|Studio album by|
|Released||19 May 1972|
|Studio||Château d'Hérouville, Hérouville, France; mixed at Trident Studios, London|
|Elton John chronology|
|Singles from Honky Château|
|Christgau's Record Guide||A–|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Honky Château is the fifth studio album by English musician Elton John. It was released in 1972, and was titled after the 18th century French chateau where it was recorded, Château d'Hérouville. The album reached number one in the US, the first of seven consecutive US number one albums for Elton John.
In 2012, the album was ranked number 359 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was certified gold in July 1972 and platinum in October 1995 by the RIAA. This was the final Elton John album on the Uni label in the US and Canada before MCA consolidated all of its various labels under the MCA brand. This and John's earlier Uni albums were later reissued on MCA Records.
This album continued John's transition from a singer-songwriter to a more rock 'n' roll style. Writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine described the album as an eclectic collection of "ballads, rockers, blues, country-rock, and soul songs."
It was also the first album to feature John's road band of Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums, along with new member Davey Johnstone on electric and acoustic guitars and other fretted instruments, as the core group of musicians. Previously, the record label insisted that John use them for only one track each on Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water; the rest of the songs on those two albums were performed by session players. Johnstone had played acoustic guitar, mandolin and sitar on Madman Across the Water, but on Honky Chateau, he would be invited to join permanently as a full-band member and he extended his contributions to electric guitar, banjo, slide guitar and backing vocals.
The opening track "Honky Cat" is a New Orleans funk track reminiscent of Dr. John and Allen Toussaint and features a four-piece horn section arranged by producer Gus Dudgeon. Also of note is the debut on record of the backing vocal combination of Johnstone, Murray and Olsson, who first added what would soon become their "trademark" sound to "Rocket Man". The trio's unique approach to arranging their backing vocal tracks would be a fixture on John's singles and albums for the next several years.
In 1995, Dudgeon remastered the album, adding only an uptempo, rock and roll version of "Slave" that was sidelined in favour of the steamier, more laconic version that made the LP's original line-up. This alternate version was originally due to be released as the B-Side to the ultimately unreleased "Hercules" single.
Critical appraisal and chart success
Critically, Honky Château is regarded as one of John's finest records. Jon Landau of Rolling Stone approved the original LP as "a rich, warm, satisfying album that stands head and shoulders above the morass of current releases". Other reviews were likewise mostly positive. In a retrospective review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic has written that "it plays as the most focused and accomplished set of songs Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever wrote".
Honky Château became the first of a string of albums by Elton John to hit No. 1 in the Billboard Charts in the US. In Canada, the album peaked at No. 3 on the RPM 100 Top Albums Chart, reaching this position on 29 July 1972, dropping two places to No. 5, then returning to No. 3 for a further twelve consecutive weeks before falling to No. 9 on 4 November of the same year.
- "Honky Cat" – 5:13
- "Mellow" – 5:32
- "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself" – 3:35
- "Susie (Dramas)" – 3:25
- "Rocket Man" – 4:45
- "Salvation" – 3:58
- "Slave" – 4:22
- "Amy" – 4:03
- "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" – 5:00
- "Hercules" – 5:20
- Sides one and two were combined as tracks 1–10 on CD reissues.
Bonus track (1995 Mercury and 1996 Rocket reissue)
- "Slave" (Alternative Version) – 2:53
The album, including the bonus track, was also released in 2004 as a "Hybrid SACD" remixed in 5.1.
Track numbers refer to CD and digital releases of the album.
- Elton John – vocals, acoustic piano (1–6, 8–10), Fender Rhodes (1), Hammond organ (2, 4), harmonium (6)
- David Hentschel – ARP synthesizer (5, 10) (credited as "David Henschel" on sleeve)
- Davey Johnstone – banjo (1, 7); electric, acoustic and slide guitars (2–10); backing vocals (3, 5, 6, 8, 10), steel guitar (7), mandolin (9)
- Dee Murray – bass guitar, backing vocals (3, 5, 6, 8, 10)
- Nigel Olsson – drums (1–8, 10), tambourine (2, 4), backing vocals (3, 5, 6, 8, 10), congas (7)
- Ray Cooper – congas (8)
- Jean-Louis Chautemps – saxophone (1)
- Alain Hatot – saxophone (1)
- Jacques Bolognesi – trombone (1)
- Ivan Jullien – trumpet (1)
- Jean-Luc Ponty – electric violin (2, 8)
- "Legs" Larry Smith – tap dance (3)
- Gus Dudgeon – brass arrangements (1), additional backing vocals (10), whistle (10)
- Madeline Bell – backing vocals (6)
- Tony Hazzard – backing vocals (6), additional backing vocals (10)
- Liza Strike – backing vocals (6)
- Larry Steel – backing vocals (6)
- Producer – Gus Dudgeon
- Engineer – Ken Scott
- Remastering – Tony Cousins
- Cover photo – Ed Caraeff
- Liner notes – John Tobler
- Editing – Gus Skinas
- Digital transfers – Ricky Graham
- Surround mix – Greg Penny
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