|1. The Bitch Is Back|
|4. Dixie Lily|
|5. Solar Prestige A Gammon|
|6. You're So Static|
|7. I've Seen The Saucers|
|9. Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me|
|11. Pinball Wizard|
|12. Sick City|
|13. Cold Highway|
|14. Step Into Christmas|
That being said, this is a must have for anyone who likes pop music. The tunes are tuneful, the horns are soulful, and the harmonies are dead on. "Deepcuts" like Grimsby, and Stinker always make me smile with the first note.
The liner notes are also very informative and explain why Caribou broke new ground for EJ, Bernie, and the boys.
CARIBOU had been written & recorded in the small space of about a month in order to be released ahead of a large world tour, and the album has more than a few hallmarks of it being a rushed affair. Had Elton & Bernie been given more time to record this album, chances are the songs included would either have been worked on further or discarded altogether. But with what we've got, analysis is still necessary.
First off, the sour grapes. "Grimsby" has been long considered a joke recording that in retrospect is quite distasteful. I wouldn't go that far, but it certainly is several steps down from Elton & Bernie's best.
"Solar Prestige A Gammon" was said to be written in response to critics' overanalyzation of the duo's music, so its meaninglessness is perhaps intentional. But while Paul McCartney managed to make a classic out of roasting his naysayers ("Silly Love Songs"), Elton & Bernie don't make their riposte go down as well.
"I've Seen The Saucers" is about UFO sightings, which nevertheless just shows how Elton & Bernie were stretching for material to complete the album. "Dixie Lily" is somewhat of a good country workout that's good while it plays, but perhaps there's a reason why Elton never made another album like TUMBLEWEED CONNECTION. It's hard to catch lightning twice.
While those are the only glaring embarassments, CARIBOU has more than its share of raison d'etres, and they just barely overcome the ever-present bumps in the road. The top 5 hit "The Bitch Is Back" is one of Elton's finest rockers from a time when he still did a fair amount of it (interesting choice of Dusty Springfield for a back-up singer). "You're So Static" & "Stinker" are fun, meaningless rockers that are much more memorable than the other intentionally-shallow material on CARIBOU.
The ballads are the songs that do a lot in making CARIBOU a much more enjoyable album than is often made out to be. "Pinky" is one slow number that is shockingly not given more attention in Elton's career. The closing "Ticking" is an ambitious epic about a serial killer that is literally an Elton solo recording with mostly just his piano. Despite being hailed as a low in his career, this song helps prove Elton & Bernie could still put their minds to it on a good day.
But it's definitely the classic "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" that makes CARIBOU worth picking up. Definitely in the top 5 of Elton's ballads (although he had long abandoned any traditional love songs), this song deservedly peaked at #2 on the charts, and would finally see #1 when Elton re-recorded it as a live duet with fan & influence George Michael. The fact that George, Oleta Adams & Joe Cocker have all done well by this song is a hint of its timelessness.
The bonus tracks on CARIBOU are certainly some of the best in the whole reissuing campaign of Elton's backlog. "Sick City" & "Cold Highway" were relegated to B-sides, but Elton & Bernie prove that just because they're on the other side of a 45 doesn't mean they're inessential. It's great to have these more easily available for those who didn't save their old singles.
Elton's appearance in the movie version of The Who's TOMMY was one of its biggest highlights & his cover of their "Pinball Wizard" is just marvelous. His piano playing ranks up with his best, and his insertion of a snippet of "I Can't Explain" is genius. The Who were so knocked out by that, that when they covered "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" on the TWO ROOMS tribute album, they returned the favor by inserting a little of "Take Me To The Pilot".
"Step Into Christmas" has deservedly become a modern Yuletide standard since its appearance, and once again indicates that no matter what kind of commonplace genre they tackle, Elton & Bernie will still put their own stamp on it. Not to mention, it is so infectious, even the most Scrooge-like of listeners will feel compelled to join in.
Elton John & Bernie Taupin were indeed visibly exhausted on CARIBOU, with them perhaps recording the album simply to get it out & not pushing themselves to create something magical (probably because they had not much time to). The GREATEST HITS album that arrived late in 1974 would buy the duo some time for them to get back on the track again, but in the meantime, CARIBOU had to have worried some people who thought Elton & Bernie had lost their touch. But when disregarding the rhinestones in a collection like CARIBOU, it's much easier to discover the gems, even if some of them don't shine as much as they used to.