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Tumbleweed Connection
Elton John

Uni 73096
Released: January 1971
Chart Peak: #5
Weeks Charted: 37
Certified Gold: 3/22/71

Elton JohnRight off the bat this is an improvement over the first one because Tumbleweed is rock music, so all of those Hollywood strings and arrangements that made the first one just a bit trying after 1000 listens is gone. Which is not to say that Tumbleweed is perfect. As could be expected no chances are taken and the sound is still a bit too lush, and the songs just a bit too smooth. But this is really focusing too much. EJ has a good thing going for him and it sounds like it's gonna last awhile. The Taupin-John compositions here are even more infectious and artful than on the last album -- and the change between the two is just enough to satisfy even the most uncompromising fan. Somewhere deeper than the clever words and groovy tunes and soulful crescendos there's still a hint of something synthetic. But that's what they said about Creedence Clearwater, too.

- Danny Goldberg, Circus, 4-71.

Bonus Reviews!

Here is another smash album for the British composer/performer and his lyricist, Bernie Taupin. John's singing and superb piano style are reflected well in almost every tune. His rendition of "Country Comfort," which is about one year old, is the best yet. Although this is but his second LP, Elton John's track record already speaks for itself, and the album is sure to be one of the biggest of the new year.

- Billboard, 1971.

Between the cardboard leatherette jacket and the cold-type rotogravure souvenir booklet is a piece of plastic with good melodies and bad Westerns on it. Why do people believe that these latter qualify as songpoems? Must be that magic word "connection," so redolent of trains, illegal substances, and I-and-thou. Did somebody say Grand Funk Railroad was hype? What about this? B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Bernie Taupin and Elton John struck a particularly profitable vein of inspiration in American "cowboy" folklore and mythology which forms the background to Tumbleweed Connection and, in part, the following album Madman Across the Water. Little surprise, therefore, that Tumbleweed broke Elton into the American market. The album is a loosely-knit collection of songs capturing the feelings, lives and loves of the pioneering West with its echoes of the American civil war in songs like "Where to Now St. Peter?"

The most memorable track on the album, "Love Song," surprisingly wasn't written by the Taupin/John partnership at all but by Lesley Duncan, who accompanies Elton on acoustic guitar in this recording. Some of the best session musicians of the period, coupled with the voices of Dusty Springfield and Madeline Bell, help make this one of Elton's finest albums. The British Nimbus-produced CD provides a sutably gutsy sound, much improved over current pressings of the album, though some of the production affects now sound a little crude.

Tumbleweed remains one of Elton's most satisfying albums.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

The songs Tumbleweed Connection have more structure than on Elton's debut and the production, again by Gus Dudgeon, shows a lighter more varied touch. The fictional Western slant to the lyrics and packaging (not uncommon to rock at the time, but from England with specs?) is not an enhancement. That conceit appeared to have come primarily from lyricist Bernie Taupin, but Elton was also obviously a willing participant. Weak as the early selections of the recording may be, the final two bring the proceedings to a strong conclusion. A ballad ("Talking Old Soldiers") and a rocker ("Burn Down The Mission") rank among the duo's best efforts. The sound of the original MCA CD isn't that clean or dynamically enhanced, and it does suffer from some hiss, but, it has nice spatial attributes and greatly enhanced vocal clarity. B

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

Elton John's followup was a thematic album about the American Old West (a Taupin fascination) that allowed John to rock out on several numbers. There are no hits here (!) but the album stands up well two decades later on. * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Tumbleweed Connection is a superb early collection in which Elton John explores blues-rock, soul and exquisite pop balladry. * * * 1/2

- Simon Glickman, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Elton John has always had a jones for the mythology of the American West. Along with lyricist Bernie Taupin, he indulges his cowboy fantasies in songs such as "Burn Down the Mission." "Amoreena" plays unforgettably in the opening scene of the Al Pacino film Dog Day Afternoon.

Tumbleweed Connection was chosen as the 463rd greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

(2008 Deluxe Edition) With its flinty guitars and the natural gunslinger's gait of "Country Comfort" and "Burn Down the Mission," 1971's Tumbleweed Connection needs to improvement; it is one of the best country-rock albums ever written by London cowboys. But an early epic take of "Madman Across the Water," cut at the sessions with glam-blues guitar by Mick Ronson and included on a second CD of demos and stray singles, is reason enough to buy this edition. * * * * 1/2

- David Fricke, Rolling Stone, 9/4/08.

Elton and Taupin were obsessed with the Band -- that was practically a requirement for English rock stars in 1970. They tried to make their own version of Music From Big Pink with this, their third LP. The rootsy concept comes to life in "Where to Now, Saint Peter?" and "Country Comfort." The high point, "Amoreena," was never a hit, but it reached cinema immortality in the opening scene of the Al Pacino movie Dog Day Afternoon, setting the hungover Seventies vibe.

- Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, 3/23/17.

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