Personnel: Elton John (vocals, piano); Davey Johnstone (voice bag, acoustic, electric & slide guitar, banjo, background vocals); Caleb Quaye (acoustic & electric guitars, background vocals); James Newton Howard (harpischord, electric piano, Clavinet, Mellotron, Arp & Elka synthesizers, synthesizers); Ray Cooper (vibraphone, marimba, kettle drums, congas, tambourine, maracas, castanets, jawbone, shaker, windchimes, bell-tree, cowbell); Kenny Passarelli (bass, backround vocals); Roger Pope (drums); Kiki Dee, Ann Orson, Clive Franks, Labelle (background vocals).
Recorded at Caribou Studios, Colorado. Includes liner notes by John Tobler.
Digitally remastered by Tony Cousins (Metropolis Mastering, London, England).
Lyricist: Bernie Taupin.
Personnel: Elton John (vocals, piano, keyboards); Davey Johnstone (vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, slide guitar, banjo, mandolin, synthesizer, background vocals); Clive Franks (vocals, percussion, background vocals); Kiki Dee, Labelle, Ann Orson (vocals, background vocals); Caleb Quaye (guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, background vocals); James Newton Howard (electric piano, harpsichord, Clavinet, Mellotron, keyboards, synthesizer); Ray Cooper (vibraphone, marimba, congas, kettle drum, castanets, cowbells, maracas, shaker, tambourine, percussion, wind chime); Kenny Oassarelli (bass guitar, background vocals); Roger Pope (drums).
Liner Note Author: John Tobler.
Recording information: Caribou Studios, CO.
Less than four months after issuing the landmark and autobiographical Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975), Elton John re-emerged with a new band and a slightly modified sound. However, the departure of Dee Murray (bass) and Nigel Olsson (drums) would ultimately begin a deceleration in terms of John's success, which rivalled only the Beatles' and Elvis Presley's in terms of global acclaim. The revamped band grew to include new associates James Newton Howard (keyboards) and Kenny Passarelli (bass) as well as Roger Pope (drums) and Caleb Quaye (guitar), who had both performed with John as far back as his first long-player, Empty Sky (1968). He also retained the services of Davey Johnstone (guitar) and Ray Cooper (percussion) from the most recent lineup. Musically, Rock of the Westies (1975) maintains the balance of harder-edged material and effective ballads. In fact, one of the album's strongest suits is the wide spectrum of strong material. The ballsy no-nonsense "Street Kids" and the aggressive gringo rock of the ZZ Top sound-alike "Grown Some Funk of Your Own" contrast the poignant power balladry of "I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford)" or the dark and brooding tale of addiction on "Feed Me." Perhaps inspired by the crossover R&B appeal of "Philadelphia Freedom," the up-tempo "Island Girl" bears a distinct and danceable groove that lies somewhere between a slightly Jamaican vibe and disco. Perhaps more soulful in the traditional sense are the boogie-based "Hard Luck Story" or propulsive Bo Diddley beat that drives "Billy Bones and the White Bird." While the increasingly fickle public as well as lack of a strong follow-up to the chart-topping single "Island Girl" may have prevented Rock of the Westies from becoming the heir apparent to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, in the wake of John's flawless predecessors it remains a strong and worthwhile entry that also sets the stage for its follow-up, Blue Moves (1976). [The mid-'90s CD remaster of Rock of the Westies also includes two supplementary cuts -- the outtake "Planes" and the Kiki Dee-penned "Sugar on the Floor" -- which were issued as B-sides to "Island Girl."] ~ Lindsay Planer