so try and shape Elton into fitting predetermined holes.

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