I have been going through my 1000+ CDs for the Popular Culture class I teach and I have come to the conclusion that "Madman that was the only place to hear "Levon," which was my favorite song for about half a year (I believe it was replaced by "Knife's Edge" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer). Consequently, the shift in my musical appreciation from Top Forty to more sophisticated musical forms can be traced to this particular song and this special album.
Of course, once I had enough loose change I bought the album and promptly proceeded to play the first side about five times as often as I flipped it over and played side two; having the CD Across the Water" was a seminal album in my life. I seriously started listening to FM radio in the early Seventies because means I tend to listen to the whole thing all the way through. I would argue that "Tiny Dancer," "Levon," "Razor Face," and "Madman Across the Water" equals the best side of any Elton John record. I also used the title track as part of a poetry unit for English class (ah, those liberal days of yore). The movie "Almost Famous" has made "Tiny Dancer" popular again, but anybody who listens to this CD is going to find out there are some other great songs too, from the somber "Indian Sunset" to the catchy "Rotten Peaches."
Ironically, "Levon" made its way onto the third volume of Elton John's greatest hits collection. Just another example of the cherished memories of our youth exploited by the commercial interests of some soulless giant company.
on March 10, 2003
The magical period of 1970-1978 now known as Elton John's "Classic Years" yielded many wonderful albums in a short frame of time. Many people seem to single out "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" as his best. This may be because of the fact that Sir Elton was at his most popular by that time.
In my opinion, "Madman Across the Water" is his best. Recorded in 1971, it contains some of the most soulful songs Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever created.
Yes, it contains the commercial hits "Tiny Dancer" and "Levon" but unlike some of Elton's late 70s albums, this one goes a bit deeper than that. The title track is a haunting epic that evokes frightening images while leaving a melody in your head that urges to sing along. "All the Nasties" and "Goodbye" also stand out as favorites, but as a whole this album works better than any other EJ recording.
One major reason is the overall sound. On many of the songs, orchestration is used to intensify the emotional anthems to higher levels than a piano will allow. Also, the album gives some room to breathe between the more serious songs like "Indian Sunset" with transitions to more fun songs like "Razorface" and "Rotten Peaches", which are all great tunes in their own right.
This was the album that really got me rolling on my Elton John collection. I would also highly reccommend "Tumbleweed Connection", "Honky Chateau", and "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy". But start here. You won't stop.
on November 26, 2002
Elton John released this 1971 album during his first taste of the big time. The album was recorded during a happy time in his life, but it has so many angst-ridden songs on it. Even if you
take a closer listen to "Tiny Dancer", you can see the angst that
burst out on the rest of the album. "Levon" is a tale of a bitter
man who thinks of Jesus as nothing more than a ballon-selling man
who just wants to go away and leave Levon to die. The song's theme may have been controversial with religios groups, but it
soon became a classic Elton tune. "Razor Face" tells the tale of
a homeless man looking for a lace to lay down. Elton begins to
show his slightly darker side. The darker side really begins to
show on the title track. The guitar solo that kicks off the song
gives us the first hint of danger, and Elton's chilling vocals on
this one give it a really dark feeling. "Indian Sunset" shows the
piano man at his angst-ridden best (or worst depending on how you
look at it), playing an Indian soldier avenging the death of his
chief. "Holiday Inn" is a refreshing change of pace. The album's
only bright song, Elton is in the part of a rock star waiting to
rest in the famed motel in Boston. "Rotten Peaches" takes us back
to the dark side, as Elton plays an escaped convict starting a
life on the run. "All The Nasties" is another good song, with a
nice choir but it still has a rather dark feel to it. The closing
"Goodbye" is chilling. Elton plays a dying man leaving some final
words to his ex-lover. This is a great album.
on November 10, 2002
1971's "Madman Across The Water" was Elton John's fourth album release, and his third that year. Although one year into his career, the album already reflects a changing Elton. "Madman Across The Water" is an excellent album and is among his best.
Most people will buy this album for its two classics, "Tiny Dancer" and "Levon", but "Indian Sunset", "Holiday Inn" & "Madman Across The Water" are just as good. The title track was said to be written about Richard Nixon, but Taupin absolutely denies it. "Indian Sunset" is a little long, but it's
a compelling and powerful tune about revenge and war. The cheerful "Holiday Inn" is possibly the best song on the whole album in my oppinion. It's a great look at the marvelous acoustic side of John and Taupin. "Rotten Peaches" is a brilliant song with grwat acoustic guitar playing and the brilliant mandolin playing of Davey Johnstone.
Several other songs on "Madman" are excellent listens as well, including "Goodbye" and "Razor Face". Madman Across The Water" is an ingenius piece of work that deserves notice and critical acclaim.
on October 22, 2002
This album was Elton John and Bernie Taupin's sixth album in three years. During that time Elton explored a variety of sounds, trying to find his sound. "Madman Across the Water" was the cusp of the quest that would be fully realized on Elton's next album, "Honky Chateau". However, while seeking his sound, Elton managed to demonstrate an incredible potential that was broadly manifested on this album.
The first five songs particularly show a wonderful range of styles and compositions ranging from the solid pop of "Tiny Dancer" and "Levon" to the heavily orchestrated "Madman Across the Water" and "Indian Sunset". While the lyrics were occasionally murky and often misquoted, there was a lot of power in the piano and the backing arrangements were incredible. The still maturing voice of Elton was new and different at the time, and appealed to a broad array of audiences trying to find stability after the psychedelic and turbulent 60s.
One interesting feature of some of Elton's early music is the periodic influence of gospel or soul music, most strongly seen on this album in "All the Nasties". The influence would not last much longer as Elton went down a musically more cohesive path from this point on.
Over time Elton played keyboards of various types, but on his recent album "Songs from the West Coast" he returned to the piano once again, recalling the relative innocence of this early music, though with the maturity of a talented, seasoned artist. I think it is a tribute to the power of this early music that Elton has returned to it once again in his most recent album.
Music of this type has an incredible amount of power and appeals as much to emotion as it does to the ear. Listen again to an artist that made it big based on the power of his music and not the over-polished commercial pop that is hyped on many FM stations today. Truly a solid album for any collection.
on September 6, 2002
There was a time when I wouldn't quite give this LP a superior rating because I've always felt that Side One of the original album configuration (the first four songs) were twice as good as Side Two. The other five songs have grown on me, however, and the entire album is indeed excellent.
"Tiny Dancer" and "Levon" have suffered a bit from being overplayed on radio, but they're two of his finest, most meaningful songs. But "Razor Face" is equally memorable, and the haunting title track is Elton John's very best song in my opinion. Truly outstanding lyrics about an asylum inmate are matched by brilliantly arranged strings and compelling lead guitar--I never get tired of hearing this song.
The remaining tracks have grown on me over the years and are all very good. "Indian Sunset" is a bit preachy but gets your attention, and "Holiday Inn" and "Rotten Peaches" both show off the fine, acoustic side of Elton and Bernie's work which was so prevalent on the albums from this period. It sounds great after being remastered, and the price is unbeatable. The only complaint is that there were no bonus tracks after the rerelease, which is the case with most of the "classic years" CD's. There are no complaints with the songs at all. Strongly recommended.
"Madman Across The Water" is one of my favorite Elton John albums. There's definitely not one bad song here. Paul Buckmaster writes some of his finest orchestral arrangements; most notably for the ballad "Levon" - one of my top ten favorite Elton John tunes - "Tiny Dancer", another favorite, and the title track. Like his earlier albums, Elton used primarily studio musicians, though two of them, drummer Roger Pope and guitarist Caleb Quaye, would later join his band in 1975, contributing their talents to "Rock Of The Westies" and "Blue Moves". Original band mates bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson appear only on one song, "All The Nasties"; starting with "Honky Chateau" through "Captain Fantastic", they would remain the rhythm section for the Elton John band. Davey Johnstone appears as a guest musician, with some excellent mandolin solos for "Madman Across The Water" (Incidentally, contrary to one popular rumor, "Madman..." isn't about American president Richard M. Nixon and the Watergate affair.). Aside from "Levon", my favorite song is "Tiny Dancer"; both are early pop masterpieces from the John/Taupin team. Yet another memorable song is "Holiday Inn". The sound quality is exceptional, thanks to excellent digital image-bit remastering done by Gus Dudgeon, the original album producer, and his team. Without question, "Madman Across The Water" is an essential Elton John recording.
on November 2, 2001
"Madman Across The Water" is perhaps Elton John's and Bernie Taupin's most creative musical and lyrical output, when compared with their other stellar early '70's albums for a number of reasons. For instance, "MATW"'s two opening tracks, "Tiny Dancer" and "Levon", both display a vibrant orchestral fluidity (especially the latter selection), as well as a unique, melancholic autobiographical charm (moreso prevalent in "Levon"). "Tiny Dancer" was written about Taupin's girlfriend at the time, a dancer named Maxine Feibelman. What makes "Madman..." a musician's clinic, are the percussive guitar and mandolin skills, which are craftfully provided by the likes of drummer Roger Pope and axeman extraordinaire Davey Johnstone - whose talents on the mandolin are quite exceptional on the road-heavy "Holiday Inn". Johnstone would become a full-fledged member of The Elton John Band by the time EJ's next LP, "Honky Chateau", was released the following year in 1972. Adding to this standout array of musicianship, is guest Rick Wakeman, whose playing on a majority of "MATW"'s tracks is sometimes barely audible, and on selections such as "Razor Face", he pulls it off in spades. Wakeman would soon leave the Strawbs and join Yes after working on this album. Also introduced to the band are bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson, both of whom appear on one track, the impeccably overwraught "All The Nasties". Both Murray and Olsson would become prime-time EJ Band members also by the release of "Honky Chateau". The CD's title track is sure to give even the most casual Elton John fan "suspensful down your spine chills and thrills", courtesy of "Madman's..." intense lyrical and orchestral jinegar. EJ and BT both paint a rich, textured Native American cultural landscape and soundscape in "Indian Sunset", as if they realistically transported themselves back in time and dwelled amongst the natives (not bad for a couple of Brits, wouldn't you say?). The lyrics of "Rotten Peaches" would focus on the sad sack trial and tribulation nature found in a majority of Elton's and Bernie's musical and lyrical compositions in future albums as well. For these two songbirds, that is a very good thing, for fans of these two compositional wonders wouldn't have it any other way, including yours truly. "Goodbye" is a fitting end to the CD's macabre, storybook-like novella. "Madman Across The Water" is an absolute must for all die-hard Eltonians to have in their CD collection(s). Aren't you just "dying" to have this title in your Elton John library right about now?
on July 26, 2001
I'm one of those early fans who became downright annoyed when Elton began to morph into a cross between Liberace' and a teeny bopper idol. It began to show on " Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player" with "Crocodile Rock". "Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road" was the last album he did that I liked and even that one would have made a much better single album. Everything from 1970 to 73 with the exception of "Friends" really overshaddows his later work.
Madman carries the same musical torch that was lit by "Tumbleweed Conection", but is more focused. His piano playing never sounded more inspired than here. The production by Gus Dudgeon is flawless, even by today's digital standards. Bernie Taupin was also at his best as a lyricist here. Nowadays, I don't listen to Elton a whole lot, but when I do, it's usually this album in it's entirety as I don't find one track to be the least bit weak. From an artistic standpoint, Elton and Bernie must be very proud of this work.
on May 7, 2001
Elton continued his winning streak with this classic album, and this time around, the strings were put to good use. In my opinion, Tiny Dancer, Levon and Indian Sunset are pure brilliance, but it's a fairly short album, and the last three songs are below average, that's why I don't give five stars. As I said, this time, the strings almost define the songs, the powerfully dramatic Levon, the passionate Tiny Dancer, the moving Indian Sunset(the way the strings/percussion make you feel the anguish of this situation, extraordinary) and the sweet sensation of life on the road, Holiday Inn. While I think the title track is a decent song, it never has been one of my personal favorites, and I much prefer the guitar version on Rare Masters, and now Tumbleweed Connection. Another winning track is Razor Face, that is just classic, and should have received more attention. This album is a must, and probably about the third one you should get, after Don't Shoot Me, and Yellow Brick Road. I will end this with what I consider to be some of the finest Taupin lyrics to date: Jesus, he wants to go to venus, leaving Levon far behind, take a balloon, and go sailing, while Levon, Levon slowly dies...