Review: Elton John’s ‘Wonderful Crazy Night’

Elton John’s new album – Wonderful Crazy Night – eerily hits the stores at a time when a few of his contemporaries have left this side of the curtain. But whereas – in clichéd example – David Bowie’s later work proved avant-garde, Elton is stuck in familiar territory.

With Captain Fantastic grinning in Austin Powers’ pose against a color-spat background, the album’s cover suggests a groovy, catchy romp.

What we get are cheerful, jingly melodies with some charming lyrics. I’d give a standing ovation had this LP been written by a casual lounge-lizard whose full-time job is landscape gardening.

The highlight is “A Good Heart,” featuring promising verses that remind us of greatness. But as with all the tracks here, that pleasant reminiscence of excellence haunts without manifestation.

Elton John said repeatedly he longed to go back to the country style of his 1970s standards. His attempt to re-animate this era sounds inauthentic because the songs lack that maverick pop melody that hammered home the hits. The result of Elton’s twilight jaunt down the ‘country’ music lane has been a spate of albums humming like suburbia.

His retirement from ‘pop music’ is understandable: Elton wisely sees futility and embarrassment in a chart battle with One Direction.

To be fair, these times are strange waters for artists of Elton’s age and reputation.

The burning stars who checked out at 27 never had to compete with a younger and more prolific self. The legends who thankfully stayed with us have been unable to surpass their own burst of excellence – ask McCartney, or rather, don’t.

This is a sentimental album but sentimentality is largely the aftershock of ground-breaking success.

Pop songs are Elton John’s forte – not country. It’s time Reg Dwight went pop just once more for this album is no sacrifice, no sacrifice at all.