After the serious nature of his autobiographical album, Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy; Elton John returned in 1975 with a much more relaxed work. It would also be his hardest-rocking one to date.
Rock Of The Westies sounds as if Elton John is having some fun and most of its tracks come across as pleasant and enjoyable. His fans scooped it up upon its release and the album debuted in the number one position on the Billboard Magazine album charts in the United States. It would be his last number one album for almost twenty years.
After Captain Fantastic, the first four tracks on side one is this release are like a breath of fresh air. The opening “Medley” and “Dan Dare” have lightness and a raucous appeal to them. Can anyone say toga party? “Island Girl” — a song about a prostitute — is some of the best music of his career. The steel drums and Caribbean approach make it one of the better pop/rock concoctions of the mid-seventies, ultimately becoming his fifth number one hit single. “Grow Some Funk Of Your Own” is a hard-edged rock song in the same vein as “The Bitch Is Back” and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.” The song is driven by Davey Johnstone’s guitar as he receives a rare songwriting credit.
The only serious song here is the one genuine ballad. “I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford)” is about the breakup of a relationship yet the lyrics cleverly use the Old West story of Robert Ford’s murder of Jesse James. It features a strong and soulful vocal and deservedly became a hit single.
Before I plucked this album from the shelf I could not have named one song from the second side. “Street Kids,” “Hard Luck Story,” and “Feed Me” may be lost in John's vast catalog but they are nonetheless pleasant and enjoyable pop/rock. “Billy Bones and The White Bird” is a cut above the first three as the imagery is first rate.
Rock Of The Westies was Elton John's eighth number one release in a row and concluded one of the greatest succession of albums in music history. He would continue to craft brilliant songs but would not achieve the overall consistency of these releases. Rock Of The Westies may not be the best of the lot but it still holds up very well.