Life After "The Lion King"|
A Review of Made in England by Elton John
PREFACE: I own five "Lion King" plushies: Buddy (a Disney Store seated Young Simba), Holly (an Applause seated Adult Nala), Nick (an Applause seated Adult Simba), Nora (a Disney Store reclining Young Nala), and Renfield (a Disney Store Timon). Much to my surprise, they all seem to have been bitten by the critic's bug. I've been finding all sorts of essays around the apartment lately that have been scribbled up and signed by them--reviews of current CD's, appreciations of older albums, retrospectives and analytic critiques of various artists. When they found out about Pride Lands Online, they got really excited. "Post some of these there, willya?" said Buddy. I was about to object when I noticed that he was sitting next to my TLK mug collection shelf with an impish look on his face. "Uh, yeah, sure....anything you want," I said. "Now let me move you to a less sensitive spot, hmmm?"
Dave left for work this morning at his usual time. As soon as he locked the door and headed on down the hall, I sashayed off the bed to do a little poking around. On the CD player was a new disc he'd just picked up. I took a gander at it and then cracked a grin as big as the Grand Canyon. "Hey guys," I said. "He's got Elton John's latest studio platter. This calls for a little celebration and a big listen, don't ya think?" When she heard that, Holly went scooting off to the kitchen and fished some bottles out of the fridge and glasses from the cupboard. Before I knew it, she'd poured a cola and lime for herself, a creme soda for Nora, some birch beer for Nick, an orange frosh for Renfield, and a tall raspberry ginger ale for me. Man, I love parties! "Put it on, I want to hear it," purred Holly. "Let's see what our boy's been up to lately." We plunked the platter on and gave it a good listen.
So what's the verdict, Perry Mason? Well, Made in England is a real mixed bag, with some aces stuff, some okay songs, and a few clunkers. Me, I think ol' EJ's at his best when he scribbles up a grabby tune. Something memorable. Something you catch yourself humming even when you wanna concentrate at work or think about something serious. You know, a song like "Tiny Dancer" or "Rocket Man"--or "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." I gotta tell ya, this album is a couple quarts low in the catchy tune department, but there are a few memorable ones here. The grabbiest one is the title cut, which has a great stick-in-your-craw chorus. Man, I can't shake that hookfest--makes my tootsies twitch just thinkin' about it right now! Add that to a jumping beat and a vibrant arrangement and voila--you've got instant good times. I gotta say, I also enjoyed "Pain;" you can really dance to that sucker. It's got a nagging guitar riff borrowed from John Cougar Mellencamp's "Hurts So Good" and a few brief echoes of "Happy" by the Rolling Stones. But Nick had other ideas. "Sure, it's worthwhile musically, but it doesn't go with the lyrics," he said. "An upbeat song with downbeat lyrics about pain? Come on now!" Well, yeah, I gotta admit--he's right. He's always right, the eggheaded killjoy. Tell ya what, I just won't listen too hard to the lyrics on that one while I'm tripping the light fantastic. Now Nick, he really got into "Cold." "Hmmm," he said, "very sophisticated use of harmony, lots of unexpected chord progressions, and an interesting use of tonal instability." Holly noted that there are some other numbers on this record with sneaky harmonic twists and turns as well.
The best song on the album? It's gotta be "Belfast." "It's so genuine," said Nora after hearing it. "A warm string orchestra opening. A sensitive melody with some surprising chord changes wedded to strong, yet not forceful, lyrics. A traditional-sounding pipes-and-fiddle ending. It touched something in me. It's really right, that's all I can say." The song "Please" is kind of fun almost in spite of itself. It's got a really cool arrangement and some subtle dipsy-doodle chord shifts. Renfield got the song "Man" pegged right: "It's a little production number, I think, maybe a bit gospel oriented? I don't know, but it sounds like it's from the same world as 'Don't let the sun go down on me.' Very traditionally Elton John, in a way." And "Latitude?" Well, it's not a bad little countrified lope, as far as I'm concerned.
Then Nick and I decided to exercise our gums yapping about Taupin's lyrics.. He found them kind of herky-jerky and obscure:
I thought they were okay, but kinda pretentious and cliched sometimes, like in the song "Man:"
But they're not all bad. Nora brought up "Belfast" again:
We talked for hours. Just as we were about to go for thirds on the libations, Holly looked at the clock on the window sill and suddenly said, "Hey, wait a minute. Isn't Dave due home soon?" Oh yeah! We were having so much fun we almost forgot the time. With that, Nick and Renfield zoomed the bottles to the fridge and the dirty glasses to the sink, then started a wash-and-dry brigade. Nora and Holly fumbled with the CD player and stuck the disc back into its case. Me, I just sat back and enjoyed all the commotion. Hey, somebody's gotta supervise, right?
"He's coming! He's coming!" squeaked Renfield. We all scrambled back up onto our usual places, me and Holly on the bed, the others on the piano. The key scraped in the lock. "Hey, you guys!" said Dave. He walked over and patted me on the head. I chuckled to myself. "It's our little secret," I thought. Dave'll never know we had a party here--as long as he doesn't notice the big stain on the rug where I spilled my glass of raspberry ginger ale, that is.
The Pride Lands Online Fan's Gallery Archive
Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Taupin
Rocket Records 314-526 185-2
all lyrics copyright 1995 by William A. Bong Ltd., all rights reserved