Elton John The Captain & The Kid
CD Review by Brian McAlley / 11/2006

Track listing:
1. Postcards From Richard Nixon 2. Just Like Noah's Ark
3. Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way (NYC) 4. Tinderbox 5. And The House Fell Down
6. Blues Never Fade Away 7. The Bridge 8. I Must Have Lost It On The Wind
9. Old '67 10. The Captain & The Kid

Label: Interscope Records / Release date: September 12, 2006

As a long-time Elton John fan, I had high expectations for this album. After all, it was created as a sequel to Sir Elton's 1975 landmark project "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy," one of my personal favorites. Upon listening to "The Captain & The Kid," I was not only pleased with what I heard, but the album far exceeded my highest expectations. This is a personal triumph for both John and his long-time collaborator, Bernie Taupin, as it recaptures the sound and feel of some of their greatest accomplishments from the 1970s. The album also features drummer Nigel Olsen who was a member of the band 3 decades ago when Elton was an ever-present fixture on the charts.

Just like "Captain Fantastic," this is an autobiographical account of their relationship as friends and writing partners over the years starting with "Postcards From Richard Nixon," which recalls their initial encounter with America as budding rock stars. Taupin's pointed lyrics truly set the tone of the era: "Richard Nixon's on his knees, he sent so many overseas, he'd like to know if you and me could help him in some way." One is immediately taken back to Elton's heyday with the opening piano solo which is reminiscent of his material on "Honkey Chateau" and "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player." It's interesting to note that the lyrics are an extension of the compositions on "Captain Fantastic," but the music and studio mix are more in the style of Elton's earlier work.

The second tune, "Just Like Noah's Ark" is an infectious rocker with some fine slide guitar from Davey Johnstone and a nifty Hammond organ solo from Elton. The tune has a raunchy bar band sound that serves as the perfect backing for Taupin's tale about the raucous lifestyle of an up and coming rock star on tour. On the next tune things slow down a bit with "Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way (NYC)," Taupin's beautiful paean to New York City set to one of Elton's trademark melodies, one very similar to the hauntingly beautiful "Tiny Dancer." Taupin warmly reminisces about their early touring days and how much they always enjoyed their stay in the Big Apple: "I remember it like it was yesterday, snow in the park and skaters on the ice, long black cars standing side-by-side, loading up the boys at night."

"Tinderbox" is another beautiful piano-driven ballad that deals with the strain of John and Taupin's relationship toward the end of their chart-topping days. The familiar backing vocals of Johnstone and Olsen are ever present on this tune, which reminds one of the classic numbers from the "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" era. John's drug-addled years are the subject of the next tune, "And the House Fell Down," a mid-tempo rocker that really hits home with some of Taupin's more disturbing lyrics: "The TV's on and the colors really hurt my head, if I could think straight, I'd wish that I was dead." Taupin's reference to the house falling down reflects the frightening possibility of their success collapsing around them due to John's continued drug abuse, creating some of the most poignant moments on the album.

Next is "Blues Never Fade Away," a sentimental number that deals with the loss of some of their closest friends. There are references to John Lennon and Gianni Versace plus a special nod to AIDS victim Ryan White: "He wasn't famous but I sure did love him, I got his picture in a little frame, he lost his life to a big disease, before it even had a name." This lush ballad follows in the tradition of some of Elton's later work and is one of the most sentimental and moving compositions of his career. Following is "The Bridge," which is a gorgeous ballad featuring a stunning vocal by Elton as he accompanies himself on piano with no other instrumental backing. This tender composition is about the struggle for success as it poses the question "Do you cross the bridge or do you fade away?" It contains some of Taupin's more symbolic lyrics as it deals with the reality of life and the difficulties one encounters while striving to reach their goals.

"I Must Have Lost It On the Wind," has a very pleasant bluegrass feel reminiscent of the material on Elton's "Tumbleweed Connection" LP from 1971. The song takes a nostalgic look at their past loves and what they've learned from them, if anything: "From one you learn something and another you learn nothing, and there's one who might teach you everything." The album closes with some of Taupin's most personal lyrics, starting with "Old 67," which is the year they met and started their climb to the pinnacle of success. "Old '67 what a time it was, what a time of innocence, what a time we've lost. Raise a glass and have a laugh, have a laugh or two. Here's to old '67 and an older me and you." It's a nostalgic trip set to a relaxed r&b-tinged backing track, with some excellent guitar fills provided once again by Davey Johnstone. "The Captain & The Kid" closes out the album with a piano reprise of the original opening from "Captain Fantastic" before launching into a breezy, swaying, country rock tune that summarizes their extraordinary careers.

This is an essential Elton John album, arguably one of the best he's released in a decade or more. In fact, it turns out to be a collector's item of sorts because for the first time both John and Taupin are featured on the front cover together. I could go on and on about how much I like this album, but I feel that Elton himself expressed it best: "The album is a celebration of our lives and our lifetimes, of our music and of the music we love. The Captain & The Kid continues our story. You can't look back, we're looking ahead. I find the whole album to be so touching and beautiful for me because I've lived it. I lived it with Bernie and we've come through it. We've gone over the bridge and here we are at the other side."