Saturday, October 9, 2010

Elton John: Honky Château

I forgot how good Elton John’s “Honky Château” album was until I was prompted by Greg Rector’s suggestion for a violin/fiddle week for Reading Between the Grooves. It has been a while since I’ve heard some of these tunes, and while it is not my favorite Elton John LP (that would be “Madman Across the Water”), it ranks fairly high in the scheme of things.


For this week’s inclusion in violin week, I have to give honor where honor is due and that is to Jean Luc Ponty who played on two cuts on the album: “Mellow” and “Amy.” This was John’s first album where his parent record company (DJM in England) allowed him to record an album completely using his road band. All albums prior to this were peppered liberally with session musicians with only scant offerings from his band. “Honky Château” would change this.

As a guest musician, Ponty shines on electric violin on this cut. His violin is amplified through a Leslie rotating speaker and the lead sounds eerily like an electric organ. For years, I thought it was an organ believing that Ponty’s work was buried in the mix – but it was out front from the solo to the end of the song.

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Probably my favorite cut on the LP was on that received quite a bit of album radio airplay during 1972 and afterward. As Elton moved from a cultic figure to a mainstream pop star, album radio rejected his recordings that began to receive mass appeal via Top 40 radio.

Rocket Man

“Honky Château” was one of seven Elton John albums to chart at the top position on Billboard’s Top 200 Album Charts. All seven #1 albums were Elton’s complete LP output from 1972 to 1975 and represented his career’s pinnacle.

Selling in excess of a million copies, the RIAA certified “Honky Château” as platinum. It also produced two top ten singles “Honky Cat” at #8 and “Rocket Man” which peaked at #6. I love the Arp Synthesizer played by David Henschel on this cut interspersed with Davey Johnstone’s slide guitar.

The Complete LP

For your listening pleasure, here is the complete LP in the original order as it appeared on vinyl back in 1972.

No comments:

Post a Comment