Tumbleweed Connection doesn't have a lot of Elton John songs that you hear on the radio, but I think it's his best album as a whole. Admittedly, I have a slight bias towards singer-songwriter albums where the focus is the singer's voice and the instrumentation supports the voice rather than hides it. That's exactly what you get here. Tumbleweed connection doesn't have the showiness or dated sounds of Elton's later work (although I still like individual songs off the later albums). All of the songs on Tumbleweed Connection work together as a whole. In fact, I rarely listen to just one song on this album; rather, I listen to it when I can hear the whole album in a single sitting. It feels a little like sitting down with a good storyteller and just enjoying the reflective and sometimes funky mood. When you listen to this album, you can see why Elton John was such a sensation when he came to the United States: his piano playing is fresh, his voice is expressive, and his blend of rock/country/blues is innovative. In many ways, this album sounds very American.
There are several songs on this album where Elton jams on the piano like a funky blues musician: Ballad of a Well-known Gun, Country Comfort, Son of Your Father, and Amoreena. The other half of the songs are basically acoustic ballads. Love Songs is just Elton and the acoustic guitar and it's very moving. It's one of my favorite songs. Talking Old Soldiers is just Elton and the piano. Songs with mostly the piano, acoustic guitar, and drums are: My Father's Gun, Where to now St. Peter?, and Come Down in Time (adds harp and oboe). In Burn Down the Mission, he sort of combines the two sounds like the finale of a concert.
If you've ever wanted to hear an Elton John unplugged album, this may be as close as you'll get to it (short of going to his concerts). This album is in my top 10 favorites of all time.