Elton John’s ‘Jewel Box’ Overflows with Unpolished Rubbish


art courtesy of Sarah Fidahussain

Landon Vuagniaux, Sports Editor

Friday the 13th often holds a negative and unlucky connotation. For Elton John’s “Jewel Box,” which was released on the ill-fated 13th, the day marked a hapless end to John’s long lasting and previously successful musical career.

Elton’s collection consists of 148 tracks that are split into four parts. One of such sections, called “Rarities 1965-1971,” features 60 previously unreleased songs. The promise of these tracks is enough to delight any Elton fan…until they start listening to them that is.

Being a group of songs from unrelated projects, the assembly lacks a clear theme other than the immense feeling of dullness caused by a shortage of lyrical variety. Most of the songs are heavy with second-person references and tales of woeful love.

“A Little Love Goes a Long Way,” for example, is structured like a letter from Elton to an unknown lover. It becomes increasingly whiny and incredibly cliché with lyrics like “I’d given you my heart/It wasn’t enough for you/You tore it apart.” It’s a repetitive subject present in too many tracks.

As the title suggests, these recordings were created half a century ago, but some touch-ups would have been greatly appreciated. His earliest productions showcase vocals that are overwhelmingly fuzzy-sounding yells fighting for center stage with aggressive slapping on piano keys. They are some of the most painful to listen to.

The singular success in this collection is the piano demo of “Razor Face;” however, this is an earlier version of the song, which already debuted in 1971 on the album “Madman Across the Water.” Regardless, it is much more enjoyable due to its simplified sound that is more digestible and better highlights Elton’s voice and prowess on the piano. “Razor Face” whispers of John’s future hits like “Your Song” and “Rocketman.” 

Unfortunately, this alone isn’t enough to save “Rarities 1965-1971,” as the song is the only life raft in an endless sea of boredom. Although the compilation contains Elton’s signature piano playing, he had not yet reached his full potential as a singer-songwriter. 

Jewel Box’s “Rarities 1965-1971” lacks the glamour, vibrancy and variety of Elton’s more popular songs and was truly disappointing to listen to. Nearly every track compels the listener to press skip midway through. The so-called “rarities” found in Elton John’s “Jewel Box” were simply lackluster.