Tell me what the papers say...


MOJO  : ****

"ELTON JOHN can, so it seems, do anything he likes. A national treasure, at almost 60 he's the nearest the rock world has to a Grade One Listed Building. After 35 years at the top, he simply cannot be touched. He can be amusingly candid about fellow pop stars without fear of censure, he can
swear on daytime television with equal impunity, he can tell of his disappointment over Live 8, and he can voice the nation's dissatisfaction with their football team with the authority of an absolute monarch.

Songs From The West Coast, Elton's dramatic return to form in 2001, saw him strip back the clunk and clatter of his '80s and '90s productions to reveal the basic sonic core of the Elton sound - piano, vocal. The strategy was continued through the less impressive Peachtree Road, and finds its natural conclusion on The Captain And The Kid, his 29th studio album of original material (the press release boasts 44, but who's counting?).

Here, Elton is in supremely confident mood, while at the sametime very unprotected indeed. In fact, there seems to be very little production on the record at all. Yet it is this, the album's major flaw, that is likely to be praised in some quarters as its greatest strength. But this isn't, as some
might claim, a return to the classic sound of the '70s. Elton's songs have often been written in frantic spells before but, in the '70s, the sweeteners and detail of the production always gave depth to the music. Today, there's a curious demo-like quality to the sound.

This caveat aside, what more than saves the day here is a better-than-good melodic performance from Elton, and an outstanding set of lyrics by Bernie Taupin. The Captain And The Kid has the sort of narrative weight seldom found elsewhere today. The concept - namely that of a sequel to 1975's "Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy" - was suggested by Elton's current manager, Merck Mercuriadis. "Captain Fantastic" contained a formidable set of Elton melodies married seamlessly to lyrics which saw Taupin critique the emergent music scene of the late '60s, a time when the would-be star and the teenage lyricist broke free of the constraints of hip London with their 'tra-la-las and la-de-das'. The sequel attempts, perhaps over-ambitiously in just 10 songs, to bring the story up to date, from the
original's point of closure (roughly around the time of Elton's first album in 1969, "Empty Sky") to the present day, a present in which Taupin has become the Brown Dirt Cowboy, raising and training cutting horses on his estate in California, while Elton is nothing if not Captain Fantastic. If the original album was in part about prophecy, the sequel is a mature, and at times deeply moving, analysis of what went right and what went wrong.

The Captain And The Kid opens jauntily with Elton and Bernie's arrival in America. Postcards From Richard Nixon's honky-tonk piano run is a signature moment, Taupin's lyrics depicting the wide-eyed wonderment of their first
engagement with the American Dream during the crisis of Vietnam and Watergate. The love affair with all things American continues in the soaring ballad Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way (NYC). But it's the fourth track, Tinderbox, which is the real gem: a lyric which details the huge pressures
the partnership encountered at the very height of their international fame set to one of Elton's best ever melodies. Tinderbox is proof that, perhaps alone among his contemporaries, Elton still has the ability to write a
brilliant four-minute pop song.

Taupin is on top form throughout, smoothly weaving two or three major themes into one song, as the story of success and hedonistic excess gives way to middle age and poignant reflection on the rock business. Blues Never Fades
Away is a moving song about AIDS victims while The Bridge, lyrically the pivotal song on the album, seems to comment on the tasks faced by all music stars as they move from youthful iconicity to maturity. There's humour too:
Elton's dog, Arthur, makes a guest appearance on the bluesy rock of Just Like Noah's Ark, while I Must Have Lost It On The Wind looks back wryly on relationships (and plenty of them) which obviously came part and parcel with international fame."





The Bridge
ELTON JOHNProducer(s): Elton John, Matt Still
Genre: POP
Label: Rocket/Mercury

Breathtakingly simple and heartfelt, "The Bridge" is Elton John's most affecting single in years. The first release from upcoming "The Captain and the Kid" (a concept album that bookends 1975's "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy") is just John and piano with a touch of haunting vocal echo and a well-placed background layer. The lyric addresses human crossroads where tough choices are made: "Every one of us has to face the day/Do you cross the bridge or do you fade away?" John has certainly never lost relevancy with adults, but there is a sense of renewal and purpose here that is striking. One listen is enough to bring tears to sentimental eyes. So many years, so many songs, and this beloved artist still makes it matter. Splendid. —Chuck Taylor





* * * *

The Captain and the Kid is the third album in a career-resurrecting run that began in 2001, when Elton John took the novel approach of sitting down at a piano and writing songs that sound a lot like Elton John. The album is a sequel to 1975's chart-topping Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, and it has moments that rival the original: The songs are precision instruments, from the honky-tonk pop of "Just Like Noah's Ark" to pristine ballads like the title track. With lyricist Bernie Taupin in tow, The Kid traces thirty-odd years' worth of ups and downs that befall the duo. The story line gets a little murky and the album cheeses out on songs like "The Bridge." But more than just a gift to fans, it shows Elton's gifts haven't deserted him. And that's more than good enough.






THE MIRROR     - Rate  : * * * * *

By Gavin Martin
ELTON JOHN - The Captain And The Kid -

Elton John and songwriter partner Bernie Taupin have just made one of the greatest albums of their 39-year association, and only a Madman Across The Water could deny it. An autobiographical sequel to their Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy multi-million seller from 1975, The Captain And The Kid is a deeper, funnier, warmer and wiser album than its prequel.

Musicals, animated soundtracks, Las Vegas showcases, a partnership with Tim Rice - workaholic Elton’s ubiquity makes him a musical equivalent to Michael Caine. And, like latter-day Caine, the 59-year-old Elton has a new lease of life.

It is his relationship with Taupin that is at the centre of it. Elton recently described meeting his lyricist in 1967 as discovering the brother ‘he never had’. Musically, the way they interact here is living proof that their initial connection is now an abiding love, a rare blood-brother bond expressed through music.

Breadth and variety is evident from the start on the Gilbert And Sullivan-style Postcards From Richard Nixon. As our two heroes hit mid-’70s America - a country in crisis - their surreal adventures into rock madness begins.

The funky, pounding And The House Fell Down confronts Elton’s drug demons like never before, recalling ‘three days of living on a diet of cocaine and wine’.

The beautiful, soulful Never Fade Away glows with compassion, anger and despair. The lyrics muse on Aids and the reaper’s random call - ‘it’s like rolling a dice in the belly of the blues, and the blues never fade away’. Sorry to get soppy, but have the Kleenex handy because this has me blubbing every time I play it.

Lost It On The Wind pours scorn on its title by updating the rustic country style of Tumbleweed Connection. The gorgeous yearning Old 67 has one of Elt’s finest Beach Boy-homaging harmony arrangements, and Taupin’s ‘you going off into the sunset and me still spinning like a Catherine wheel’ line on the closing title track vividly fixes their odd couple relationship.

Also, Elton sings throughout with the panache and feeling of a man liberated by his art.

Apparently, this album has been made in a stripped-down, ultra-quick fashion, just like in the old days. But the songs are the product of more than 35 years of experience and a relationship that is evidently stronger than ever.

Elton may have had bigger selling albums, but he has never made one that is so rounded and accomplished, or so emotionally affecting.

Fantastic, Captain!




Elton John, well known at this stage in his career for his flamboyance, has taken a back to basics approach on his 44th album The Captain and the Kid. With his long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin, Elton has re-approached his classic 1975 album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (the first album ever to debut at Number 1 on the Billboard chart). That album was an autobiographical document of two starving artists getting started in the music business, and their ambitions for the future. More than 30 years later, The Captain and the Kid tells a very different story, but it's no less personal or ambitious. Think of it as a sequel: where Captain Fantastic... was full of youthful optimism and big dreams, The Captain and the Kid catches up with those two characters to find that their dreams have come true in a big way, and the route that was taken to get there. It's therefore a more mature album, but not a more modern-sounding one, something that's very much to its credit. John and Taupin are a masterful songwriting duo, and they rely on the basics that brought them continued success: Elton's piano and voice at centre stage, delivering Taupin's lyrics (in fact, on "Blues Never Fade Away" and the heartfelt "The Bridge", it's nearly two minutes before any other instruments are heard). The Captain and the Kid is a rare and remarkable feat for a musician; it showcases Elton John at the height of his fame, not attempting to recapture his youth, but reexamining his career. It's an intelligent and thoughtful album, and Elton John's finest in many years. --Ted Kord




Reviewed by Andy Gill, Arts & Books Review

**** (4 Stars)

"The Captain is, of course, Elton, and The Kid his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, the respective nicknames reflecting their wildly divergent approaches to life - neatly summarised in the title track as "An urban soul in a fine silk suit/And a heart out west in a Wrangler shirt".

Perhaps triggered by their own bemusement at how two such disparate spirits, caught "in between the saddle and the grand piano", can have sustained such a fruitful working relationship for so long, The Captain And The Kid is an extended meditation on that relationship, and by extension, their shared relationship with America throughout the last four decades. The big surprise is how such a shameless navel-gazing exercise can actually end up being quite moving.

The album opens up with the rock-operatic "Postcards From Richard Nixon", in which the pair's youthful fascination with America is used to reflect the country's broader attraction for British kids, and how our earlier affinities with its pop culture override more recent divisions.

On a similar theme, "Just Like Noah's Ark" captures the lads in the first flush of their stateside success, entranced by the country's louche charm and sleazy promise, while "Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way (NYC)" narrows their adoring focus to the Seventies Manhattan of Joey Gallo and Studio 54.

Elsewhere, while pondering upon the course of his career in "The Bridge", Elton employs deliberate echoes of the piano style he used years ago on "Your Song", one of several instances of subtle historical resonance that separates his work here from that of his chums The Scissor Sisters, whose distillation of the shiny pop essence of Seventies Elton remains resolutely synthetic and one-dimensional.

The album continues through the Seventies excesses, candidly recounted in "Tinderbox" and "And The House Fell Down", the loss of innocence considered in "Old '67", and the unabashed reminiscence of old lovers in "I Must Have Lost It On The Wind"; but its in the rememberance of dearly departed friends - Aids victims and John Lennon alike - in "Blues Never Fade Away" that Taupin touches the rawest nerve with the surest hand, as Elton wonders why he's been so lucky to come unscathed through a life of such profligate indulgence. "Fate's right hand isn't always just/ Puts a lot of pressure on your faith and trust", sings the great survivor. "It's like a rolling dice in the belly of the blues/ And blues never fade away."




*** (3 Stars)

"Sir Elton might seek inspiration these days from younger acts such as The Killers, but his 44th album still has plenty of old-school hallmarks. An update of 1975's autobiographical Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy, it pales in comparison with the original, partly because the cosy reminiscences of Elton and lyricist Bernie could never be as riveting as the adventures of two young guns. Old '67 and the title track are let down by Taupin's mawkish streak but there's plenty to admire, particularly The Bridge and Just Like Noah's Ark."



Bob Dylan recently asked: "Who's the last individual performer you can think of? Elton John, maybe." Not many would put these two great singer-songwriters in the same category, but, like Dylan, Elton has hit a rich vein of late form, this being his third album in a row reconnecting with his musical roots in pop, rock and honky-tonk.

Cruelly discarded by the inbuilt age discrimination of pop radio, Elton's problem is that, at 59, he has to adjust the shallow perception created by decades of flamboyant hit-making and re-establish himself as a serious album artist. For this, he is enormously dependent on lyricist Bernie Taupin. A bold opener, Postcards from Richard Nixon, reveals the sometimes melodramatic Taupin to be on witty and gritty form, recalling the duo's '70s arrival in America "where Disney's God and he commands both mice and men".

The Captain and the Kid is an ambitious sequel to 1975's autobiographical Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, taking us through three turbulent decades during which time Elton's voice has dropped a notch; this mature tone works best when he exploits its bluesy gravity or broken intimacy. Blues Never Fade Away, a survivor's reminiscence of lost love in the age of Aids, is all the more touching for exposing vocal cracks.

The album hits a terrific central patch, touching on Elton's descent into egomania and drug addiction, including the self-lacerating And the House Fell Down, the epic ballad The Bridge and the magnificently catchy Tinderbox. The latter reveals Elton's pop genius to be undiminished, as he punches home a chorus that lodges in your cranium, from where it is almost impossible to remove. Neil McCormick


4 stars

He may be approaching 60 but Elton John was never going to grow old gracefully, as his collaborations with Scissor Sisters and pop twerps Blue have confirmed. Thankfully, since 2001's Songs From The West Coast, he's also realised that when it comes to simple, impassioned piano-based balladry, there are few to better him.

That album's majestic, rootsy highlights I Want Love and This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore provided the template for the 2004 opus Peachtree Road, and now this, his 44th record. In a nutshell: it's the sound of a man weathered and bruised, but dignified and full of vitality.

The positive response to the previous two records has given him the confidence to dip into his past and, with old sparring partner Bernie Taupin, create this 'sequel' to 1975's Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy. The original was his final creative peak before the rot set in, a momentous collection of deeply personal songs addressing the pair's lives up to that point. Although The Captain And The Kid doesn't quite reach those heights, it more than vindicates his national treasure status, and shows today's glut of young singer-songwriters just how it's done.

Aurally, it's classic early '70s Elton, all sweeping strings and soaring backing vocals, but the autobiographical lyrics are what really grab the attention. He's singing about himself and Taupin - not bleedin' Billy Elliot - and consequently sounds more passionate than ever.

On Old 67 there's a yearning for a lost "time of innocence", and the title track sees him dropping in references to yellow brick roads and rocket men. Despite this, the record avoids wallowing in the past via a sense of renewed optimism for the future, and by the end he's swapped his "six inch heels" for "a brand new pair of shoes", while the figure of the 'brown dirt cowboy' rides off into the sunset. Cheesy, perhaps - but told through Elton's timeworn croon, it melts the heart.

On form like this, you can forgive the man nearly anything. Maybe not that Blue collaboration, but we all make mistakes. What could have been a tired old rehash has turned out to be a full-blown rediscovery of his muse. The world doesn't need another Elton John album, but it's heartwarming to hear an old-timer knock out such an emotional, pathos-filled document of lost loves and ageing friendships. With the distinct possibility of a hip hop album looming, someone should tell him to give up on the desperate attempts to stay relevant. Here, he sounds old, and all the better for it.
- Adam Burling




Anyone heralding a new Elton John album as a return to form faces credibility issues. (You may recall the ''Elton's back!'' scare around 2001's Songs From the West Coast.) But it's not crying wolf to warn you that Captain & the Kid is EJ's best since the Carter years. It's an autobiographical song cycle largely about the 1970s, which gives Elton a thematic excuse to answer fans' prayers, drop the adult contemporary slop, and deliver a piano-dominated, live-band effort consciously aping his earliest, most idiosyncratic breakthroughs.

It's billed as a follow-up to 1975's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, and while there's a whiff of desperation to classic-rock ''sequels,'' this really does pick up where John and lyricist Bernie Taupin left off. Barrelhouse rocker ''Just Like Noah's Ark'' isn't afraid to celebrate Studio 54-era excess, though much of the album is rueful, including ''Blues Never Fade Away,'' a sort of Everyman's ''Candle in the Wind.'' If Elton's music makes a fine case that time can stand still, Taupin's lyrics, with their late-middle-age perspective, nicely put the lie to that idea. So would it be asking too much to also put in requests for Tumbleweed Reconnection and Goodbye Again, Yellow Brick Road?

Grade: A-




From the schoolgirls of Smoosh to an elderly Elton,
great music is timeless

The Captain & The Kid - Elton John
This 31-years later sequel to Captain Fantastic and
the Brown Dirt Cowboy is not exactly evidence that
John is pursuing new vistas of songwriting. But in the
comfortable setting of his AM-radio salad days, he
bangs out several irrisistible tunes (Tinderbox, Blues
Never Fade Away),and Bernie Taupin produces a
typically serviceable string of lyrics. The most
interesting element here is John's voice; it's a lot
scruffier than you might remember. At 59, he stretches
to hit the high notes he used to kill, yet the strain
gives his glossiest songs something they have never
had before: a little grit.




The Bitch is Back

In recent months, it’s been all too easy to mock Sir
Elton John and with his hip-hop aspirations and
endorsement of questionable talents, he proves a rich
source of stories. With Elton’s celebrity taking centre stage, his
musical output tends to lurk in the wings, a waning
star and a support act to his headlining personality.

Listen to any of Elton’s albums released between ’72
and ’76 and once again, you’re reminded of why he’s
the living legend that exudes such high-voltage fame
in the 21st century. In HMV, you can get a copy of Goodbye Yellow Brick
Road for a fiver, a novel bargain I took an advantage
of a few weeks ago. It’s absolutely stunning and
remains his bestselling studio album in the US,
spending 8 weeks at No. 1 and two years in the chart
in total.Elton’s just completed his 44th album and after months
of being horrid to Elton, it’s a pleasure to report
that The Captain and the Kid is a return to form and
an instant classic.
It’s another welcome collaboration with lyricist
Bernie Taupin and is an update of the definitive
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Released
in 1975, the album was a musical chronicle of their
experiences up until that point. For the record, John
is Captain Fantastic, while Bernie is the Brown Dirt
That original Captain Fantastic was the first album
ever to debut on the Billboard Chart at No.1. I’m
gonna put my neck on the line and say this album will
be a chat topper here and in the US.
The multi-platinum selling Songs from the West Coast
is a jolly nice album and the single, I Want Love is a
heart-tugging ballad of brilliance, but I haven’t
listened to it in a while.
In fact, The Captain and the Kid has enjoyed more
plays in one weekend than his last album got in five
years. For me, two signs of a special album are that not only
does one feel compelled to simply sit and listen to
the lyrics, but that when it comes to an end, rise
like a zombie and press ‘play’ again. The Captain and
the Kid inspired exactly that response in this wary
Songs from the West Coast reignited Elton’s working
relationship with Bernie Taupin and echoed his ‘70s
golden peak, but The Captain and the Kid is a honing
of the muscles flexed on that respectable release.
There are elements of country, a healthy dose of blues
and plenty of Elton doing what he does best, just
jamming on his old Joanna.
Elton’s currently on tour and it has to be said, that
if you haven’t seen him live- go. He absolutely rocks.
As the special guest at this year’s EuroPride show at
the Albert Hall, he effortlessly brought the house
down, dazzled in a duet with Kiki Dee and showed
admirable humour in the face of technical hiccups.
Lesser talents would have thrown greater strops, but
this diva just got on with it.During a recent concert at NY’s Lincoln Center, Elton
shrugged off his apparent lack of credibility,
admitting: "Our day in the sun has gone, as far as
radio play goes. And we're OK with that."

This album looks set to change all that, and despite
Elton’s pessimistic analysis, there could be a couple
of No. 1 singles in this outing, with the title track,
Tinderbox and Old 67 all in with a chance.

The latter song is like a master class in Elton;
rousing chorus, blues- infused piano and a generous
glug of nostalgia. It’s the kind of song that makes
you happily bellow along with, while home alone with a
bottle of wine.

If anything, The Captain and the Kid is proof that
Elton should steer clear of the likes of Eminem, TuPac
and er, Pete Doherty. A magic occurs when Elton and
Bernie get together and their combined talents are
showcased by a stripped-back, acoustic focus on the
melodies and lyrics.

His recent threats to fiddle with the world of hip-hop
seem to suggest that Elton still yearns for musical
impact, respect and credibility. The Captain and the
Kid suggests he should yearn no more, he’s already got



Shows like The X Factor are so heart bleeds for the poor winners
By Peter Willis

OH no, it looks like Sir Elton John is about to blow his top again... Despite being good friends with Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne, and the contestants often singing his songs, mentioning Britain's biggest music show is a sure way to make the pop legend fume.  "I read somewhere I was supposed to be taking part in that... rubbish!" he says. "The X Factor is a cruise ship show. I've got nothing against the people who go on - good luck to them. But I hate how they're treated. "They're given an awful sense of stardom and pressure straight away but they're only successful until the next series. The record companies sell a lot of records and those people are gone. It's f***ing cruel."

Shaking his head, Elton adds: "Look at Michelle McManus. My heart bleeds for her. She won Pop Idol, she's a really good singer and now she's forgotten. 
"Will Young is the best thing that's ever come out of those shows. He has proved himself. But it's no way to find talent. I want to hear new songwriters, people who are creating their own stuff, not just singing my songs every week."
As ever, Elton doesn't pull any punches. But, as one of the world's most successful rock stars, celebrating almost 40 years at the top and selling 300 million records, he has done more than most to propel our next generation of talents.

And even at 59, his fingerprints are still all over the charts - from Scissor Sisters and James Blunt to plans to work with hip-hop stars such as 50 Cent. "Well, I've got the bling," Elton jokes. As we meet, the Scissor Sisters have just hit No.1 with I Don't Feel Like Dancin' - on which they collaborated with Elton - and next week he expects their new album to beat his own to the top of the charts. And that's despite The Captain And The Kid - out on Monday - being hailed as the star's finest record for years.

But whatever happens, Elton won't mind too much. "It's great to have things like the Scissor Sisters as a side project, so that, in some shape or form, I'm having a No.1 every year.

"And as I've actually got two tracks on their album, if mine doesn't go to No.1, they'll take care of me, thank you very much."

He agreed to work with the New York-based band after seeing them play two years ago. "I just knew they were going to be huge," he says. "I asked them to do a couple of shows with me and we became friends. We wrote about eight songs together, first in Las Vegas, and then I went to see them in New York and within half an hour we had a song done."

Then there's James Blunt. After signing him to his management company, Elton helped mastermind his assault on the music world. He still advises him regularly and each day he checks Blunt's worldwide sales. "I knew there was something there from day one," beams Elton. "We nurtured him, made sure he had the right producer and he worked so hard, too. His only problem, and it's a nice problem, is that You're Beautiful was played so much that there was a kind of backlash."

ELTON reveals that Blunt was shocked and hurt by it. "But that's the society we live in - a soundbite society. James gets very hurt by it. But I've told him: 'Look at the massive album sales, you've been No.1 in America, all the people at the concerts...'"

Of course, Elton, who last year tied the knot with his long-term lover David Furnish, 43, has never been shy about speaking his mind, though recently he seems to have mellowed a little.

He had a well-publicised spat with Robbie Williams but it seems peace has broken out. "We got a wedding present from Robbie which was very kind. He's so talented - outside America he's the biggest live act in the world.

But I don't think he should keep bearing grudges. He should just move on from all these problems he's got with Gary Barlow. Life's too short." And he's also back on track with Madonna, who he attacked for charging sky-high ticket prices for her miming.

For a moment, he agrees that £150 tickets for her recent tour were overpriced. "Mine are expensive but I would never dream of charging that kind of money. It's greed..." Then, he reins himself in and adds: "...but I don't want to knock Madonna - we've made our peace."

She donated £25,000 to his Elton John Aids Foundation, which has raised £120million, while he sent back an apology.

"It was my fault. Jonathan Ross was winding me up at an awards lunch and, like a fool, I took the bait. She found my comments very hurtful and they probably were. Do I regret saying it and hurting her feelings? Yes."

Elton is surprisingly contrite but he can still cause a raised eyebrow or two.... even in his home in London's classy Holland Park. There's no hint of chintz within his whitewashed Georgian terrace. Instead it's a fresh, modern, minimalist space that feels like a trendy art gallery. On one wall is a Tracy Emin painting emblazoned with "Action C***" - he admits it's his favourite word - and nearby there's a stuffed cat in a glass case.

Elton loves to provoke a response - and people have always reacted strongly to him and his music. As his cocker spaniels Marilyn and Arthur bound on and off the sofas, Elton talks with pride about his new album.

The Captain And The Kid is an overdue sequel to 1975's Captain Fantastic..., which reflects on his rollercoaster career, from the heights of his Pinball Wizard platform boots to the depths of his battles against cocaine, booze, bulimia and loneliness.

His 44th album, it has been praised by the critics - yet he and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin recorded it in just 20 days.

"I did it live - a bit like the old days," he says. "I love it. It's one of my best-ever albums. It's about struggling with being successful - with some of the things you've done and the places you've played. Without that, you wouldn't be able to cope with what happens to you."

In his Versace sunglasses - he won't even remove them for our pictures - Elton is the most relaxed I've ever seen him.

He says he has never been happier since marrying David, his partner of 13 years, 10 months ago. But he winces when I mention the "M" word. "I hate people saying I'm married. Marriage is a heterosexual term for men and women. We've got a civil partnership. It's not a religious ceremony and I didn't want to get married. I just wanted a lifetime commitment."

After their wedding in Windsor, they joined scores of friends and family for a lavish £1million reception at his nearby mansion. "The best thing about the whole day was the great British public."

HE adds: "I thought I might get the odd flour bomb but there was no negative reaction. It was the nicest day of my life, with all the people I love most."

And has getting hitched made any difference? "I didn't think I'd feel different but I do. I felt secure. It was the icing on the cake.

"Now there's nothing else I could want in life - except to write the best song I've ever written. I will never do it but that's what keeps me going. Music has been the whole thing in my life since I was a child." Even now, after so much success, the star's driving force is a fear of failure. Just four months ago, he and Taupin were dealt a blow when their £8million vampire musical, Lestat, bombed on Broadway after just 39 performances.

"You just can't guarantee anything in this life. We were hurt like hell. But you know what? You pick yourself up and you get on with it - it's not the f***ing end of the world.

"If I could have done it all over again, I'd have done it differently. But you can't. You just have to do something else. So we wrote Captain...

"We're all going to get knocked sometime. There's nothing wrong with that as long as you take it the right way and use it the right way. For me, a setback is a great impetus to do better.

"I remember after Michael Jackson released Thriller he said his next album would be even better. But you can't expect to be No.1 for ever. It'll happen to James Blunt and it's something I warn anyone coming into the business about. It's all about survival."

And if anyone knows about that, it's Elton.

ON Elton John's new album, he and songwriter partner Bernie Taupin reflect on their incredible careers and, particularly on one moving track Blues Never Fade Away, the close friends they've lost over the years.
The list reads like a who's who of some of the 20th century's greatest icons and talents - Princess Diana, John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, Gianni Versace, Andy Warhol, Marc Bolan.
"Yes, I've lost many friends," Elton nods sadly. "To Aids, cancer and even murder. I mean, two of my best friends were killed on their doorsteps. I still miss Gianni Versace and John Lennon."
In Blues Never Fade Away, Elton questions how it could have happened.
"It just seems so unfair that so many good people die prematurely, yet there are so many bastards still living," he says.
"It's extraordinary. If you had said to me 25 years ago that I would have lost so many friends, I would have said that it was an impossibility."
As we talk, it seems clear that even Elton can't believe he has survived the many excesses of show-business to be on the cusp of his seventh decade.
In fact, as far as his health is concerned, he feels better now than ever, despite having a pacemaker fitted several years ago.
"I live my life to the full these days because you don't know what the future holds. I live day to day, work hard and enjoy life. That's all I can do. I certainly won't be retiring soon. There's too much to live for."
One landmark on the horizon is his 60th birthday in March - and the star is already planning a fancy dress extravaganza, though it may not measure up to his 50th, when he queened it up as Louis XIV in a towering white wig.
"Yes, I'll have a fancy dress party but I can assure you I'm not going to be wearing that f***ing hair again. It was so high, David and I had to go to the party in the back of a furniture van.
"It went the wrong way and I was stuck in traffic, rocking around in the back of this f***ing van, for more than an hour. It's fair to say that when we finally arrived, I wasn't happy."








di Cesare G.Romana


Echi western, qualità medio-alta e grandi prestazioni pianistiche per il "nuovo" Elton John, ancora una volta affiancato nei testi dall'agile penna di Bernie Taupin. The Captain and the Kid rispecchia fedelmente fin dall'iniziale Postcards from Richard Nixon l'americanite tenace del musicista inglese nonchè il suo amore per rhythm and blues, gospel, country corretto da una cultura di base molto europea, non esente da fruttuosi tributi alla musica colta.

Si parla di New York e San Francisco, Ohio e Far West, Nixon e Hollywood in questo album assai poliedrico e tuttavia governato da intima coerenza, mantenuto su regime qualitativo cui da tempo sir Elton ci aveva disabituato. Che emerge soprattutto dal pianismo di questo grande intrattenitore: dalle corpose armonie del primo brano allo scintillio di Noah's Ark con le sue reminiscenze à la Jerry Lee Lewis e le smaglianti interferenze dell'organo Hammond, dagli arpeggi liederistici di Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way alla fastosa coralità di Tiinderbox. E dai colori lunari di And The House Fell Down, in bel contrasto con il piglio vispo del brano, alla grazia sognante di The Bridge. Splendida come sempre la band.




di  Marinella Venegoni

Elton John festeggia i sessant’anni e lotta per sopravvivere al successo

inviata a NEW YORK
Il 25 marzo dell'anno prossimo Elton John compirà 60 anni. Come per ogni babyboomer, è arrivato per lui il tempo (ostico) della riflessione, della consapevolezza di aver vissuto al massimo, e in più di esser stato assai fortunato di suo; ma nel pop ogni anniversario è destinato a trasformarsi in una celebrazione fantasmagorica, e in attesa di chissà quali fuochi d'artificio nel 2007, il vecchio Reginald ha deciso di ringraziare la sorte con un disco che in Italia esce domani, The Captain and the Kid, séguito ideale del primo album che gli guadagnò nel 1975 la fama negli Stati Uniti, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirty Cowboy. Presentandolo l'altra sera al Rose Theatre di New York, ne ha così riassunto il senso: «Captain Fantastic parlava della lotta per arrivare, fino al '70; The Captain and the Kid" è sui 36 anni successivi, e sulla lotta per sopravvivere al successo».

Rispetto ad altri colleghi illustri della sua generazione, Elton John ha incassato non scarsi insuccessi, con lunghi e controversi periodi (seguiti a una produzione di irresistibili canzoni pop) di cui ben poco vale la pena di esser ricordato; ma qui, in The Captain and the Kid, l'ispirazione torna intenzionalmente al suo periodo migliore, appunto fra i Sessanta e i Settanta.

Il rischio, certo, è che si ascolti Elton John mentre fa il verso al grande Elton John d'epoca: ma nei dieci brani registrati nell'atmosfera complice di un teatrino affittato per ottenere un disco autenticamente caldo e immediato, si respira un'aria da «demo», una forte volontà di piacere, un'energia che pensavamo scomparsa, risucchiata per sempre dagli innumerevoli concerti e marchette (si pensi solo al contratto miliardario in corso con il Caesar Palace di Las Vegas) che negli ultimi anni gli hanno sottratto parte dell'originario carisma.

Per quanto bravo sia il paroliere di sempre Bernie Taupin, era ovviamente impraticabile l'idea di raccontare davvero 36 anni in 10 canzoni. E così la Regina Madre del pop non solo britannico apre pestando su un pianoforte quasi honky-tonk, per raccontare l'arrivo suo e di Bernie negli Stati Uniti in piena crisi Vietnam o Watergate, in «Postcards from Richard Nixon».

E' l'innamoramento reciproco con l'America, che annusa l'affare: e infatti Just Like Noah's Ark, evoca in un rock-blues terribilmente datato (e che usa moltissimo) l'immagine dell'arca di Noè per raccontare delle folle di aspiranti agenti che lo circondano a Los Angeles per strappargli un contratto.

Più oltre l'ispirazione si fa intimista: Tinderbox è una ballad molto «eltonesca» che racconta la pressione della fama, The Bridge parla dell'invecchiamento, And the House Fell Down è sugli stravizi drogati; uno dei brani più convincenti è Blues Never Fade Away, inevitabilmente sulle vittime dell'Aids.

L'album è una sorta di rivincita del personaggio di Bernie Taupin, sempre un po' in disparte come inevitabilmente capita agli autori del testo. Ha spiegato Elton John: «Le sue liriche non sono mai sulla mia vita, così canto sempre in un territorio neutro. Questa volta, in Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way, c'è un verso sullo Studio 54, che dice: "Le auto nere aspettano perché metto in fila i ragazzi nella notte". E potrei essere io che torno al mio albergo con una pletora di ragazzi carini, oppure potrebbe essere Bernie che va in centro a qualche strip club con i suoi amici».

Nel finale, in Captain and the Kid, tracciando una sorta di bilancio virtuoso, Bernie ed Elton finiscono per assolversi in toto: il ragazzino pazzo è diventato un «better man», e il diavolo avrà pure partecipato alla festa, «ma non ha mai infilato le nostre scarpe». Il riassunto è di orgogliosa energia: «Allora indossavo tacchi di 12 centimetri/ora tu corri verso il tramonto/ma io vado ancora ai cento all'ora». E mica solo lui, che infatti non sta mai fermo, come in preda all'orror vacui. Con la crisi del pop, il giovanilismo è diventato un esercizio vacuo.

Il sessantacinquenne Dylan ha debuttato al primo posto nelle classifiche Usa con il nuovo album, in Italia è primo Freddy Mercury che è morto da quel dì. Pure Elton John potrebbe finire per rimettersi sulla pista della credibilità alla vigilia dei sessanta, uscendo dal tunnel del troppo-ricco, troppo-felice, troppo-ingordo nel quale si è infilato.



Trent’anni di vita tra successi e droga raccontati assieme a Bernie Taupin

di STEFANO MANNUCCI QUALCUNO, prima o poi, doveva pensarci. Abbiamo avuto padrini, guerre stellari e missioni impossibili in serie: e innumerevoli inchieste di Kay Scarpetta, Maigret, Montalbano. Ma il rock sembrava essere relativamente immune dalla tentazione dei "sequel": nessuno, finora, aveva ipotizzato un «Sgt. Pepper 2», un «Ritorno di Tommy» o «The dark side of the moon revisited». A colmare la lacuna ha pensato Elton John: e a distanza di più di trent’anni dall’uscita di «Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy» pubblica «The Captain and The Kid», con una celebrazione anche live, il 19 settembre al Rose Hall di New York. L’evento è in effetti di quelli memorabili: perché l’album del 1975 segnò la svolta nella carriera di Elton. Per la prima volta nella storia della musica moderna un disco esordiva direttamente al primo posto di "Billboard", la Bibbia delle classifiche di vendita americane. Solo nel primo giorno, un milione di copie dell’lp era andato a ruba, e anche questo era un record. Mr. John ne aveva scritto le dieci canzoni in cinque giorni di traversata sulla nave "S.S. France", dall’Inghilterra a New York, in chiara overdose di ispirazione. Di più, quei brani erano il frutto di un sodalizio con il suo paroliere, Bernie Taupin, con il quale aveva incamerato già una serie di portentosi successi, e che una notte gli aveva "quasi" salvato la vita: preso dallo sconforto, Elton aveva infilato la testa nel forno, aperto il gas, ma lasciando comunque aperta la finestra. Un gesto dimostrativo che sarebbe poi finito in "Someone saved my life tonight". Bernie era qualcosa di diverso da un collaboratore, era un amico vero, e tale sarebbe rimasto per quasi quarant’anni, malgrado ripetuti stop nell’incontro artistico. Così, quel primo «Captain» fu concepito come un’autobiografia per due, destinata a raccontare gli esordi (dal ’67 al ’69), fino all’arrivo in America di un cantautore più che promettente. Il "Capitano" dagli abiti improponibili, l’icona paradossale e trasgressiva era Elton; il "Cowboy" era Bernie, che non chiedeva altro se non un ranch e un cavallo in California. Uno "storybook" personale che è rimasta una delle vette assolute tra i 44 album della discografia eltoniana. Il mezzo miracolo è che anche il "sequel" del 2006 è quanto di meglio ci si potesse aspettare da una star che ha avuto tutto quel che chiedeva dalla vita, perfino un matrimonio gay e un contratto da artista stabile a Las Vegas. Ora minaccia di darsi al rap: intanto "The captain and the kid" è un’onda di pop melodico con arrangiamenti che paiono quasi "d’epoca": nel senso che Elton canta con una sincerità per lui rara, di questi tempi, e le sue dita volano sul piano come ai tempi belli, tra R&B, honky-tonk, ballate, rock postribolare. E la band - nella quale compaiono, come tre decenni fa, gli immarcescibili Davey Johnstone e Nigel Olsson - suona con lui in presa diretta: gli strumenti piazzati sul palco di un teatro di Atlanta, venti giorni di registrazione, e spesso "buona la prima". Dieci canzoni, anche qui: e il tentativo di raccontare una vita, quella immediatamente successiva all’approdo a Los Angeles, con la meraviglia - dicono i due - di «sentirsi come due pesci gettati da una piccola vasca in un enorme acquario» già alla prima passeggiata sul Sunset Boulevard, con Steve McQueen che passava in spider e Nixon che augurava "benvenuti qui". Poi il presidente prese commiato per il Watergate, e John-Taupin restarono nello star-system. Fu a quel punto che cominciarono i guai: la cocaina a fiumi, i conflitti interpersonali, il vortice del successo che ti trascina giù per i piedi. Tra produttori discografici «che parevano il Joe Pesci mafioso di "Quei bravi ragazzi"», e le notti bianche allo Studio 54 di New York, tra marchettari, Andy Warhol e la créme dei discotecari vip. Poi ancora, gli anni del dolore per gli amici morti di Aids o per mano di qualche folle (la terza parte di "Blues fade away" è dedicata a Gianni Versace, ma spunta anche l’amico John Lennon, che aveva fatto la sua ultima apparizione in concerto proprio con Elton, nel ’74). E le riconciliazioni, i ricordi, sino al gran finale di "The captain and the kid", che nella sua struttura richiama esplicitamente "The boxer" di Simon & Garfunkel. Passando per la lirica "The Bridge" (il primo singolo) dove Elton e Bernie si dicono che quel simbolico ponte della fortuna è «talmente lungo che qualcuno resta indietro, ma devi attraversarlo per sopravvivere. Senza mai smettere di credere che potrai scrivere un giorno una canzone più bella di quella che hai appena composto». Come è accaduto a loro due, ancora oggi.



Elton riprende l'idea del concept album Captain Fantastic e confeziona un disco come non ne faceva da anni. Un disco di ballate pianistiche, bello e godibile, che mischia grandi canzoni ad un suono decisamente asciutto. Piano in evidenza, come ai bei tempi, ed una manciata di canzoni di spessore. Bentornato.

ELTON JOHN - THE CAPTAIN AND THE KID - 3,5 STELLE (n.b. Dylan ne prende solo 3 con il suo pur splendido Modern Times)
Elton John ha deciso di tornare a fare la persona seria, definitivamente. Se Songs from the West Coast, 2001, era una solida avvisaglia in questo senso, Peachtree Road , 2004, pur essendo inferiore al suo predecessore, aveva confermato la nuova via dell'occhialuto inglese. da superstar, cioè una volta raggiunta la fama, Elton non si è peritato di curare molto la qualità dei suoi dischi e, più o meno, dalla metà dei 70 al 2001, ha registrato una quantità di dischi inutili, che però lo hanno reso stra famoso. Songs from the West coast, seguendo la regola che la musica di qualità non rende, ha venduto poco. Peachtree Road un po' di più (era anche meno bello). [nota mia: prima che la pignoleria di AGrasso faccia notare la cosa :D qui il dato credo non sia veritiero, West Coast ha venduto un poco di più]
The Captain and the Kid che è meglio di entrambi, che risultato commerciale avrà? Non ci interessa e nemmeno a lui. Elton torna a fare canzoni vere, non siamo ai livelli di Honky Chateau o Tumbleweed Connection, ma poco ci manca. Il piano è in gran spolvero, la voce c'è sempre, le canzoni sono di qualità. Elton John e il suo alter ego Bernie Taupin hanno ricominciato a produrre assieme, ed il risultato si... sente. Forse non ci sono canzoni memorabili, ma brani come Postcards from Richard Nixon, Just Like Noah's Ark, Tinderbox, la curiosa And the House Fell down, le belle I Must Have Lost in on the Wind, Old '67, Blues Never fade Away, The Bridge, stanno a dimostrare che Elton è di nuovo tra noi. Il suono è poco arrangiato, in alcuni casi addirittura scarno, le melodie centrate, l'esecuzione da manuale.
Postcards from Richard Nixon si apre con un assolo di piano creaivo e molto gradevole: un inizio che dà subito la misura di quello che sarà il disco. Just Noah's Ark contiene persino elementi blues, mentre Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way è una composizione costruita in modo classico, pianistica e decisamente melodica. And The House Fell down mischia arte e mestiere, melodia classica e sonorità tipiche dei musical di Broadway, mentre Blues Never Fade Away è una costruzione pianistica di grande spessore dotata di forte apertura melodica. La lenta The Bridge ci riporta ai primi anni 70, quando il pianoforte era lo strumento guida (e anche qui domina la canzone come da tempo non succedeva). I Must Have Lost It on the Wind è forse la gemma del lavoro: mischia rock e radici roots, ha una base melodica intensa, si beve dalla prima all'ultima nota e conferma questo ideale ponte col passato. Anche il finale The Captain and the Kid rende onore al musicista, più volte vituperato, che ha ritrovato finalmente la strada di casa.
Un disco caldo e decisamente godibile che ci riconsegna il migliore Elton John, sentire per credere.
Paolo Bonfanti