Jhere is a small community of musicians who were in and out of Elton John‘s band in the early years. They all had their own projects, but one of them stood out from the rest – the drummer Nigel Olson1971 solo album Drum orchestra and choir.
Olsson, who started as a singer and guitarist, has the distinction of being present from the very beginning. He played drums on the track Mr Boyd — a unique single released in 1969 by the young Argosia. The band went nowhere despite understanding Roger Hodgson (later from super tramp), Elton (then Reg Dwight), and future member of the group EJ Caleb Quaye.
Quaye is all over Elton’s early releases, including the recent Regimental Sergeant. Zippowhich was to be the first album in 1968, but abandoned in favor of empty sky. Quaye returned in 1975 when Elton fired Olsson and the bassist Dee Murray, both of whom would return in the ’80s. When Elton made his first foray into America in 1970, Murray and Olsson formed the rhythm section of his power trio. Discover the incredible 17-11-70 album to hear how awesome they were.
But neither Olsson nor Murray were full members of the group until 1972. Honky Castle. Until then, they were only on one track per album – plus a few more as backing vocals. For example, Olsson probably played little dancer and Levon hundreds of times, but the only Crazy through the water the song he played drums on was All the bad guys.
It was at this time that he self-produced and released Drum orchestra and choirwhich features Murray, Quaye, Elton’s first producer Steve Brown, Procol Harum guitarist Mick Grabham and extraordinary chorister Doris Troy (who co-wrote and performed Just a look and sing on You can’t always get what you want by The rolling stonesand a large part of pink floydit is The dark side of the moon. She was also one of the first artists to sign Apple Folders.)
Drum orchestra and choir opens with the incredibly likeable and catchy The sun looks like rain. I’m going home sometimes reminds me behind the lines of Genesisit is duke scrapbook (and Phil Collins‘ first solo album Nominal value). Especially the “whatever happened to you, it’s too late to change now”. nature’s path has the curious lyrics “it’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong” that sounds like something out of a diarrhea commercial. But it’s an unassuming environmental song from the 1970s, akin to After the Gold Rush. It’s written by Randy California of Spirit.
Next comes a rerun of Leon Russellit is Humming-bird, sung by Janis Joplin/Maggie Bell-esque kathi mcdonalddied in 2012. McDonald, discovered by ike turneractually replaced Joplin as the lead singer of Big Brother and the holding company. After having sung this melody for Nigel, one of its next concerts was of chorus on The rolling stones‘ Exile on Main St. There is a magnificent uncredited sequel that recalls Mandarin of Led Zeppelin III before side 1 wraps with A sweet day — a great progressive pop song that sometimes reminds you tommy-time Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane. The hammered piano really looks like Elton, but oddly it’s played by Platform.
Side 2 opens with another McDonald-sung I can’t go home anymoreco-authored by scary toothit is Gary Wright (the weaver of dreams!). McDonald’s facade Big brother later did this song too. It’s a bit of a schmaltzy 70s anthem, similar to Trafficit is Dear Mr. Fantasy. Next up is another original – one of six on the disc – the jangly And I know in my heart. It’s filler, but it’s not a bad song at all – with some endearing studio chatter at the end. Then there is a blanket of Ricky Nelsonis included We have a long way to gowith a solid scam of Carry this burden in the outro.
weird house is next, the only piece written by Olsson alone. It’s an instrumental synthesizer heavy on percussion but no drums. It’s basically segue filler. The closest album is China, written exclusively by Grabham. It’s a great, soaring ballad from the 70s – a bit cheesy, but a good song nonetheless and not overdone, long or overly indulgent.
Olsson did not make another solo album until 1975 – after his dismissal from Elton’s band. In 1979 he actually had a hit with the terrible ballad dance shoes. But the next major event after this album, and the November release of Crazy through the watertraveled to France in January 1972 to record the first Honky Castle. For the next three years his life would be all about Elton – big tours, huge shows and platinum albums. Don’t shoot me, I’m just the pianist, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Caribou.
According to Wikipedia, on February 10, 2017 – his 68th birthday – Olsson played his 2,267th concert with Elton at Palace of the Caesars in Las Vegas. Since that time he has been a regular player in Elton’s 300 show Farewell yellow brick road Round since 2018.
I would actually consider buying a ticket if for Nigel’s 2500th show they added The sun looks like rain to the setlist. Although Nigel and I are the only ones who know the words.
More likely, just me.
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Resident of the region is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and marketer. Listen (and buy) his music on band campsend him an e-mail HEREfollow him on instagram and find out on Discogs.