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Tumbleweed Connection

January 7, 2013

Elton John

Tumbleweed Connection

1970

Tumbleweed Connection heralded Elton’s golden age with faultless Gus Dudgeon production, great singing and inspired story telling. Some of lyricist Bernie Taupin’s inspiration was Bob Dylan and The Band and Elton himself always had a penchant for Americana.  However, in translation Elton and Bernie created something arguably better than the sum of their influences.

With sweeping vertical melodies, Elton is master of his craft, a million miles away from the burgeoning Liberance image. This flamboyant persona seemed a distraction from his phenomenal talent, an irrelevance that has led many post seventies people to fail to take him seriously. But in the first half of this decade Elton had bags of kudos.

Amoreena, used to great affect for the title sequence to the 1975 Pacino film Dog Day Afternoon, is a stunning track.

The unique three and a half minutes of Where to Now St Peter, with dreamy intro, is perhaps Elton’s most accomplished recording. The Civil War backdrop and afterlife visions are more like a poem by Tennyson than a pop song.

Paul Buckmaster’s string arrangements beautifully enhance most of these pieces, most notably Burn Down the Mission and the CSNY flavoured My Father’s Gun. For all the dramatic orchestrated sing along choruses there’s understatement too. The harp accompanied minimalist Come Down in Time teases with  jazz-like top line hook before closing abruptly in mid-air in sympathy with the love lorn narrative. And Lesley Duncan’s gentle guitar on the sublime Love Song is long hot summer afternoon stuff fading into the haze of a Seurat painting.

But essentially the imagery is Americana. American moods and scenes are so well drawn and keenly realised that it’s hard to believe the album was recorded in London. But I suppose good stories are geographically interchangeable like Country Comfort, famously covered by Rod Stewart, driving us through a rustic idyll, and being a sort of American Cider with Rosie.

Tumbleweed is one of the finest album of the seventies.

© AMC

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