My Elton MOJO is rising...and so is this month's issue of said music magazine. From which inspiration for this item is taken from.
In one of their buried treasure style articles they dug out this overlooked but important missing links in the train of both parties who comprise the album makeup. But it's from the Elton angle we'll be approaching as the link back to the house of John is more than tenuous.
Picture the scene...you're with Elton about to go out on stage for the last show of the 7 night run in Madison Square Garden in August 1976. Only to be told by the manager of the day that he was to retire from the road and the band was to be dismantled. Not to be put in cold storage but to be fragmented permanently. Cue offshoots heading in various directions. Blue Moves splitting up in two with sitars, mandolins and cutting edge MIDI keyboards heading to the Orient so to speak and the bluesy guitars and no nonsense drumming popping up in Philadelphia. Davey, James and Roger conjured up China and produced the excellent self titled album. Roger along with Kenny and Caleb pitched up later in 1977 as Hall And Oates' touring band. It was the latter three's involvement with Daryl Hall that led to what could have been a groundbreaking album on a grand scale in a far larger scheme of affairs if it had been released at the right time but the missed boat never returned to port.
Sacred Songs was recorded in 1977 but didn't see the light of day until 1980. The reason being Hall's record bosses were uneasy of his solo enterprise distracting from the main attraction of the partnership with John Oates. The exact reason being the presence of Robert Fripp on the project. As producer, songwriter and instrumentalist. But as we'll see when it's looked at further it wasn't as great a foray into uncharted territory that might have been expected. If anything it took a nod from one of 1977's better musical message's...New Wave..and thankfully steered clear of the new low fibre diet that was being dished out at the same time...disco. Frippertronics were present and correct but not dominating. If the premise of his influence from the arty side of Prog was considered off putting then that false fear is allayed. It's wider accessibility was never realised due to the delayed release date. A shame unfortunately. Considering it was almost the last hurrah together of the three Eltonites together and in some of their cases permanently in the rock business.
Before I did this item I referred to Dale Berryhill's excellent biography written in conjunction with Caleb Quaye. In it he (Quaye) makes no secret that the Hall And Oates gig was a means to an end. One of the ends being large helpings of Satan's sugar. His belief in or buying into the musci was minute. Unlike his purchases of the Devil's sherbert dip. In saying that however any lack of desire doesn't really come across here, both himself and the other two were surprisingly more in tune with the material than I had expected. I'll briefly go through the songs that feature all three and the albums high points, paying attention in detail to the Elton alumni contributions.
The title track finds our people in familiar territory...a piano led mid tempo rocker that has familiar elements from both Rock Of The Westies and Blue Moves. Roger's concert tom fills off the latter and Caleb's rhythm riffs lifted off the former. His solo is a coarse affair, the grit of it leaves deep embedded lines. Something In 4/4 Time has a familiar Hall And Oates sound of electric piano dominating at the start with Kenny on driving bass. Babs And Babs is probably one of the more experimental tracks, a mid paced big number with the Frippertronics lurking beneath the waves hiding out until it reels itself in and swamps us with endless loops. The fade out is pure eeriness...the spooky sound reminiscent of Dr. Who a la Jon Pertwee era. You could just visualise the Brigadier ordering a soldier in a tin hat to fire a few rounds at a winged creature as this plays behind it.
NYCNY has the rhythm section (electric guitar included) in heavy handed beat mode. An unrelenting groove that forms the back beat throughout. Vocals are word heavy, drenched by distorted guitars from both Caleb and Fripp. Don't Leave Me Alone With Her is guitar led charge with Caleb seizing power on centre stage and maintaining a tight grip on power from start to finish. Fripp formates on the solo to create something almost flammable. Kenny's bass playing is surprisingly adventurous here, more than what I expected from him. Fake fade out notwithstanding either. Because one of the better habits they picked up on the road is put to good use here. The outro is like a jam from the '75-'76 live Elton era though mercifully shorter and tightness being a key element. Survive is a funky affair, a bluesy guitar solo driven home by steady, weighty drumming.
I've highlighted some outstanding parts from the three folks we're all familiar with. Caleb showed some great grooves here, his distinctive style that was to the fore on the Gibson's he used at the time is uptempo and more importantly up front. Something he himself bemoaned was lacking on Blue Moves in particular. Roger proves here again that his best work was in the studio, his heavy hand suited to the drive of the songs. Kenny showed some interesting parts but his overall contribution was functional rather than groundbreaking. Hall And Oates are a favourite of mine so listening to this album is no challenge to me. But when you've got some points of reference...Elton pointers...then it's easier to delve in.