Elton can get a bad rap, but I must wonder if it’s because he’s become such an institution. Recall a question posed by Jack Black’s character in the 1999 film High Fidelity: “Is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins? Is it better to burn out or fade away?”
Don’t get me wrong, I find “Crocodile Rock” as insipid as the next hipster. Technically that song is not a latter day sin, but rather one that developed slowly to become one. (This begs the question: was “Crocodile Rock” ever any good?)
Let not your ears be troubled by Elton’s cultural baggage. Throw out your Greatest Hits, as Kids in the Hall advised. The reclamation starts today with “Grey Seal”.
It’s the arpeggiated intro that has been copped too many times by other piano mongers (I’m looking at you, Ben Folds). It’s the two-part and three-part harmonies added in the second and third verses. It’s that the song is G, but then sort of in B. It’s the fabulous figure between chorus and verse that eases the transition between keys. It’s that he had the guts to rerecord the song three years after it was originally released.
“If the phoenix bird can fly, than so can I.”
Listen to the original from his debut album for the sake of comparison. I sure do love me some Paul Buckmaster string arrangements, but not here.