Turn That Noise Down - Elton John

So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1992 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan looks back at The One ...

How have we managed to get through *counts* almost five years of Turn That Noise Down retrospectives without talking about an Elton John album?!

Yes, I know he’s become a bit of a pastiche of himself in recent years but, back in the day, even though it was mega-uncool back then too, I enjoyed his music. I will admit, though, that this was an album that passed me by at the time – mostly because I wasn’t really listening to much in the way of bought music that summer – internet and music streaming still weren’t a thing, it was radio or buying albums on CD to get music, and the big hit single, which was also the title track, didn’t really hook me in at the time. So, yet again, this is an opportunity for me to give the whole album a listen for the first time.

Well, for a 90s album it has a very 80s feel to a lot of the songs. Simple Life opens the album and is very Mike and the Mechanics Living Years-y. There’s also a good-going boxcar style harmonica in there. The title track comes next and it’s not as bad as I remember it to be. Maybe I’ve mellowed in my old age. It is very Elton though – a cross between Tiny Dancer and Circle of Life. Runaway Train should really have Chris Rea type vocals tbh, it’s very much a Road to Hell sound, augmented by guest vocalist/guitarist Eric Clapton. Whitewash County is properly country, complete with line-dance-worthy [synthesised] fiddles and a boppy rhythm. The North is a gorgeous ballad that reminded me so much of Nikita – I guess it’s the piano. Another ballad follows and When A Woman Doesn’t Want You could easily have been a 1970s Billy Joel song – a beautifully slushy, end of the night, drunk, dancefloor shuffler. Emily brings things slightly more up to date with an 80s-ish lyrically heavy, sax laden soft rock song. On Dark Street is a bit Stock Aitken Waterman for me, to be honest, Understanding Women is a synth-fest from start to finish and the last song is, indeed, The Last Song [Although The Last Song isn’t the last song on the 1998 re-released version of the album which has two more songs after it – Ed] and is basically grown up Robbie Williams does the Beatles – this may be a back-handed compliment I know (I love RW but can’t stand the Beatles but, if you listen to the first word of the song, you’ll get the reference) but it’s the best way I can describe it. On reading more about the song, though, it took on a lot more depth when I found out that Bernie Taupin (Elton John’s long time writing partner) wrote the lyrics after the death of Freddie Mercury.

However, going back in the running order a bit, Sweat It Out is BY FAR my favourite track on the album and the final couple of minutes of this song showcase just how brilliant Elton John’s jazz piano playing is – something that’s never really given much credit. Add in a cool slap bass by ace session bassist Pino Palladino and solid, if somewhat era-specific, percussion from Swedish drummer Olle Romo and you have a very un-Elton Elton John song.

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