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ELTON JOHN - "Songs from the West Coast"
The Best Record Elton John Has Ever Made!
by Billy Tweedie

This CD arrived from my dear friend in England, Steve Fountain, who told me to listen to 
it as he has been playing his copy for weeks! The songs here are wonderfully produced 
by Madonna's long-time producer/songwriter, Patrick Leonard (Like A Prayer, True Blue). 
The entire album is produced in an almost acoustical setting - mostly with drum, 
bass, acoustic guitar, percussion and Elton's piano, bringing out both the music, vocal 
and excellent lyrics. The appearance of Elton's 70s backing vocals, Nigel Olsson 
and Davey Johnstone, and guests musicians, Stevie Wonder, Billy Preston make this 
one of Elton's best albums in recent years. Every track is excellent, esp. 
"The Emperor's New Clothes", "I Want Love", "Dark Diamond", "Original Sin" 
& "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore"(I can't stop playing this CD!).
This is an amazing collection of songs that hint at his older music but at the same 
time  cover recent times.
Stand out tracks include "I Want Love" which is just really powerful and so beautiful. 
The video is interesting as well. "This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore" is also well worth
the price of this album. The video for this one is worth a look too, see teenidol 
Justin Timberlake as a young Elton John.

The opening track, "The Emperor's New Clothes" reminds me of Ryan Adams, who is 
noted as a huge inspiration to Elton on this album. It's a great song. The first time I 
heard  "This Train...", I thought I was listening to a song stuck somewhere between 
Yellow Brick Road and Honky Tonk Château. I even wondered if I was missing an
 Elton John album in my collection. 

If I didn't know any better, I would think that Elton John climbed into a vault of un-released
tunes from his fertile period in the 70's, sat for a photo session and delivered the product to 
his record label.

From start to finish, the sound is vintage but remains effortlessly relevant today. I guess
"love" really never gets passé or goes out of style. Without a doubt, NO OTHER artist
out there could have pulled this off. 

I couldn't believe the strong melodies and lyrics on this new CD. Right from the start 
with "The Emperor's New Clothes" Elton's voice sounds confident, his piano playing warm 
and inviting, then Taupin's lyrics about deceiving one's self (something Elton and myself 
have experience with). It's the start of something fresh, & that's continued in the hip hop 
beat of "Dark Diamond" with Stevie Wonder turning in a nice harmonic performance. 
"Look Ma, No Hands" has Taupin writing about a character trying to win love from 
his mother. "Birds" has an uplifting melody while "I Want Love" is some of Taupin's 
best writing. Shift gears into "The Wasteland" and it's blues rhythm followed by 
"Ballad Of The Boy In The Red Shoes" which sounds reminiscent of 'Tiny Dancer' 
and finally it all ends on "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore", and song about not 
going back and making the same mistakes but moving forward with renewed confidence, 
much like "Songs From The West Coast". Probably one of the best CDs of 2001 for those 
of us who want music from an original artist and not regurgitated hip hop beats and samples 
of songs we've heard already. Let's not forget the mature songwriting too, for those of us
tired of bubblegum and meaningless sexually explicit and violent lyrics. 

The grand piano is dominant, as it should be, and there's barely a synth in earshot. 
The arrangements are simple, but simply superb. Elton delivers some of the finest 
Taupin lyrics for decades with a subtlety and warmth that only he can. The voice is the 
same as that on the 'Madman' album, but the passing years have added a depth, and 
emotional dexterity that is magnificent, especially on the beautiful, poignant album closer 
"This Train Don't Stop There Anymore", strong contender for best track here. This album 
bristles with stand-out tracks - there is a weight to "American Triangle", a gravitas to 
"The Boy With The Red Shoes" and a power to "I Want Love" that makes them demand 
repeated listening. 

I'm always skeptical when people say "the best thing he's done in X years" - well I'm
delighted to say it is true in this case. Elton has not produced anything this good since
'Blue Moves' - and "Songs From The West Coast" pushes some of his even earlier stuff...
Despite having nothing left to prove, it sounds like Elton is out to prove it all, all over again. 

The title is definitely appropriate; if you have ever spent any time at all in Southern 
California like I have done (and wish I stayed longer!), the songs on this disc  capture in a
unique way the laid back attitudes and casual determined spirit of the area. Definitely a 
winner--this is a CD that you'll enjoy over and over. 

However this is not a commercial/pop album which is evident that no singles were released in 
the USA; "I Want Love" was only released in Europe as a single. This is a dark and thought
provoking set of songs that were written & recorded in Los Angeles, hence the title. The
album opens with a classic Elton piano epic "The Emperor's New Clothes", a very American 
song with images of Bonnie & Clyde. "Dark Diamond" is kind of a reggae number with help 
from Stevie Wonder on harmonica and talks of how one could become hard & bitter from a 
lost love. "American Triangle", another intelligent ballad relates to hate crimes and the 
Matthew Sheppard incident. The best song, in my opinion, is "Original Sin", a beautiful heart 
felt song with Elton's vocals still as strong and emotion felt as ever. "Birds" is a frantic piano 
laced song while "I Want Love" is not a love song at all. Taupin must have been feeling a 
lot of anger & bitterness after the break up of his marriage. "I Want Love" is classic Elton 
and John Lennon/Imagine inspired. "The Wasteland" is a great rocker with Elton's band in
full swing with a little help from Billy Preston. Elton covers the Aids situation, alla 
'The Last Song', with the "Ballad of the Boy in the Red Shoes". It is a very sensitive song 
and also attacks the Reagan Administration for lack of response to the Aids crisis at the 
time. "Love Her Like Me" has a good chorus and is catchy while one would have to feel 
sorry for Taupin and his relationship situation as depicted here. "Mansfield" is mysterious, 
but it reminded me of an old Elton classic, 'Levon', with outstanding orchestration. 
"Look Ma No Hands" is interesting and again Elton's piano & vocals shine. The album 
concludes with yet another classic Elton ballad, "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore", 
simply a great song and a great way to end the album with Elton's emotional vocal.

Elton's singing is raw and powerful. His most passionate vocals in years. The sound is                        
stripped down from the usual glitz and glamor. It's a nice change of pace. Bernie's   
songwriting is good, if not a little cliched at times. Every song here is a toe tapper.

I love every song on this album --another standout, in my opinion, is "American Triangle."
Taupin's lyrics give a poetic, figurative voice to the Matthew Shephard tragedy and
Elton's voice (with the great backup of Rufus Wainwright)is superb and eerie at the same 
time. The chorus, as Wainwright and John sing "Home of the brave/don't make no sense" is 
chilling --their voices complement one another and sound perfect. When I hear  Elton sing 
"It's a cold cold wind/It's a cold cold wind," I am flooded with a wave of emotions. 
"American Triangle" which expresses the pain of hate crimes against gays. It is noted  
in the credits that this album is dedictated to Matthew Shepard and Oliver Johnstone.
I couldn't think of a better or more powerful dedication. This song truly moved me. 
Go buy this CD! As it's great, even if you aren't a huge Elton fan like me. It's an amazing CD. 
The song is remarkable. 

And so is the entire CD. 

Sir Elton John, thank you. And thank you to Steve who sent me the gift