Instead of repeating the formula that made Elton John
a success, John
and Bernie Taupin
attempted their most ambitious record to date for the follow-up to their breakthrough. A loose concept album about the American West, Tumbleweed Connection
emphasized the pretensions that always lay beneath their songcraft. Half of the songs don't follow conventional pop song structures; instead, they flow between verses and vague choruses. These experiments are remarkably successful, primarily because Taupin
's lyrics are evocative and John
's melodic sense is at its best. As should be expected for a concept album about the Wild West, the music draws from country and blues in equal measures, ranging from the bluesy choruses of "Ballad of a Well-Known Gun" and the modified country of "Country Comfort" to the gospel-inflected "Burn Down the Mission" and the rolling, soulful "Amoreena." Paul Buckmaster
manages to write dramatic but appropriate string arrangements that accentuate the cinematic feel of the album.