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 Comeback 'Kid'

Blacklight Bar

Plumbing his past, Elton John crafts a close-to-'Fantastic' new album.

by Chris Willman in Entertainment Weekly

Elton John - The Captain & the Kidnyone heralding a new Elton John album as a return to form faces credibility issues. (You may recall the "Elton's back!" scare around 2001's Songs From the West Coast.) But it's not crying wolf to warn you that Captain & the Kid is EJ's best since the Carter years. It's an autobiographical song cycle largely about the 1970s, which gives Elton a thematic excuse to answer fans' prayers, drop the adult contemporary slop, and deliver a piano-dominated, live-band effort consciously aping his earliest, most idiosyncratic breakthroughs.

It's billed as a follow-up to 1975's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, and while there's a whiff of desperation to classic-rock "sequels," this really does pick up where John and lyricist Bernie Taupin left off. Barrelhouse rocker "Just Like Noah's Ark" isn't afraid to celebrate Studio 54-era excess, though much of the album is rueful, including "Blues Never Fade Away," a sort of Everyman's "Candle in the Wind." If Elton's music makes a fine case that time can stand still, Taupin's lyrics, with their late-middle-age perspective, nicely put the lie to that idea. So would it be asking too much to also put in requests for Tumbleweed Reconnection and Goodbye Again, Yellow Brick Road? A-  




 Don't Stop Believin'

Blacklight Bar

The kings of Eighties arena rock reissue five key albums from their Steve Perry days.

by Chuck Eddy in Rolling Stone

Journeyebuting on vinyl in 1975, Journey were a prog-and-fusion spinoff of guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Gregg Rolie's former band Santana, playing complex solos for young male virtuosity fetishists on their first three LPs. But Steve Perry, who took over as singer on 1978's Infinity, changed things. Girls in prom dresses weren't far behind.

Jouney - InfinityNot that Perry was a heartthrob. But already in Infinity's opener, "Lights," his God-given pipes were finding dusky romance in the "city by the bay-yee-ay-yee"; before long, such somehow soul-inspired melismatics would make even the most mundane suburban adolescence feel like an adventure. Yet on Infinity, the oldest of the five reissues, Journey are still mainly an adventurous Seventies arena band, building Elton piano toward Zeppelin metal, finding majestic middle ground between pomp and twang.

Journey - Departure Journey - EvolutionIn 1979, the tunes get schmaltzier while a more sythesized groove tentatively ponders disco, so Evolution doesn't hit pay dirt until the interstellar psychedelia and martial muscle of its final two tracks. By Departure, from 1980, the band is panhandling for ballads on Tin Pan Alley and fanfare in Hollywood; oddly, the least drab cut might be the one-time outtake "Natural Thing," Perry's most blatant R&B move yet.

Journey - EscapeBut then "Don't Stop Believin'" cracks open in 1981's Escape on a midnight train from an invented neighborhood called "South Detroit" to one called "Anywhere" -- or, as Perry would sing it, "An-eeeeehhh-shaaaa," a place that feels like an L.A. jungle halfway between the one where Same Cooke died and the one to which Axl Rose would soon welcome us. Perry was finally learning not to oversing, his band finally learning to replace ego with empathy. Keyboardist Jonathan Cain, from the Babys, brought along a pristine hard-pop feel, most undeniable in "Stone in Love" and the nearly punk "Dead or Alive." "Who's Crying Now," meanwhile, was Journey's own "96 Tears." And the reissue, beefed up with three live goodies and the wonderful Santana-style barrio-rock B side "La Raza del Sol," now makes Escape better than ever.

Journey - Greatest Hits"When You Love a Woman," the Nineties-era add-on to 1988's Greatest Hits, is way more negligible, but the best-of is still where to start. By turns heroic, heartbreaking and brandishing the eye of the tiger, "Only the Young," "Separate Ways" and the monogamy anthem "Faithfully" (a secret seed of much modern pop country) hold their own against Journey's earlier classics, most of which show up as well. Together, they add up to the sound of a generation waiting till dawn -- under mall parking-lot lights, in summer.
Infinity * * * Evolution * * * Departure * * Escape * * * 1/2 Greatest Hits * * * *  

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