|1. Empty Sky|
|3. Western Ford Gateway|
|4. Hymn 2000|
|5. Lady What's Tomorrow|
|7. The Scaffold|
|8. Skyline Pigeon|
|9. Gulliver/It's Hay Chewed/Reprise|
|10. Lady Samantha|
|11. All Across The Havens|
|12. It's Me That You Need|
|13. Just Like Strange Rain|
If Elton only knew what was to come.
The first Elton John, though only released in the U.S. in the mid-70s, after his run of big singles was beginning to dry up, has a feeling more of cleaning up after the elephants as much as it does of leading the parade. Elton's voice, in the notable title track, the best song on the original track lineup, sounds as world-weary as it would on "Blue Moves," recorded some seven years later. The lyrics of ES are less sharp than usual, though the subjects are less the broken relationships Bernie Taupin came to write about so obsessively later in his career, and more in line with pre-teen daydreaming about Norse gods and escape. Maturation was still to come, along with the pop chops and chart-topping savvy.
There's nothing great on this collection to recommend it to a non-completist, it's a little too proggy and twee. That said, a casual fan will find worthwhile things. The melodies are pretty if unmemorable, with songs like "The Scaffold" and "Western Ford Gateway" standouts on the hummability meter. How's this for an unusual complaint for a pop record: Too much harpsichord!
The song "Empty Sky" is the major revelation, because it really showcases a different Elton than we saw performing "Your Song" the following year. It's an interesting peek at the artist behind the showman, just following his muse and trying to figure out what works, and the crunchy guitar licks are pretty sensational, though the song never quite gels in the way of a "Philadelphia Freedom" or "Benny And The Jets."
The best song on the CD is not from the original album, but "Lady Samantha," which when released as a single some months before gave Elton his first (minor) radio success.Read more ›
Beginning with the 8 - minute title track, "Empty Sky" is possibly Elton's most uneven album. Despite that, it still shines thanks to great songs. Songs like "Val - Hala" and "The Scaffold" show that even in 1969, Elton and Bernie's songwriting capabilites were in full bloom. The song most people will want is the original version of the now classic "Skyline Pigeon". While this version is good, in 1973, Elton rerecorded it using a piano instead of a harpsichord, and it runed to be the definitive version. Also included are three bonus tracks. "Lady Samantha" is a great acid rocker, and is know well known thanks to Three Dog Night's cover version. 'All Across The Havens" sways effortlessly, while "It's Me That You Need" is a gorgeous ballad. "Just Like Strange Rain" is another rocker.
While not as good future albums, "Empty Sky" is a great record. I suggest the purchase of it today.
The original album contained nine tracks. This version adds four early Elton recordings, including Elton's first British hit, "Lady Samantha." Note that the four bonus tracks are also included on the "Rare Masters" CD. The additions are interesting, and in some ways are better than many of the original "Empty Sky" tracks. I think that Elton's earliest recordings, though very commercial and pop, had fewer gimmicks and were better produced than much of "Empty Sky," which tried too hard to sound hip and cool.
The title song, for example, has a single guitar riff thrown in that tries to make that song sound contemporary and cool, and just ends up making the song feel very dated and a bit amateurish. Excluding those little idiosyncrasies, the song is a decent R&B song, with a bit of experimentation and several interesting special effects.
There are several features of these songs I enjoy. The harpsichord in "Val-Hala" is interesting and unusual. "Sails" is one of the few songs that clearly link the style of this album to later albums such as "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player." "Scaffold" has lyrics that achieved less than perhaps Taupin had desired, but Elton saved the song by writing a catchy tune that had little reliance on the lyrics.Read more ›