As far as album titles go, this is one of my favourites as it conjures up a variety of thoughts that not only apply to the literal inference of the statement, but the showmanship element portrayed via the cover art.
From a musical perspective, there is much to like here as many of the songs have gone on to become staples in the Elton John catalogue. However, sonically I find the album challenging to enjoy as it sounds rather concealed. For reference, the edition that this review is based on is the 1995 Mercury remaster available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It simply lacks a lively approach and also sounds incredibly flat by comparison to John's other records from this era. It simply isn't mastered well, yet the classic tunes that I know well, and have repeatedly heard on various compilations, sound incredible on John's various best of/greatest hits releases. With this in mind, I feel confident in saying that the remaster didn’t enhance the album. It’s a shame really, considering the calibre of songs found on Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player.
Daniel is a gorgeous ballad that truly showcases the smooth, yet gruff, elements that are part of John's vocal presentation. Musically, it is also lovely, it’s just disappointing that the remaster is not stronger as there is a greater performance hidden from the listener’s ears. Regardless, Daniel is thoroughly enjoyable.
Teacher I Need You is EPIC! It’s a fun song that works extremely well for John's style; similar to Crocodile Rock in that regard. Sadly, the percussion elements lack the depth I believe they should have, resulting in a lacklustre backbeat.
Elderberry Wine is a great song, but again let down by what can only be described as 'mushy' drums.
Blues For My Baby And Me is a simply gorgeous song. As I listen to it, I can't help but wonder if Billy Joel has ever covered this song in one of their double-billed live performances as it would be perfectly suited to his style. Perhaps it is just me, but the way John sings this song is similar to Joel's own vocal dexterity. Subsequently, the casual listener could be forgiven for assuming Blues For My Baby And Me is a Billy Joel song, rather than an Elton John classic.
Midnight Creeper is a solid song, with a catchy melody, but it isn't anything to write home about.
Have Mercy On The Criminal is an incredible song, one of the best on the album. Quite frankly, it is one of John's greatest recordings.
I'm Gonna Be A Teenage Idol has a fantastic groove that ensures your body will be moving throughout. Turn the volume up and enjoy. I love it!
Texas Love Song is an enjoyable tune that grows on you the more you listen to the album.
Crocodile Rock is one of my all-time favourites. It’s simply a fun song and sometimes that is all you need.
High Flying Bird is a classic B-side, but it is beautiful in its own right and is one of the best songs on the album.
Screw You (Young Man's Blues) is another fun song. I'd love to see the Foo Fighters cover this song as I can only imagine Dave Grohl’s vocal presentation, especially in the chorus, would be priceless.
Jack Rabbit (Single Version) is a bonus song that was left off the core album and should have been left off the remaster. It simply doesn’t add any substance to the album or John's career.
Whenever You're Ready (We'll Go Steady Again) isn’t the strongest song in the lineup either. Sometimes I find bonus tracks detract from the core album experience and that is certainly the case in this instance. It would be nice to have these tracks separate, perhaps on a second CD. Unfortunately, streaming services have yet to come up with an adequate way to handle such a problem. Yes, they often include the standard album release with the Deluxe Edition but this remaster was never separated as such in the CD era, hence the good, the bad, and the ugly are mashed together. Vinyl collectors can, however, rejoice as the 2017 reissue has the original album track listing.
Skyline Pigeon (Piano Version) is gorgeous and while this is my preferred version, the original that is available on Empty Sky has a rawer production that works equally well.
Don't Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player is another incredible album by Elton John, but in comparison to his other recordings, it is sonically inferior. Perhaps it could be partially contributed to the original recording style, but I still feel it was the remaster that has tarnished the musical brilliance. That said, I've never heard an original pressing of this album and I may be in error with the above statement. Although, I can’t ignore the fact that many of John’s compilations present the songs in a far more pleasing manner with a larger soundstage and overall presence. Interestingly, Don't Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player was never mastered to SACD and to my knowledge there has never been a high-resolution edition released. I only mention this as many of John's other albums from this era have received the high-res treatment and I wonder if the original recording is lacking or if the tapes from the original recording/mastering sessions are beyond repair. If anyone has any knowledge in this area, I’d love to hear from you. Regardless, I’ll certainly be interested to listen to the album again once it is available in MQA via TIDAL Hi-Fi.
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