Is it just me or was Elton John's classic era superior to anything that he would do post the 70s? While I'm obviously being frivolous, I'm constantly astonished by just how incredible his music was throughout the 70s. Hence, if it amazes me in 2018, I can only imagine how people would have felt listening to Honky Château when released in 1972.
Honky Cat needs no introduction with its funk tonality. I don't know about you, but I simply adore turning the volume up when this song starts. It is masterfully recorded and mixed, subsequently resulting in a song that is catchy, but not campy. You will likely, as I do, find yourself singing along. In fact, it is so catchy that once heard, it plays like a broken record in your subconscious. It's absolutely brilliant!
Mellow as the title suggests, slows the album down a little. Normally this type of shift doesn't work well, but Honky Cat is so upbeat that you almost need a downbeat to rebalance the senses. Nevertheless, Mellow is a gorgeous song that can be experienced enjoyably on its own, or as part of the album experience. However, the final note at the end of the song sounds prematurely cut on my 1995 remastered CD. I've tried it various CD players and the same effect is preset upon each play. It is akin to a vinyl dropout. Interestingly, it is not present on the TIDAL Hi-Fi equivalent. I find these variations intriguing and can only suggest it was a pressing fault with the CD I have. My edition was pressed in the UK and I wonder if the dropout is also present on the US edition. If anyone has any thoughts about this, l'd love to hear from you.
I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself is pure vocal gold. John’s vocals shift pitch seamlessly and you can't help but move rhythmically when this song comes on. Utilising a similar upbeat funk as Honky Cat, I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself is addictive and is one of the best songs on the album. While the lyrical content and tongue-in-cheek approach may detract some listeners, especially with its somewhat irreverent comic approach, one must remember the different era in which the song was written and recorded. Regardless, you can't please everyone and if you're offended by the song then I can only suggest you don't listen to it.
Susie (Dramas) has a compelling rhythm that will get you toe-tapping, but it isn’t a standout song on the album.
Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time) is the quintessential Elton John song. While I could ramble on about just how exceptional this song is, all I really need to say is music doesn't get much better than this.
Salvation is simply beautiful.
This version of Slave is the more relaxed rendition that was, of course, included on the original album with the later version appearing only on digital editions post the 1995 remastering sessions. At this tempo it has a real Rolling Stones feel to it and I must admit that I prefer this version to the alternative edition.
Amy is a B-side with an incredible sound stage and musicality. You can certainly hear the influence of Mick Jagger in John's vocal performance. It is a unique merging that I find absolutely appealing. I especially enjoy the ending as the instrumental timbre rings out beautifully.
Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters is one of my all-time favourite songs. The first time I heard it was on John's 1989 compilation, The Collection. I subsequently became immersed with Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters and would place it on repeat for hours on end. It is really that good!
Hercules is a little more upbeat, but I can't help but think that Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters would have been a better choice for the final track on the original album. It isn't that Hercules is bad, the musicality is off the chart and that drum beat alone is incredible. It is just that Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters is so relaxing, by comparison, that it would have been nice to allow the mind to sit for a moment at the end of the record. Nevertheless, it wasn't meant to be and the 1995 remaster would extend the album with the Alternative Version of Slave.
Slave (Alternative Version), as I mentioned earlier, isn't my favourite rendition. The tempo shift is interesting, but John sounds about two beats short of a chipmunk. I'm sure some of you would love it, but I find the tempo is simply too fast.
Overall, Honky Château is a compelling album that I can easily listen to for hours. While it is true that that statement could be made regarding most of John’s albums, Honky Château has enough variety, in tempo alone, to never allow the listener to become distracted or wish they were listening to something else.
This review is based on listening to the 1995 remastered CD. An SACD version, with a multi-track surround sound mix, is also available, but I don't feel overly compelled to grab a copy as the mastering of this edition is beautiful and really showcases just how good the standard Redbook CD format can be.
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