Elton John’s unfairly criticized Rock of the Westies deserves another listen

Share this:

There was no bigger rock star on earth during the first half of the 1970s than Elton John. A fleet of hit singles and a series of remarkable albums saw the singer and piano player extraordinaire combining the rare luxury of creative freedom with commercial aspirations.

Elton certainly had a special gift for crafting immensely catchy hooks and arrangements, while Bernie Taupin authored the lyrics, which covered every topic in the book. Few could argue these guys were the greatest songwriting team since John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

After five years of non-stop touring and cutting discs, it was only expected such a hectic schedule would eventually take its toll. Changes in Elton John’s long-time and loyal band occurred, causing him to bring in a new crew, while the pressure was on to release an album to meet the Christmas season.

The end result was Rock of the Westies (Polydor Records), and although it doesn’t carry the prestige as previous platters like Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, there’s still enough good stuff to be enjoyed and appreciated.

A trio of hit corkers appear on the album, including Elton John’s neo-reggae disco pop of “Island Girl,” the boogie-fried grind of “Grow Some Funk of Your Own” and “I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford),” a melodramatic ballad aching with pain and regret. Powered by a throbbing beat, “Billy Bones and the White Bird,” along with the intensely penetrating “Feed Me” and the rough and tumble “Street Kids,” are other memorable musings heard on the record.

Straight-forward rockers are the order of the day on Rock of the Westies, giving it a raw and rustic feel. Economic and simple, this Elton John album initially received mixed reviews, but in hindsight it’s a mighty fine collection of songs.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
Share this:
Close