Elton John: Wonderful Crazy Night | Virgin Media
Elton John: Wonderful Crazy Night

Elton John: Wonderful Crazy NightRating: ★★★★☆ | by Matthew Horton



Elton John's in a hurry these days – his 33rd album was recorded in a mere 17 days – but contrarily, he sounds as relaxed as he's ever done. Wonderful Crazy Night is a record that oozes confidence and easy appeal.

It's a bluesy collection of songs, laid down in Los Angeles, produced with T-Bone Burnett and suffused with Americana, from country to the kind of rock-soul he dabbled with in the mid-1970s. What emerges is a joie de vivre and the sense that Elton is just doing stuff he enjoys.

It's good to hear him back in harness with guitarist Davey Johnstone and percussionist Ray Cooper, stalwarts from those hit-making days so long ago and regular members of his touring band. Perhaps their familiar presence emphasises the warm sound on offer, and the assured attack of the bustling good-time title track and the jiving, energetic Guilty Pleasure speak of a band that knows what it's about on stage.

Elton fronts up with a couple of his finest ballads after all this time

They can pull back too. Elton fronts up with a couple of his finest ballads after all this time, with The Open Chord – a celebration of his husband and children – plucking heartstrings (and actual strings) as old writing pal Bernie Taupin pays tribute to a family that has clipped "the horns that the devil used to make me wear all day", while Tambourine's rolling combination of mandolin and organ recall another life-long sparring partner, Rod Stewart.


Elton John Album Cover

The album could lose some slack: A Good Heart strays towards mush, and I've Got 2 Wings is just a standard country-rock singalong, but no matter – there's always Claw Hammer to bring a deathless chorus and the curveball of some dramatic, synthesised horns playing it out.

After 2013's The Diving Board, equally solid but less spectacular, it feels like Elton's hit a late vein of form. Unexpected maybe, but he's always had it in him. He's just worked out where it is once more.


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