Having recorded his then-longest, most successful, and all-time best album, 1973′s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, in two weeks, Elton probably thought he could knock out the basics for its 1974 successor in nine days, and entrust longtime producer Gus Dudgeon to finish the rest while he and the band toured Japan. The result undeniably has its highlights: The hits, “The Bitch is Back” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” are quintessential Elton, and both “Pinky” and “Grimsby” suggest that the momentum gained with Goodbye would generate top-tier album tracks indefinitely.
But Caribou is sequentially and sonically top-heavy: Elton’s sure hand with hooks soon falters, and the Tower of Power horns that help make “Bitch” such a blast get shrill elsewhere: “You’re So Static” and “Stinker” are so treble-intensive that they nearly hurt. “Ticking” rambles on and on. Yet Elton’s vocal talent rescues most of these lesser tracks: His star shone so blindingly at this point that few took notice that the songs themselves weren’t always as bright.