Local Rhythms – Sir Elton’s Misguided Notion

sir-elton-john.jpgConfessed technophobe Elton John told a British tabloid last week that the Internet is ruining music – but not for the reasons you’d think. It’s bloggers and homegrown music tweakers, not file traders, muddying the waters.

If we’re to “change the world and change the way people listen to music,” says Sir Elton, “that’s not going to happen with people blogging on the Internet.”

There’s too much technology available,” he continued. Perhaps unaware that wannabe pop stars can create mediocre Pro Tools projects without a network connection, he blamed the Internet for this state of affairs.

I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole Internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span,” he concluded.

Interesting, but pointless.

The Rocket Man completely lost me when he claimed the ‘net “has stopped people from going out and being with each other.”

When people “sit at home and make their own records … it doesn’t bode well for long-term artistic vision,” he says. “It’s just a means to an end.”

I beg to differ, Elton. The opposite’s true.

I can’t attend every show I write about. There simply isn’t enough time. So I use the Internet. Between MySpace, YouTube, band websites, Rhapsody and iTunes samples and Sonicbids electronic press kits, I can be in several virtual places at once.

But that’s simply a means to where I’m going to end up on Friday or Saturday night.

Plus, with the Internet, I tend to find lots of good music not made by megastars playing venues large enough to hold the population of the town I live in.

Maybe that’s what’s bugging him.

Sadly for Elton, the era of blockbusters is over. His recent “Captain and the Kid” was a good album, but it didn’t sell like “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.” If he’s snippy about that, fine. Go on a $150 a ticket concert tour while you still can.

But don’t whine that the information highway is the problem because it’s covered with cars – especially when you’re one of the main reasons people learned to drive in the first place.

This tirade occurred only a few months after the entire Elton John back catalog became available for purchase on iTunes.

Isn’t that ironic?

OK, what’s the best way to keep it local this week?

Thursday: Starline Rhythm Boys, Recreational Park (Chester) – This Vermont band, which plays honky tonk with Texas conviction, was born in a way that warms my heart. Their young leader thought punk rock would change the world, but his dad filled the house with Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Waylon Jennings. God bless those that give their kids a proper upbringing. Nothing beats a well-rounded musical education. This is a free show.

Friday: Haale, Boccelli’s – Her name sort of rhymes with “Falls,” as in Bellows. Haale blends the traditional music of her parents’ homeland, Iran, with electric rock and the sounds of the New York streets. To call her unique is an understatement. She describes her sound as “Psychedelic Sufi Trance Rock.” Count as fans David Byrne, who showcased her in a series of NYC shows, and Sean Lennon, who played on her last album. The local connection is producer Dougie Bowne, who worked with Chris Whitley.

Saturday: Whalestock, Whaleback Ski Area – This local music showcase features the return of a reconfigured Hexerei (who also play in Claremont earlier in the day, on Twistback Road at Lionel West). Also on the bill are Sarvela, who impressed me with their raw sound back in January, singer-songwriter Marisa Imon, Claremont’s Iron Box, and five other bands. As with last year’s inaugural Whalestock, the day includes an extreme sports competition, some fine craft beers from Shipyard and Gritty’s and all original music..

Sunday: Roxanne & The Voodoo Rockers, Newbury Bandstand – Lead singer Roxanne Young caught blues fever 10 years ago and switched her focus; she formed the Voodoo Rockers in 2002. With help from some fine area players, including former Voodoo Blues leader John Mann on guitar, the band’s been invited back to area bars like the Anchorage more than once. This free show (keep your fingers crossed for good weather) offers a chance for young and old to experience a little bit of the Delta on the lake.

Tuesday: Chris Kleeman, Ludlow Gazebo – Another local blues man with a fine pedigree – his first album, made back in 1970, was produced by none other than B.B. King. A typical Kleeman set moves from the southern playing of Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt, to the big Chicago sounds of Muddy Watters and Elmore James, with a little country pickin’ thrown in for good measure. Always a treat, and this is a free show, so what’s your excuse for not going?

Elton John – The Captain and the Kid

captainandkid.jpgFor six years starting in 1969, Elton John released no fewer than nine albums of original material. His latest, “The Captain and the Kid,” is an autobiographical echo of those heady times, a follow-up to the most successful record of he and lyricist Bernie Taupin’s run, “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy,” which entered the charts at number one in 1975.

“I see no brakes just open road and lots of gasoline,” Elton sings as the journey and album begins on “Postcards From Richard Nixon.” The rest of the record proves there’s plenty left in the tank. There’s much nostalgia contained here, from the bemused “Old ‘67” (“Honest, it’s amazing/that we can get together at all”) to the title track’s take on their explosive success (“I’ve seen it growing from next to nothing/into a giant eating up your town”).

The revved-up welcome-to-LA boogie of “Just Like Noah’s Ark” rocks with his best work, and also takes ownership of their history: “we wrote it as we saw it from the centre of the stage… the truth is never quite the same as what the papers say.” “Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way (NYC)” recalls another ode to New York, Honky Chateau’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.”

In a first, Taupin is photographed with Elton on the album’s cover, and most of the record is viewed through two sets of eyes. At times, it’s eerie how well Elton’s thoughts are articulated through Taupin’s words. “And The House Fell Down” describes his battle with drug addition (“I’m more paranoid with every little sound…Three days on a diet of cocaine and wine”); “Tinderbox” looks at the highs and lows of a 40-year working relationship.

“Blues Never Fade Away” is the centerpiece of “Captain and the Kid.” When he asks, “how did we get so lucky?” it’s both a question and a lament for the many friends lost to drugs, disease and assassin’s bullets: “and there’s marble markers and little white crosses/along the beaten path/and I’ve spread their ashes on the wind/and I miss John Lennon’s laugh.”

Musically, this is Elton John’s strongest record since 1988’s “Reg Strikes Back,” but it stands shoulder to shoulder with his best mid-70’s work. It’s extraordinary – at a time when nostalgia tours and greatest hits retrospectives are the norm, that the duo has something so strong to offer at what should be the end of the line. Elton John recently told a journalist that he doesn’t expect to release any more hits. The mantle, he says, has been passed to a younger generation of talent.

If he keeps making records like “The Captain and the Kid,” he could be forced to eat those words.
Five Stars