Thursday, February 27, 2014

'The Drover's Story' *(Updated Oct 2015)

Before I do my latest rambling...a big thanks to everyone who has checked the blog out over the last six month's.  The whole idea of it is to give Elton's music the due care and attention it deserves. The feedback I've been getting has been terrific, thanks for that also, the blog has a knowing audience. Plenty more to come over the next while.

For this latest update I've decided to highlight again one of those tracks that sort of went under the radar over the last few years. Elton has been well known for his soundtrack work and this song is one of his best contributions he's done. When I did a post on the Friends sound track album a while back I mentioned did it matter whether you'd seen the film or not and how it affected your view of the album. I have to confess I've never seen or country...but this song's impact is no less for me.

Lyrics are by a combination of folk...Baz Luhrmann, Anton Monsted & Schuyler Weiss...with music by Elton of course. The lyrics being a briefish synopsis of the films concept. A ballad in the true sense of the word. Lurhmann, who also directed the film, being no stranger to Elton's music having used it in his earlier film Moulin Rouge. 

The song is as rustic as you get. More Honky Chateau than Tumbleweed I would say. Exquisite brush work from Nigel, a part of his style often overlooked (not here) gives it that organically produced feel. Not be outdone in that department, Davey's prickly picked banjo nails the point. Filled out by acoustic guitars. Ballad by name, ballad by nature. Elton's vocal is very strong here, the mid tempo ease of it suiting him well. The piano is strong with equal ease. Both these elements are clearly demonstrated in the version that played over the closing credits. The mid tempo beat never lets up until the bridge (with a classic Davey line on that part in the band version). The orchestral version is a shorter affair, but has a full sound that Elton's piano and voice is more than capable on their own of producing. 

I think what this song demonstrates is that...Elton who produced it by the that those around him are quite capable of stepping up and creating a sound that is in keeping with the material provided. The sound is right, the delivery is right, the end result is classic Elton alright. 

* Now since I did that piece nearly two years ago I've been privileged to see the film in it's entirety. I'll not give any spoilers needless to say it's a terrific piece of work. The twin devices of the Australian outback and the actual WWII events that took place on the same soil is a narrative cinema has rarely bridged. A long film but well worth sticking with. Even though at the start Nicole Kidman hams it up so much the slices become as thick as slabs. Thankfully she settles down and thins out her performance.

Again not giving any spoilers away and going back to what I mentioned earlier about not having seen the film and does it matter as to what impact the song has. In some cases it doesn't but having now seen the film it certainly has a deeper context. The climatic scene where Elgar's Nimrod is stitched together with a brief musical interlude from another musical act into Elton's orchestral version of the song is emotive and for the almost seamless crossover made for each other. I don't think it's any coincidence that Nimrod is one of Elton's favourite pieces of music (as mentioned on Desert Island Discs) and the climax of the film is well served by it. Elton's main melody appears sporadically throughout the film, it's motif cuts through the dust of the desert and the carnage of falling bombs with decisive sweeps. 

Like I said earlier, this song has been completely ignored and forgotten.On it's own it stands head and shoulders above most others, in the context of the film it moves beyond the idea of it merely being the soundtrack of the audience getting up and going 'walkabout'.

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