The degree to which you'll like The Captain & the Kid
is going to depend a lot on your personal history with Sir Elton John: If you've been there from the beginning, a resolute follower once reduced to a quivering mass of humility by "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" and then revived by the blast of pop liberation that was "Philadelphia Freedom" off 1975's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
--the album to which this disc is a sequel--you'll have enough invested to appreciate the concept. If, on the other hand, you're a late arrival to the Rocket Man's repertoire, you'll have to adjust your expectations--Kid,
unlike more recent efforts, isn't aiming itself at the lite-FM listening masses. What it's asking instead is that you return yourself to your 1970s-era childhood bedroom, flop on the bed, and lock the door, or at least fasten an elastic band around your MTV-addled attention span: This is total-immersion music, and it's got 30 years worth of stories to tell.
The Captain and the Kid are John and Bernie Taupin, his longtime songwriting partner. The music, a choir-enhanced swerve through genres including pop, rock, blues, folk, and country with signature piano riffs thrown in nearly everywhere, chronicles their splintery relationship. Innocence and hope ("Postcards from Richard Nixon") give way to success and joy ("Just Like Noah's Ark"), which eventually leads to discontent ("Tinderbox") and disaster ("And the House Fell Down"). A shot at redemption ("The Bridge") later finds the Captain; reflection ("Old 67") and a joyous reunion (the title track) follow.
Theirs is ultimately a simple story, but John and Taupin suffuse it with hypnotic sentimentality--along with the narrative, echoes of past hits wander into several classic-sounding tracks. "Tiny Dancer" darts through the cracked-voice beauty of "Blues Never Fade Away" and "The Bridge," for example, while "Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way (NYC)" works in hints at both "Candle in the Wind" and "Where to Now St. Peter." Other songs shake loose less likely influences ("I Must Have Lost it on the Wind" sounds like something off a vintage Linda Ronstadt album), but all are compellingly steeped in context; if you don't get the late-disc reference to fine silk suits and six-inch heels, you'll wish you did. --Tammy La Gorce
John,Elton ~ Captain & The Kid