Goodbye Yellow Brick Road // Elton John

The album cover for Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

If we’re all going somewhere, let’s get there soon.

It’s 1973. You sit down in a crowded theater, ready for the new Dracula movie. Electric Light Orchestra has scored the film, and, as the opening title comes on screen, an ominous dirge plays. The door creaks open to reveal… sorry, is that Elton John?

Starting an album with an 11 minute track is the kind of thing pop artists aren’t really supposed to do. Elton John doesn’t like doing things pop artists are supposed to do. So, of course, he takes a page out from the book of the psychedelic bands that are blowing up in the 70s, turning “Funeral for a Friend” into a terrific album opener.

Elton’s1 voice is terrific and punchy, just like the piano that accompanies him throughout Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The classics come first, and I think that’s a great thing. Hearing “Bennie and the Jets” and “Candle in the Wind” so early on in the album.

What songs give you boundless energy? Personally, I’ve got a pretty sizable list, including Death Grip’s “Hacker” and Rhymefest’s cover of “Build Me Up.” Elton John’s “Grey Seal,” though, easily makes the top five. The piano jumps in so early, the guitar pushes so hard, and the chorus rings with passion. This is one of those albums that just has to be played at full volume, and “Grey Seal” is one of the reasons why.

Then there’s “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting),” a thrashing and lively shot of adrenaline for the album’s B-side, which I think lacks behind a little compared to the thrilling first half. You’re flung into the pit by this song, with its cracking drums and ripping guitars.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road isn’t all party energy, though. On songs like “I’ve Seen That Movie Too,”2 we get impressive emotional balladry and soft piano. I love the honesty in the lyrics, the familiarity the protagonist has with heartbreak and pain. Elton perfectly drives the somber tone of the song with his voice, which constantly makes me grin, even through his songs of sadness. And the melting guitar at the end of the song? Simply to die for.

Actor Ryan Gosling on set for 'The Notebook'

The album’s titular track is basically a softer, more thoughtful predecessor to Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)." Elton John looks back at the old homestead with poignant imagery that bleeds with sentimentality, an old wound opened again.

There’s a really healthy blend of organic and inorganic music on this album. A massive array of sounds are poured into its production, and I can’t imagine what kind of team assembled the whole thing. It’s a seminal album in Elton John’s career, and one of the best rock albums of the 70s. Play this one for your parents.

1 Yeah, first name basis. I built this website so I can be more casual with my reviews. Plus, John is already a first name. This would be too confusing.

2This has become a go-to phrase for me whenever I hear something I’ve heard before. Think “Hey, I’ve seen this one!” from Back to the Future.