A new century had dawned and Elton John was 57 years old. Songs From The West Coast was his first studio album in four years. It was another set of songs that was heavy on ballads and continued his trend of issuing adult contemporary music.
This album was a back to basics affair. At its foundation it was vocal, guitar, drums, bass, and piano. While some additional keyboards and orchestration does appear at times, they are under control and are not overwhelming as on some of his past albums.
Bernie Taupin’s lyrics had been superior to Elton’s music on the past two studio releases but here the opposite is the case. When the lyrics are good they are very good but overall they are not as consistent as in the past as the meaning of some words on several tracks are fairly obscure. The music is catchy, sophisticated, and has a lot of textures that can be explored with repeated listening.
Elton John’s albums are usually fueled by hit songs. Times had changed as the 45rpm singles that had served him so well in the past were now a part of music history. The Billboard Magazine charts and radio stations had become specialized. Radio stations would select album tracks that fit their musical style and Billboard would base their non-album charts on the number of plays that songs received.
Under this new formula Songs From The West Coast would produce three hits. “This Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore” is the album closer and is a wistful ballad about aging. He is trying to come to terms with the fact you cannot go back as age 60 was looming. “Original Sin” is another nice ballad about the experience of first love. “I Want Love” is about looking for love if just for the short term.
The most powerful track is “American Triangle.” It is an emotional tribute to a gay American college student who was murdered. It is poetic and ultimately sorrowful.
There are several other songs of note. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a perfect album opener. You have a piano introduction and then his voice. “The Wasteland” can best be described as rock/blues with a gospel type vocal. “Ballad Of The Boy In The Red Shoes” was another smooth flowing song.
Songs From The West Coast was another excellent effort by Elton John. It had a cohesive feel to it as the songs fit together well. It proved that he was aging well.