Led by famed lyricist Bernie Taupin, this predominately English quintet returns to the rootsy American styles which inspired Elton John's silent partner as a youngster. From the light ballad "This Face," the whispery lament "Aimless Driving," the spiritual "Stars & Seeds," and the truly immigrant-inspired "Workin' in the Fields" to chunkier drivers like "Bird of Prey," "America on Trial," and the lame clunky drawl of "Nothing Gonna Kill the Kid" (a biographical Superman song along the lines of Spin Doctors' "Pocket Full of Kryptonite"), the music is consistently well-orchestrated, clean, and convincing, evoking the stereotypical American garage band and even a porch-front play-along. However, the cynical and snide lyrics often go awry. Though Taupin and his experienced musical mates (including ex-Baby drummer Tony Brock, Rod Stewart collaborators Jim Cregan and Robin LeMesurier, and Sheryl Crow bassist Tad Wadhams) try to come to grips with folky blues, love, football and other distinctly colonial customs, there appears to be more than a bit of material lost in translation. For example, while Taupin is savvy enough to know the futile state of the gridiron game in Buffalo, he considers "3rd down and 3 to go" to be a metaphor for impending doom (which, in Buffalo, it may be). It is also surprising that the man who came up with the words to "Levon" and "Candle in the Wind" (i.e., the original version) has fallen back to such borderline offensive lines as "In Ho Chi Minh City/there's a new Pizza Hut./There's American dollars/up Columbia's butt." Is this Taupin's true vision of the land which helped make him a millionaire? I would hope that he has not become selfish in his middle age. Fortunately, his authentic musical tribute to this same land (which Taupin now calls home) quickly dispel any countercultural inklings.
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AllMusic Review by Matthew Robinson