Honky Château is the fifth studio album by British singer/songwriter Elton John, released in 1972. It was titled after the 18th century French chateau where it was recorded, Château d'Hérouville. In 2003, the album was ranked number 357 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 MCAconsolidated all of its various labels under the MCA brand. This and John's earlier Uni albums were later reissued on MCA Records.
- 2 Critical appraisal and chart action
- 3 Track listing
- 4 Personnel
- 5 Production
- 6 Charts
- 7 References
This is the first album since John's debut (Empty Sky) not to feature strings on any songs, except for violinist Jean-Luc Ponty on "Mellow" and "Amy". It also marks the beginning of his transition from a singer/songwriter in the mould of James Taylor, Leon Russell or Carole King to a more rock 'n' roll style that would become more evident on such albums as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou and Rock of the Westies.
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 guitars and other fretted instruments) as the sole core group of musicians. Previously, due to his record label's insistence, John had been limited to using his road band 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 various groupings of session players.
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.
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 Chateau was also released as a "Hybrid SACD" remixed in 5.1 and is still available as such.
- "Honky Cat" – 5:13
- "Mellow" – 5:32
- "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself" – 3:35
- "Susie (Dramas)" – 3:25
- "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)" – 4:45
- "Salvation" – 3:58
- "Slave" – 4:22
- "Amy" – 4:03
- "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" – 5:00
- "Hercules" – 5:20
- "Slave" (Alternate take) – 2:53
- Elton John – vocals, piano (tracks 2–6 and tracks 8–10), acoustic and electric pianos (track 1), organ (tracks 2, 4)
- Davey Johnstone – guitars (tracks 2–10), banjo (track 1, 7), Steel guitar (track 7) mandolin (track 9), backing vocals (tracks 3, 5, 6, 8, 10)
- Dee Murray – bass guitar, backing vocals (tracks 3, 5, 6, 8, 10)
- Nigel Olsson – drums (tracks 1–8 and track 10), congas (track 7), tambourine, backing vocals (tracks 3, 5, 6, 8, 10)
- Jason Barnhart(fr.) – trumpet (track 1)
- Jacques Bolognesi (fr.) – trombone (track 1)
- Jean-Louis Chautemps, Alain Hatot – saxophones (track 1)
- Jean-Luc Ponty – electric violin (tracks 2, 8)
- "Legs" Larry Smith – tap dance (track 3)
- David Hentschel – ARP synthesiser (tracks 5, 10) (credited as "David Henschel" on sleeve)
- Ray Cooper – congas (track 8)
- Gus Dudgeon – rhino whistle and backing vocals (track 10)
- Madeline Bell, Liza Strike, Larry Steel, Tony Hazzard – additional backing vocals (track 6)
- Producer: Gus Dudgeon
- Engineer: Ken Scott
- Mastering engineer: "Legs" Larry Smith
- Remastering: Tony Cousins
- Editing: Gus Skinas
- Digital transfers: Ricky Graham
- Surround mix: Greg Penny
- Brass arrangement: Gus Dudgeon
- Cover photo: Ed Caraeff
- Liner notes: John Tobler
|Preceded by||Billboard 200 number-one album
15 July – 18 August 1972