Another in the long list of Great Albums That You Probably Don’t Know. This record is SHOCKINGLY better than I remember from years back. It’s a knockout, with a great bunch of Elton rockers that still hold up forty years later. It’s much more like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road than it is the two albums that preceded it, Caribou and Captain Fantastic. To these ears it’s a return to form after two misfires.
Caribou is just not a good album on any level; my grade for it would be something in the D range. Captain Fantastic is decent, something along the lines of a B minus: third tier, worth a listen from time to time but not a Must Own by any stretch.
Contrast those two with Rock of the Westies, which clearly deserves to be considered a Must Own, right behind Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, at the bottom of the top tier or atop the second and well ahead of Madman Across the Water and Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player.
And there is simply nothing to come later that can touch any of these Classics from Elton’s prime period, 1970 to 1975.
This music has ENERGY like no other Elton John record we know of; in that sense it has much in common with GYBR, a real rocker in its own right (although practically every song on that album is a bit longer than it should be, succumbing to the perils of the Double Disc: too much time to fill).
We had a blast playing this one good and loud, which is how it was clearly meant to be heard.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
The best sides rock like crazy with serious size and energy. Also, the better copies don’t get too congested in the choruses, a problem we often come across.
Audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them do not seem to be listening for these sonic qualities, the kind — size, energy, dynamics, freedom from congestion — that are very difficult to reproduce (at the loud levels we prefer) and vary dramatically from record to record.
These are what separate the men from the boys, the Hot Stampers from the Nice Sounding Records.
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.