Elton John

Lady Samantha

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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer

When first issued in 1980, Lady Samantha was initially only available in the U.K. as either an eight track or cassette. For enthusiasts of Elton John's early and often edgy pop/rock, the odds and sods compilation became known as a haven for the vast majority of John's pre-Caribou (1974) non-LP sides. Although many of these tunes were initially relegated to mere B-side status, they retain the consistently high caliber inherent in early John (piano/vocals) and Bernie Taupin (lyrics) collaborations. Chronologically, this set commences with the slightly psychedelic title track. This rocker fits in with the sound of other late-'60s progressive groups such as Traffic. It likewise sonically suggests the path that John's debut long-player, Empty Sky (1969), would take. The song became a fairly substantial "turntable hit" thanks to spins by John Peel and other influential BBC hosts. That momentum continued on the follow-up 7", which contained the pensive ballad "It's Me That You Need" b/w another full-tilt acidic rave-up, "Just Like Strange Rain." The dichotomy that exists between the heartfelt introspection of "It's Me That You Need" and the alternately heavy flip side showcases the artist's seemingly effortless knack for timeless classics that range the full spectrum of pop/rock. "Bad Side of the Moon" -- the reverse to "Border Song" -- is a sci-fi rocker that would have easily fit within the context of the orchestral "Take Me to the Pilot" or "The Cage" from the Elton John (1970) long-player. The full-tilt "Rock & Roll Madonna" was mocked up in the studio with canned crowd noise to simulate a live performance. This bit of trickery was revisited several years later on the smash hit "Benny and the Jets" from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973). Speaking of which, "Grey Seal" -- included here in a slightly awkward primordial form -- would eventually be reworked into the decidedly more aggressive rendering heard on the aforementioned LP. "Into the Old Man's Shoes" takes on much of the Americana feel that is closely associated with Tumbleweed Connection (1970), and rightfully so as it was recorded during the sessions for the landmark album. Both the easygoing title track as well as the soulful rave-up "Honey Roll" were extracted from the soundtrack to the Lewis Gilbert film Friends (1971). The revisitation of "Skyline Pigeon" included here is a 1972 reworking which retains much of the pious and hymn-like feel of the original Empty Sky version. The three Goodbye Yellow Brick Road-era B-sides -- "Jack Rabbit," "Whenever You're Ready (We'll Go Steady Again," and "Screw You" -- musically allow John to hark back to his influences of country and western, '50s rockers, and bluesy R&B, respectively. "(Ho! Ho! Ho!) Who'd Be a Turkey at Christmas" is arguably the most lightweight offering on this compilation, consisting primarily of what sounds like nothing short of an inebriated singalong. These 14 cuts were also included as part of the two-disc Rare Masters (1992) box set, which contains a much more extensive examination of John's non-LP material.

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