Monday, August 25, 2014

'They Came Around And Brightened Up Our Lives'

I hadn't intended to do this blog piece at this time, I have something else lined up for later in the week on a vaguely similar theme but the iron is hot and I'm hitting it hard! A discussion topic raised on Facebook about it kind of got me thinking and typing...the thing is this album is in my top 10. There isn't one element of it that can be faulted. It's an album that can never date, the subject matter is pure #throwbackeveryday. But what's even starker on that front is how the contemporary element of the album, namely some of those playing on it, have tragically become part of the same time we've lost. I'm not going to a review of it...I think it's great and it can't be faulted. I said it at the time when it came out, it sounded like the end. Which for me it was. They say a three legged chair is the most stable known to man. All the ticks appear beside the right three boxes on this one, from songwriting, production and musicianship. So stability is guaranteed. 

I don't think anyone, not even Elton or Bernie, would rank CATK in the same class bracket as CF. To achieve that high water mark again is impossible, but that's not to say they didn't come close to reaching it. If CF is a 10, then CATK is a 9.5. From all the judges on the board. Trying to reclaim or recast the past is like rewriting history. But the truth about history when laid out honestly and concisely has no greater impact of delivery.

I think the key to the album's success as a concept is the way Bernie sets up the narrative and develops it throughout. It's not often that we hear Elton singing about himself in the same context as Bernie. Certainly not on a whole album. Look at the various stopping points on the album; arrival, ascendancy, supremacy, descent, phoenix like resurgence and ultimately consolidation of their careers. Mixed with personal highs and lows for both characters. That lyrical tale is a once only deal, you'll not get that on any other Elton album. Or with such degree of honesty and insight on any other artists similar attempt. Once you have that solid base to build on, the rest was going sweep neatly up behind it with ease. If you watch the bonus DVD that came with the de-luxe version, when bonus material was exactly that, then you get to hear a further incredible insight into each and every song on the disc. So we're getting double dose of the colourful back story. The lyrical connections run throughout, this example is a fine explanation of their interconnectivity with earlier works. 

Musically the album is a delight. The melodies are incredibly original for such a late edition to the catalogue. Excepting of course the deliberate use of the CF riff to cleverly bookend the entire story. Which is instead of being cliched sounds fresh as a daisy. The lack of the uptempo input might at times be lamented, but if you include Across The River Thames as part of the package then the balance is restored. Elton's vocals are plain, simple with very little of the over stressing that can sometimes be present in later recordings. Recorded with care and clarity.

Finally, to present all of this the band is fine form. Incredibly fine form. Co producer Matt Still along with Elton strikes a fine balance. If you actually listen to it it's an incredibly stripped back affair, though it never sounds as if anything has been left out. Plenty happening but not all argiug to be heard. In other words when something appears it's there for a reason, the harmonica on I Must Have Lost In On The Wind sounds like it's being carried along by the said breeze. The edge that Davey brings is present and correct, standing with equal uprightness alongside his traditional roots input. The Bridge with the trademark Guy synth vocals blending seamlessly with the organic vocals harmonies of the band is both melancholic (for reasons that became more apparent later) and sensual. 

If you look at the sight of Bob standing with his friends and colleagues with no instruments just choral-ling and Guy playing some beautiful watery electric piano on any of the live tv appearances from around the time of it's release then some incredible emotions come into play. The album itself is nostalgic by it's very concept. Those performances of The Bridge have taken that nostalgic level up to something extraordinary. Coupled with Blues Never Fade Away, they were lamenting a past on disc in the present but very soon that present would turn into the past. Quite incredible.

I already did a piece a while back on the title track and how important it is. The importance of this album cannot be ignored, overlooked or neglected. Hopefully time will position it to it's rightful place...

Related Posts:

'Riding Off Into The Sunset'
'Ten Years A Slave To Rock And Roll...Getting More Roll Than Rock'

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