We aren’t paying Sir Elton any disservice by ignoring the actual debut Empty Sky. That album has been so roundly dismissed that it’s become semi-canonical. It’s really not that bad, but it’s not anywhere near the standard of his peak 70s run. Which started here – “Your Song” is so shmaltzy with its cloying string arrangement that I feel like I’m waiting in a dentist’s office whenever I listen to it. That style is not really what his best work was all about – I prefer the Honky/Tumbleweed Elton who varied funky little piano jaunts with spacey ballads, packing them all full of clever melodies. There’s still some of that here, and this is a good record that hints at the better work to come: “Take Me To The Pilot” and “The King Must Die” are early sketches of a formula that John/Taupin would ride through their prodigious run for the next six years. But this one is so inconsistent: we get a song like “The Greatest Discovery” which feels like Lion King before its time – call all the animals, there’s a new baby brother born! Perhaps I’m too cynical, but that song stinks to me. My favorite by far is “No Shoe Strings On Louise,” which sounds just like a Kinks Muswell Hillbillies track. There can be no higher praise on this blog than that – Muswell is the greatest, most life affirming album for us aside from maybe Wu-Tang Forever. “Louise” could perhaps be a Tumblewood b-side, but it’s a bit raunchier and less overtly literate than those songs. She’s a sweet painted lady who might be too much woman for the grizzled gunslingers on that album. But I like her a lot.

No Shoe Strings On Louise