You'd think that following the Pop/Rock success of John's self-titled album, Elton John, the last thing on his mind would have been a change of style. Well the country-infused concept album, Tumbleweed Connection, cemented the musical skill of not only John but Bernie Taupin. While it isn't Nashville Country Music, it is appealing to a broader demographic with its Roots, Blues, and Country Rock musicality. That said, Tumbleweed Connection is more the merging of the genres, rather than highlighting one in particular. It is unique, compelling, and is classic Elton John.
The artwork for this album is legendary, but you wouldn't know that looking at the basic artwork shown on all streaming services. As numerous albums from the vinyl era do, their cover continues to the rear, thereby creating a captivating landscape. While I don't yet have a physical copy of this album, the website Discogs is a wonderful place to explore all the editions and associated design choices.
While I have Tumbleweed Connection on my Discogs wish list, I aim to pick up the 2004 SACD edition, rather than the Vinyl release as it contains the surround sound mix by Greg Penny. These mixes are generally highly regarded and if my Blu-ray High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) 5.I Surround Sound copy of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is any indication, then I am in for an experience that has to be heard to be believed. By comparison, my Vinyl copy, and all other stereo editions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sound flat and lifeless by comparison. Yes, I acknowledge the mastering variations of a surround sound mix versus a stereo mix, but the difference is quite profound and more enjoyable. Regardless, when I pick up the SACD release, I'll post a review for those of you who may be interested. In the meantime, this review is based on the 1995 remaster available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Overall, it is a very relaxed and enjoyable remaster that pre-dates the horrors of remastering for loudness alone.
Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun is now a staple in John's catalogue, but as catchy as it is, I just can't get into the tempo as it has always sounded a little too offbeat for my liking.
Come Down In Time is simply gorgeous. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and one of the best songs Elton John ever recorded.
County Comfort is an absolute classic that has been covered numerous times. Of the mainstream covers, I don't believe Rod Stewart did a great job of it on Gasoline Alley. Whereas, I thoroughly enjoy Keith Urban’s rendition on Be Here as I feel it pays homage to the original while being simultaneously modern and perfectly suited to Urban's style. That said, the original is, as most originals are, beyond reproach. John's version is so compelling that I could listen to it repeatedly without tiring of the song.
Son Of Your Father isn't great. Musically it’s interesting, but the lyrical delivery is disjointed until the chorus kicks in, then the song starts to become a little more compelling. Sadly, it isn't enough for me to be captivated and hence I put this song into the B-side category.
My Father's Gun is fantastic. That chorus is really appealing and the overall musically of the song is top notch in my opinion.
Where To Now St. Peter? is really enjoyable. Yet it is somewhat offbeat and shouldn't really work, but it does and systematically showcases the incredible understanding of music and its associated composition by John and Taupin.
Love Song works in well within the album construct. However, as a song on its own, I don't find it compelling. The background real-life sounds also detract from the music, although I am interested to see how these elements will be placed in the surround sound mix.
Amoreena is a B-side for me. It isn't bad, but it isn't a standout either.
Talking Old Soldiers is lovely in its simplicity. A simply amazing performance. Sonic perfection!
Burn Down The Mission is a solid B-side. Musically, there is much to like here, but I find the mix conceals the vocals a little too much.
Into The Old Man's Shoes is a great song that, once again, fits in perfectly with the album and overall style of the recording.
Madman Across The Water is epic! I never tire of this song and I really love this original version. It has such an immersive soundstage, you really need to turn the volume up on this one and be enveloped with sound. The re-recording on the similarly titled album, Madman Across The Water, is also compelling, but I find it to be overproduced and lacking some of the rawness that made this original so special.
Overall, Tumbleweed Connection is a masterful release that adds intrinsic value to Elton John's early era in the recording industry.