da All Music Guide
The immense creativity that had spurred Elton John
to realize no less than 11 studio albums in under seven years was
beginning to show signs of inevitable fatigue. The same can be said as
well of the artist's unfathomable physical stamina, which had included
practically nonstop touring around the globe since the early '70s.
Although initially Blue Moves (1976) was summarily dismissed by both
critics as well as longtime enthusiasts, the double LP has since gained
considerable stature within John's voluminous catalog. While comparisons were inevitable to the landmark two-disc Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) song cycle, most similarities in musical style and content end there. John's band had expanded to include the talents of
(keyboards/orchestral arrangements), Kenny Passarelli (bass), Roger
Pope (drums), and Caleb Quaye (guitar) -- the latter pairing had
actually performed with James Newton HowardJohn as far back as his first long-player, Empty Sky (1968) -- as well as Davey Johnstone
(guitar) and Ray Cooper (percussion) from the "classic"
early-to-mid-'70s lineup. As the title suggests, Blue Moves is a
departure from the heavier Rock of the Westies
(1975). Instead, the album purposefully focuses on moodier and more
introspective sides -- such as the single "Sorry Seems to Be the
Hardest Word" (the effort's sole hit), the achingly poignant "Tonight,"
and "Cage the Songbird," the latter of which is particularly noteworthy
as it recalls the life of Edith Piaf in much the same way that "Candle
in the Wind" had immortalized Marilyn Monroe. "One Horse Town," which John
briefly revived as a dramatic show opener during late-'80s live
performances, is one of Blue Moves' most powerful and straight-ahead
rockers. The lively string arrangement by Howard
stands as one of the finest contributions to his short-lived tenure in
this band, which for all intents and purposes dismantled after the
album was recorded in March of 1976. Other standouts include the
full-tilt gospel vibe of "Boogie Pilgrim" -- which features backing
vocals from both the Cornerstone Institutional Baptist and the Southern
California choirs under the direction of Rev. James Cleveland
-- "Crazy Water," the haunting ballad "Idol," as well as the set's
closing R&B vamp, "Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance!)." While Blue
Moves is a far cry from essential entries such as Tumbleweed Connection (1971) or Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboys (1975), the bright moments prove that John could still offer up more than average material. It is also worth mentioning that this effort marked the end of John's initial collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin, who would resurface some three years later, albeit haphazardly on 21 at 33 (1979).