Elton John

Blue Moves

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By 1976, the immense creativity that had spurred Elton John to record 11 studio albums in under seven years was beginning to show signs of inevitable fatigue. Although initially Blue Moves was summarily dismissed by both critics as well as longtime enthusiasts, the double LP has since gained considerable stature within John's voluminous catalog. While comparisons were inevitable to the landmark two-disc Goodbye Yellow Brick Road song cycle from 1973, most similarities in musical style and content end there. John's band had expanded to include the talents of James Newton Howard (keyboards, orchestral arrangements), Kenny Passarelli (bass), Roger Pope (drums), as well as long-time collaborator Caleb Quaye (guitar) and Davey Johnstone (guitar) and Ray Cooper (percussion) from the "classic" early-to-mid-'70s lineup. As the title suggests, Blue Moves is a departure from the heavier Rock of the Westies (1975). Instead, the album purposefully focuses on moodier and more introspective songs, such as the single "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" (the effort's sole hit), the achingly poignant "Tonight," and "Cage the Songbird." (The latter is particularly noteworthy, recalling the life of Edith Piaf in much the same way that "Candle in the Wind" had immortalized Marilyn Monroe.) "One Horse Town," which John briefly revived as a dramatic show opener during late-'80s live performances, is one of the album's most powerful and straight-ahead rockers. The lively string arrangement by Howard stands as one of the finest contributions to his short-lived tenure in this band, which for all intents and purposes dismantled after the album was recorded. Other standouts include the full-tilt gospel vibe of "Boogie Pilgrim," featuring backing vocals from both the Cornerstone Institutional Baptist and the Southern California choirs under the direction of Rev. James Cleveland, "Crazy Water," the haunting ballad "Idol," and the set's closing R&B vamp, "Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance!)." While Blue Moves is a far cry from essential entries in the Elton John catalogue, the bright moments prove that he could still offer up higher than average material. It's also worth mentioning that this effort marked the end of John's initial collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin, who would resurface some three years later, albeit haphazardly on 21 at 33 (1979).

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