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Posts Tagged ‘Two Wings’

The Daily Record: “Wonderful Crazy Night”–Elton John (2016)

In Rich's House of Vinyl on January 13, 2017 at 4:17 am

 

For the next few weeks, I’m going to post brief “Daily Record” surveys of albums released in 2016. The plan is to post them in chronological order from their 2016 release dates. Last night I wrote about David Bowie’s Blackstar. Tonight, I’ll move on to Elton John’s Wonderful Crazy Night, released in early February 2016.

Right after Christmas, I realized that I’d only heard three albums released in 2016. This is very odd for me, since I’m usually at least a little better at keeping up with pop music. But, while I did hear more Top 40 radio than I would have imagined, I seriously fell down on album-listening.

Wonderful Crazy Night was one of those three albums. Of course, Blackstar was one of the others. The third will turn up in a future entry.

Now, I have been an Elton John fan forever. He was probably my first favorite rock star. I’ll even defend his first “down” period (1977-1982 or so), though I have to admit that I can’t find much EJ music from ’84 all the way through 2000 to recommend. Scattered songs here and there, but the albums suffer from all matter of problems, from questionable production choices to lazy songwriting.

Beginning with 2001’s Songs from the West Coast, Elton began to turn things around, and I’ve been generally pleased with his albums since then. I was looking forward to Wonderful Crazy Night  and I was intrigued with the pre-release buzz that the album was going to be an upbeat album, filled with rockin’ songs reminiscent of his classic ’70s singles. In short, it was going to be a whole lotta “Crocodile Rock,” as opposed to John’s previous album, The Diving Board, which was sort of a whole lotta “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”

Of course, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is one of my all-time favorite songs and I actually liked The Diving Board very much. Sure, it didn’t exactly rock, but it had gravitas, which seemed to work well for EJ. Plus, it had a spare, stark production sound and plenty of piano.

So, when Wonderful Crazy Night was released, I dutifully bought it and listened a few times but compared to the stately and grounded The Diving Board, the new album seemed a little bit too lightweight. I’d listen to Wonderful Crazy Night, then it would float away and I’d go listen to Blackstar again.

Elton’s new album was competing with the gravitas of his own last album as well as that of his recently deceased peer–Bowie and John were born mere months from each other in 1947. Wonderful Crazy Night soon got filed away for much of the rest of the year.

A funny thing happened though. In anticipation of this post, I started listening to  Wonderful Crazy Night over the past few weeks and I let it sink in a bit more than I had last February. It’s grown on me, and it clearly fits in nicely with his fine string of 21st century records. I’m still not sold on every song on the album, but the upbeat songs like the title track and “Looking Up” are fun and most of the ballads are pretty OK, even if they don’t have the depth of the songs on The Diving Board.

Tonight, “I’ve Got 2 Wings” is my favorite Wonderful Crazy Night song. It’s a true story, the biography of Utah Smith, a traveling preacher who roamed the United States with an electric guitar and a pair of paper angel wings he wear while playing and singing gospel tunes. I had never heard of Smith before I heard this song, but I’m finding myself touched by his life story tonight, for reasons that I can’t completely explain. Maybe I’ll delve further into the Utah Smith story and report on it sometime soon. For now that, here’s a bonus song from Utah Smith. Just still photos, but check out the wings!

 

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