Review: Elton John’s New Album “Wonderful Crazy Night” – A Return to Retro Roots

Elton John is one of those artist like David Bowie and Alice Cooper that continuously evolves stylistically and musically giving him longevity over the years. Unlike the aforementioned artists John’s reinventions of himself don’t always ring true with his audience.

Starting his career with his given name Reginald Kenneth Dwight, John fronted the band Bluesology. Bluesology later became the backing band for the legendary Isley Brothers. Yes, the same Isley Brothers Jimi Hendrix once played for. John’s blues, gospel, rock and R&B roots are deep.

Sometime around the Lion King/Tim Rice era Elton John’s playing took a shift as dramatically as some of his fashion choices. It seems John shook off his blues based influences and switched to a more classical approach to the piano. More so than ever before. His music became entrenched in modal arpeggios that got busier and more delicate as time went on. Fans began to wonder where the man was that pounded the piano during “Take Me to the Pilot”.

Fans hoped that man would return for the 2006 release The Captain & the Kid. This was the follow up to one of John’s most critically acclaimed recordings Captain Fantastic. The disk also featured the reforming of core musicians of the Elton John Band. Sadly, the music and playing felt more like long time drummer Nigel Olsen and legendary guitarist Davey Johnstone trying to adapt to Elton’s new style than a reunion of old friends.

“Wonderful Crazy Night” is another romp with John’s favorite musicians, percussionist Ray Cooper also joins the fray. This time Elton John got it right. The delicate classical arpeggios are gone and replaced with thundering blues drenched minor pentatonics. Once again it sounds like Elton is hitting the bass keys of the piano with a sledgehammer. While we are talking bass I must note bassist Matt Bissonette does a great job sitting in for the late Dee Murray.

Track “In The Name Of You” is a gem in the vein of classic Elton John. This could be a lost track from Tumbleweed Connection or Madman Across the Water. Blues drenched piano, funky bass and Davey Johnstone banging out classic hard rock guitar. The first video from the album “Blue Wonderful“ is a ballad and a nice one at that. What is cool about the song is the Nashville style bass line and honky tonk piano that reminds us of the English musician that defined Americana music in the 70’s. Title track “Wonderful Crazy Night” is a striped down return to a groove based up-tempo tune that is reminiscent of Philadelphia Freedom. The song forces you to tap your foot and will eventually drag people to their feet to dance.

If you are a longtime hard core fan of Reg Dwight, Elton John, Captain Fantastic or a cat named Hercules, I think you will be pleased with this latest disk from Elton and crew. Elton has returned to a more guitar and bass friendly style of playing and writing. Davey Johnstone has been let off the leash and the result is some fantastic music from the Elton John Band.

Listen to Elton John’s New Song ‘In the Name of You’