Madman Across the Water holds a special place in my heart. “Tiny Dancer” was the first song I ever learned to sing and I remember the falsettos in the choruses being very hard to tame. Especially knowing that Sir Elton John reaches them full voice. Even though this single is very well-known, I find it unfortunate that Madman remains one of John’s least-known albums.
The songwriting duo between Elton John and Bernie Taupin is probably my favorite combo in rock history to be honest. Unlike the Glimmer Twins, they managed to keep a complete separation between music composition and lyrics while maintaining complete synergy in the end recordings. John does a wonderful job at transmitting Taupin’s stories through his masterful voice without hindering the essence of Taupin’s message. Together, they are one.
The arrangements and compositions speak for themselves and the session musicians are phenomenal. “Holiday Inn” is the reason I picked up the mandolin in my recordings. “Indian Sunset” made me believe that Taupin was of native american origins. “Levon” and “Madman Across the Water” should be as famous as “Tiny Dancer” in my opinion, all three of them showcasing the epitome of John and Taupin’s collaboration.
More and more, I realize why the sonic qualities of Trident Studios in London, where many of the recordings I enjoy including this one, Ziggy Stardust and Crime of the Century, speak to me. Engineers such as Ken Scott and mixing consoles like the Trident A-Range definitely have an impact but mostly it’s the combination of these with the room itself that miraculously forms a unity. The same process happened at Muscle Shoals and Abbey Road.
To me, it’s fairly clear when a record is a masterpiece. It’s when you can listen to the entire album without skipping any songs and before you know, the needle is stopping.