Monday, September 22, 2008


There are a handful of artists whose musical output has taken such a dramatic shift in the quality department, that it is hard to remember why we ever liked these people in the first place. The two that immediately come to mind are Elton John & Rod Stewart. Between 1970 and 1975, Elton & Rod were responsible for what is arguably some of the greatest albums ever made.

Madman Across The Water, Tumbleweed Connection, Honky Chateau, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Captain Fantastic from EJ.

The Rod Stewart Album, Gasoline Alley, Never A Dull Moment, Every Picture Tells Story, and 4 of my favorite rock and roll albums of all time, the Faces' First Step, A Nod Is As Good As A Wink, Long Player, and Ooh La La from Rod.

Since then, these two megastars have released what is arguably some of the worst records in the history of music.

A Single Man, The Fox, Ice On Fire, Reg Strikes Back, Leather Jackets, Sleeping With The Past, Made In England and The Big Picture for Elton. That's just the 80s and 90s and it's not even a complete list. Try listening to any one of these records. The songwriting is insipid, and Elton's voice sounds just slightly more musical than Wilford Brimley's.

Rod spat out Body Wishes, Vagabond Heart, Spanner In The Works, When We Were The New Boys, Human, and the most offensive quartet of music ever put to tape, Stewart's four volume tribute to "The Great American Songbook."

What is interesting is that neither Elton or Rod suffered by releasing this musical ipecac. On the contrary, their careers exploded. They are as popular as ever. The transition from rock icons to pandering lounge acts wasn't overnight. Elton and Rod tried, albeit not very hard, to maintain their status as rock royalty. Too bad the material says otherwise.

On a similar note, tomorrow sees the release of four expanded reissues of The Replacements' Sire Records catalogue. I spent the weekend listening to these classic records. For a long time, I could not listen to a note of The Replacements thanks to Paul Westerberg's painfully lazy solo output. Talk about "poisoning the well!" But cranking up "Tim," made me forget such dreck as "Suicaine Gratifaction," at least for a Sunday afternoon. More on these reissues tomorrow.

I often wonder if Rod & Elton have one great record left in them. With the right producer, we just may see another classic from both. Or is it just too late? Maybe they just don't care. It's not like they need the money. Bastards.


Michael in New York said...

Rod Stewart is a good example of a truly great artist who has been costing for a good 30+ years on the wave of a classic album, "Every Picture Tells A Story." But Elton John? His albums may have become dreadfully spotty but he was always good for a decent song or two and amassed the Joe Dimaggio-like record of having a Top 40 single every year from 1970 to 1995. Personally, I've always considered him a singles artist myself. And most would say his recent run of three albums were a respectable return to form -- Songs From The West Coast, Peachtree Road and The Captain & The Kid. None of them truly great, but infinitely better than Rod Stewart's Songbook series, for example. "I Want Love" and "Ballad of the Boy in the Red Shoes" and "This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore" are all good to great additions to his canon. No?

Ken D said...

Did you actually listen to all 4 of Rod Stewart's "Songbook" albums? Was this part of your Navy SEAL training?
I admit I couldn't take more than a couple of songs before I broke down and confessed...

Sal Nunziato said...

I really liked "Peachtree Road." A lot, as a matter of fact. But I thought that "Songs From The West Coast" was overrated, and that "Captain & The Kid" was truly bad. I failed to mention "Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player," "Caribou," and one of the most underrated records of all time, "Blue Moves." Three more from that same incredible period.

As for listening to Rod's "Great American Songbook," I istened to volume one and was horrified at how bad it was. One lazy arrangement for every song. I can't imagine 2-4 being any better.

Anonymous said...

Rod Stewart's Songbook albums are bad. His "return to rock" album from the 2006, "Still the Same" was maybe even worse because you actually thought the old boy was coming back.

However, that concession aside, the albums this "critic" chooses to list are all decent, and in some cases pretty damn good. (The exception being Body Wishes, which WAS awful).

Vagabond Heart, When Were the New Boys and espcially Spanner in the Works received mostly positive reviews and remain a favorite with Rod Stewart fans. Human, a little less so, but still not a bad album.

Its so easy to dimiss Rod Stewart and there are plenty of hid albums to point to that stink. Blondes Have More Fun and Camoflage along with the Songbooks and Body Wises top that list.

He deserves a heap of criticism for coasting, but let's direct that criticism where it belongs.