Released just six months after Elton John’s eponymous album with the breakout hit “Your Song,” Tumbleweed Connection represents Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin’s first stab at a concept album. The Americana-tinged songs initially arrived as a bit of surprise given they came from two early-twentysomething British upstarts. Here, John’s ability to absorb and credibly apply country and folk influences impresses. But his real genius resides in taking a genre and turning it into something uniquely his. For example, on “Burn Down the Mission,” John and Taupin tell a story worthy of Sergio Leone or John Ford. Paul Buckmaster’s cinematic orchestral arrangements make it even stronger.
Tumbleweed Connection also marks the second in John’s series of collaborations with producer Gus Dudgeon. The two began working together when John and Taupin signed on as a songwriting duo for U.K.-based DJM Records. On cuts like “Country Comfort” and “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun,” the producer/artist collaboration begins to hit stride. These tunes encapsulate the album’s organic sound and country flavor—and show the team members finishing each other’s artistic sentences.
Bob Ludwig remastered the 2017 reissue in the digital domain from files sourced from the original analog master tapes. Sean Magee cut from Ludwig’s mastered files at Abby Road. It sounds more dynamic and less murky than the original U.S. release. Compared with the outstanding U.K. original pressing, Ludwig’s edition also features greater clarity and instrumental separation but lacks a bit of the original’s warmth and seductive midrange. While I favor the U.K. release, finding a decades-old copy as clean and quiet as the affordable reissue presents a challenging and expensive pursuit.
Last chance to change your mind...