Elton John: Regimental Sgt Zippo review – the long lost ‘trippy’ album | Elton John

Elton John: Regimental Sgt Zippo artwork
Elton John: Regimental Sgt Zippo paintings

Now turning into accessible vinyl-only for Record Store Day, this “long lost” 1968 would-be Elton John debut was shelved in favour of 1969’s Empty Sky and finds the younger singer-pianist extra of a psychedelic explorer than chart balladeer. Beatles harmonies, harpsichords and flute-like sounds abound, whereas a few of Bernie Taupin’s lyrics (“the watercolours of my thoughts”, or close to pastiche A Dandelion Dies in the Wind) are nearly trippy. Titles equivalent to Once I Was Tealby Abbey (“not so long in the past, perhaps 100 years or so”) present why the pair weren’t but troubling the pop charts. Nonetheless, the 12 songs – 5 in completed type for the first time, with You’ll Be Sorry To See Me Go beforehand unreleased – have a naive, endearing appeal.

Many sound on the verge of one thing, needing a melodic additional gear or surer lyrical contact. There are actually hints of what was to come back in the melancholy strains of songs about damage and loneliness, or in the sheer ambition of the epic, darkly baroque Nina. Flip to Me is the lost gem, a very pretty tune which finds the singer providing his coronary heart to a lonely soul, as Taupin edges into the now acquainted storytelling imagery. Inside two years, the songs would decelerate, Elton’s voice would deepen and Your Tune would start the stream of classics that make sure that, half a century later, his profession continues to be standing.

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