Despite the consistency of 1972′s Honky Château, Elton’s next album gets mighty mixed, both stylistically and qualitatively. This early-1973 release features what was then his most energetic material, as well as his slickest, and in each case that’s both good and bad. Its first single, the Fonz-anticipating ’50s corn of “Crocodile Rock,” hasn’t aged well, unlike its less-derivative and more rocking B-side, “Elderberry Wine.” The second one, the impeccably-produced “Daniel,” remains a definitive slice of breezy ’70s smoothness that’s one nautical reference away from inventing yacht rock.
Don’t Shoot Me anticipates Goodbye Yellow Brick Road‘s eclecticism while suggesting Elton wasn’t always ready to pull it off just yet. He’s experimenting more vocally as the band ramps up its guitars and overall dexterity, yielding winners like the simultaneously bouncy yet yearning “Teacher I Need You” as well as misfires such as “Texan Love Song” — a convincing murderous redneck Elton is not.