Rock Of The Westies
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/17/2006
Following up one's best work is never an easy task, yet it is the nature of the beast that one has to keep on working and creating. In 1975, Elton John was faced with following up his brilliant album Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy. His approach was certainly bold, though the final product may be somewhat lacking in quality.
One thing is for certain; this is John's most consistently rocking album. Apparently, with his new band behind him, John and co. decided to crank it up to 11, at least in Elton's terms. This is a dirty, bluesy, don't-give-a-crap record that is unique in his catalog, though there are some pop songs still lurking around.
"Island Girl," was the big single from the record, sporting an infectious chorus, sunny summer tone, and a general feeling of levity. The song also features incredibly misogynistic lyrics on par with something Rolling Stones would churn out, but illustrates how Elton was untouchable in his heyday, impervious to criticism.
The other "lightweight" effort comes in the form of "I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford)." More in line with "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" or "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," the song may have an incredibly unwieldy title, but somehow John manages to make it work and flow.
There are some solid tracks that highlight John's capacity to craft up-tempo numbers, the most impressive being "Street Kids" and "Billy Bones And The White Bird." While the latter has incredibly inane lyrics, the music is a fun bag of tricks to listen to. The opening guitar riff is surprisingly strong, probably the best since "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting." There is also a Billy Preston-ish keyboard solo thrown in among the added crowd effects. "Street Kids" is probably the strongest number on the record, spotting a harder edge reflective of its subject matter. It is actually hard enough to remind me of certain tracks off of Quadrophenia.
The rest of the album consists of "middle of the road" tracks that neither overwhelm nor fail miserably. I have always enjoyed the funky, rough qualities to "Dan Dare (Pilot Of The Future)." "Feed Me" resembles "Tell Me When The Whistle Blows" too much for its own good and "Hard Luck Story" rambles on and on. "Grow Some Funk Of Your Own" was the other single off the record, but it doesn't leave as much of a mark as "Island Girl." It sound as if Elton really wanted to rock out, but the song never takes off like "Saturday Night..."
Rock Of The Westies has never managed to capture my attention like other Elton John albums. It's fun to listen to John rock out, but the appeal only lasts so long, although it has enough moments to keep it from sinking, since Elton was still at the pinnacle of his creative success.