The sonic transformation of Queer, pop music legend Elton John (who officially came out in 1988) was in full swing with the release of 1972’s “Honky Chateau” (Rocket/Mercury/UMC), newly reissued in expanded 180-gram vinyl double LP and double CD editions. This evolution would play out to even greater effect on 1973’s double-whammy of “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” but the roots of it can be traced back to “Honky Chateau.” The hit singles “Rocket Man” and the title tune, as well as a popular album cut such as “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” sound like a concerted effort to enter a new phase. Even the presence of legendary fiddler Jean-Luc Ponty (listen to him on “Amy”) is a kind of musical signal to his growing fanbase that Elton John was having a creative growth spurt. The generous helping of bonus material on the double disc set includes the “Honky at the Chateau (Session Demos)” – also on the double vinyl – in addition to eight live tracks from a 1972 London concert at Royal Festival Hall.
It might be hard to believe it, but Elton John and new wave forebears A Flock of Seagulls were on the same pop charts in 1982. Elton for his album “Jump Up!” (containing the singles “Blue Eyes” and “Empty Garden”) and A Flock of Seagulls for its eponymous debut album now reissued by BMG in an expansive triple CD version that includes the original album as well as two discs featuring singles, B-sides, session,and live recordings. By this point in time, A Flock of Seagulls’ singles, including “I Ran,” “Telecommunication,” and “Space Age Love Song,” were far outpacing those of Elton’s. While A Flock of Seagulls didn’t have the staying power of an established artist such as Elton John, they managed to make a lasting impression both musically and visually at a time when music videos were essential. Front-person Mike Score’s hairstyle became the stuff of legends inspiring both praise and parody (A Flock of Haircuts, anyone?). Regardless, the self-titled debut album by A Flock of Seagulls deserves a place in music history, as well as in your music collection.
In between Elton John’s 1970s chart domination and the arrival of new wave music, yacht rock came sailing in on the airwaves. Australian outfit Little River Band was at the forefront of the scene, even sharing radio and chart time with both Elton John and A Flock of Seagulls in 1982. The 25-track double-disc compilation “Ultimate Hits” (Universal). LRB first came to prominence stateside via 1977 hit single “Help Is on Its Way” (with its light disco beat and bassline). Over the course of the next couple of years, catchy singles “Reminiscing,” “Lady,” “Lonesome Loser” and “Cool Change,” would help the band maintain its popularity. But by the early 1980s, after the hit “Take It Easy on Me,” LRB lost some footing. However, this compilation is a pleasant reminder of its musical contributions.
The early 2023 passing of David Crosby not only reminded us of the aging of the musicians who played a part in their formative years but also the considerable impacts of Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young, briefly) the supergroup he performed with from the late 1960s and into the 21st century. Like CSNY bandmate Crosby, Stephen Stills also enjoyed a successful solo career. “Live at Berkeley 1971” (Omnivore), a previously unreleased Stills album includes his huge hit single “Love the One You’re With,” as well as “For What It’s Worth” and “Bluebird Revisited,” songs he recorded with Buffalo Springfield, among others. Speaking of Crosby, he joined Stills on “You Don’t Have to Cry” and “The Lee Shore.”