H, 1951: This is an album written by a couple of Brits featuring a collection of songs with characters, stories and images loosely based on American history. Overall I find it disappointing. It doesn’t seem like Elton and Bernie had anything in particular to say about America, or any deep feelings they wanted to express about anything American — it just seems like they needed a catalyst to spark their imaginations enough to produce a new batch of songs. It’s hard to find anything moving, meaningful or authentic here. (I do like the song “Country Comfort,” but much prefer the version by Rod Stewart to the one found here.)
As an example of what I mean, take these lyrics from “My Father’s Gun,” telling the story of a Confederate soldier who has lost his father in the Civil War, but vows to continue the fight:
As soon as this is over we’ll go home \ To plant the seeds of justice in our bones \ To watch the children growin’ and see the women sewin’ \ There’ll be laughter when the bells of freedom ring.
Really? The confederates were fighting the Civil War so they could hear “the bells of freedom ring”? And oh, doesn’t it make you want to go home again, to see “the children growin’ and the women sewin’.” The words don’t even seem intended to mean anything — it’s just a mishmash of words that sound nice together when they’re sung. The poetic term for such a thing is doggerel, and it applies here.
The chief virtue of the album is that the song structures are musically quite interesting in some cases. I’ll give it that. But that’s not really enough for me.