The Captain & The Kid

Elton John

A disturbing trend has slowly been seeping into the music game: sequels. As if it hasn't spun enough out of control in the movie industry — with such franchises as "Friday The 13th" and the sixth coming of "Rocky" — now we have Operation Mindcrime I and II from Seattle rockers Queensryche and Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell III. But the biggest and brightest one of them all may well be The Captain & The Kid, Elton John’s "follow-up" to his chart-topping album from 1975, Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy. The angle played out here is the continuing saga of John and his songwriting sidekick Bernie Taupin. Although that particular subject doesn’t necessarily carry over from one tune to the next in any sort of linear fashion, the 10-song collection stands up as one of the most cohesive pieces from the Elton John camp in years.

Between Las Vegas engagements and his endless philanthropic efforts, the Rocket Man has finally gotten down to brass tacks and delivered a record reminiscent of his 70s heyday. The distinctive tinkle from the ivories that opens “Postcards From Richard Nixon” slips on like an old friend from school. John starts to rhapsodize about Richard Nixon and it’s 1970 all over again. Nixon’s promise for renewal apparently sold John/Taupin team on the idea of the American Dream before giving way to the reality and ugliness of a corrupt administration and useless war (see any parallels here?). Fortunately, any nastiness is quickly swept away by the aura of "Wouldn’t Have You Any Other Way (NYC)," a fitting salute in these troubled times.

If you’re looking for the crushing guitar blows of “Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)” or “The Bitch Is Back,” The Captain & The Kid isn't going to rock your world. Yet, it is hardly subdued or overtly mellow. The wistful “Tinderbox” tactfully encapsulates John and Taupin’s fame and fortune, summed up beautifully and succinctly with the simple line: “two sparks can set the whole thing off.” The title track, purposely borrowing the same chord progression from — what else — “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy,” is an upbeat tale chronicling, via a variety of familiar references, the trials and tribulations of the John/Taupin chemistry. The CD, co-produced by John and whiz kid Matt Still, was recorded at Center Stage, a 1,000 seat concert venue in Atlanta. This enables a certain “live” and relaxed feel that suits the singer, the band, and the material at hand. If the Captain raids his wardrobe, this could be the beginning of other sequels to come.

~ Shawn Perry

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