Take the Yellow Brick Road to Elton’s greatest

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Elton John looms large over the world of pop music.

Yes, the new movie “Rocketman” starring Taron Egerton has returned the musician to the public eye.

But, over the years, there have been plenty of eyes watching John, and, more importantly, a lot of ears listening to him as well. Over his career, he had 57 top 40 hits in the United States, second only to Elvis Presley. He also had nine number one singles.

And he had an incredible run of success on the album charts in the 1970s with “Caribou,” “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” and his magnum opus “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” all becoming fixtures on turntables across the globe.

Just in time for the success of “Rocketman,” Gerald Brann’s Elton tribute band, Yellow Brick Road, comes down from Augusta, Maine to Southington’s Crystal Bees on June 21.

Brann, who has met Elton and tries to capture the feel of Elton with a selection of costumes and a flashy light show, said becoming Elton was relatively easy for him.

Kind of.

“I share the same singing range with young Elton,” said Brann. “The transition, as a whole, was pretty easy because of my familiarity with his music.”

But, he said, he did have to work hard to get things right.

“There were some Eltonisms that were unique,” said Brann. “For instance, Elton kind of bites off the words at the end of each line of the first verse in ‘Tiny Dancer.’ As you sing the song, you have to finish the last word of each line by closing your teeth closer together while you sing. It’s mostly evident in phrases like, ‘seamstress for the band’ and ‘you married a music man.’ It’s like you add an extra syllable to ‘band’ and ‘man’ and then bite it.”

Although Elton’s singles repertoire is vast, Brann is reluctant to pin down one particular favorite. However, in terms of albums, Brann said the band’s namesake, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” stands above all else.

“The entire album was great,” said Brann. “There’s no weak song and the order and flow just worked. ‘Funeral For a Friend,’ ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ into ‘Harmony’ blew me away.”

The songwriting team of John, who handled music, and Bernie Taupin, who wrote the words, were key to the pop star’s success, said Brann.

“I don’t believe there has ever been a songwriting relationship like theirs before,” said Brann. “Bernie writes just the lyrics and hands them to Elton, who —with no influence, musically from Bernie— writes all of the melody and chord changes with nearly no changes to the words.”

Brann said, “It’s like magic.”

“Bernie’s lyrics are like poetry with a distinct style,” said Brann. “He uses a lot of imagery but the concepts are relatable. So, the listener can build a personal relationship with the song.”

“Elton colors all of this with amazing melodies laid over very gospel influenced chord structures with lots of alternative bass notes,” said Brann.

“It’s a sound that stands out in a guitar-dominated music industry.”

Singing Taupin’s words and telling his complex stories requires Brann to find his own relationship with each song.

“I don’t seek out what Bernie meant,” said Brann. “I find what it means to me and allow my emotions to flow through the music.”

Brann said, “It makes the music real and personal and I think an audience can recognize that.”

Yellow Brick Road performs at Crystal Bees, 240 Spring St., Southington on Friday, June 21 at 8:30 p.m.

For more information, go to crystalbees.com or TributetoEltonJohn.com.

Yellow Brick Road performs its tribute to Elton John at Southington’s Crystal Bees Friday night.

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