Elton John - Rocketman - The Definitive Hits
Like a slow autumn drive through the American mid-west listening to Radio KRNT 1350 AM, serving Des Moines and Souix City. Most probably "The Afternoon Show with Steve Gibbons". A mixed affair of oldies and new ones for the fans. But definitely build on a bedrock of ballads.
"Rocketman - The Definitive Hits" takes no risks with Elton John's near 40-year back-catalog and sets its conservative stall out early. The strong opening tracks are all lifted from his early 70s peak and give you a warm fuzzy and slightly sicky feeling, like watching The Wonder Years on a Sunday evening. "Bennie and The Jets", "Philadelphia Freedom", "Daniel" - each displaying the mid-Atlantic plaintive tone that ensured he was massive on both sides of the divide (even if not often at the same time).
The peculiar Bowie-ness of title song "Rocketman" actually pre-dates the preceding tracks, so we can assume chronology is not going to be of much importance here. What we do get is an overall impression that Elton's singles (even when not hits) follow a slow-burn blueprint that keeps the fans happy. Outside of the balladeering, the attempts at pure old fashioned rock and roll still have the familiar stamp of camp seaside glamour. "Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting" doesn't really cut it, but is a fun singalong.
After 20-odd years at the top, the 80s weren't some of Elt's glory years. His foil and lyricist Bernie Taupin was on ice, and the wheels had come off John's personal life. There's little of enduring quality here as everything was apparently crap in the 80s. Even "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" is binned, as is "Nikita". Though it must have been a toss up whether to include "I'm Still Standing" which questionably makes the grade.
The second half of the album wallows a little much in sentimentality, but that's Elton John's stock-in-trade. "Your Song", "Can You Feel The Love Tonight", "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" all lead us a little teary eyed to what should be the natural ending for this collection - "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". But no doubt the record company felt the need to engage in a little revisionism by sneaking in new single "Tinderbox". It's not bad, and I guess if it ain't broke...
Probably a little too downbeat for an impulse purchase by a non-fan, "Rocketman - The Definitive Hits" will be snapped up by lifetime Elton lovers as the platform heeled Queen of the MOR reaches his 60th year.