Elton keeps adding to the long list of great
ballads that he's written. Original Sin is a beautiful and
touching, melancholy interpretation of Bernie's smooth, sincere
and heartfelt lyrics. There are some great lines in this
song, recalling the best of Bernie's imagery-driven lyrics.
The melody of this song is a thing of profound beauty that
when combined with Elton's aching delivery, brings to life
Bernie's lyrics. There are several moments that touch me
in this song, but especially when he soars up to "And
tell me why, I shudder inside" he might as well just
be reaching straight into my soul.
This particular version of Original Sin was performed by
Elton solo on the Last Call With Carson Daly show, March
29, 2002. As you know, the piano is fairly muted in the studio
version. So what we have here is your basic Elton playing
style with all the intimacy, warmth and fullness that he
brings to his solo piano performances. Sorry I don't have
an mp3 of this to share.
The song is in the key of Db, giving the song a richness and a distinct quality,
as well as reflecting the lower registers that Elton sings in these days.
It's a great example of Elton's "default" style of playing. If
you're not scared of the flats, this is a great piece for learning Elton.
Here's the intro.
And why do I say this is great example of Elton's basic
- He uses his standard rhythmic syncopation - coming in
on the upbeat before the 3 in most bars. (see bars
- He uses his standard approach to working with chord
inversions, usually choosing an inversion that puts
the thumb or little finger on a white note. He works with
4-note octave version of each chord, usually sustaining
the note played either by the thumb or little finger,
whichever comes first. (bar 5)
- We have as always a wonderful variety of piano riffs.
Elton's riffs are usually on interior notes while the
bass and top note stay on a drone note.
- We find the usual interplay between the left and right
hands - the left hand completing what the right hand
- MOST of the time, when Elton plays a chord, he leads
with the little finger, putting an accent on the top
- As always, his left hand is very controlled, blending
with the right hand rather than being used in a percussive
Harmonically this is a very simple song and I'll try to illustrate why I say
that. Elton sticks to a straight 8-bar structure and the song stays within
the Db key signature.
The intro is basically a I to V progression - just about
as simple a setup as you can have for a song. The Ebm and
the slash chord Db/Ab provide some harmonic variation, but
the basic I - V structure guides the harmony direction.
|| Db | Ebm Db | Db/Ab Ab | Ab || 2 times
The verse follows a I - IV - V - vi - IV - V route. Since
the vi is the relative minor of I, this could be further
simplified to a I - IV - V - I - IV - V. Again it doesn't
get much simpler.
|| Db | Gb | Ab | Ab | Bbm | Gb/Bb | Ab | Ab || 2 times
The pre-chorus, which is a setup for the chorus, switches
the emphasis of the song to the sub-dominant Gb. This is
of course just one step up on the Circle-of-4ths from
the Db. And then what we have is some diatonic noodling.
This pre-chorus can be simplified to a IV - V - IV - V pattern.
By dropping to the relative minors of Ab (i.e. Fm7) and Gb
(i.e. Ebm7) Elton makes this basic harmony more interesting.
|| Gb | Gb | Ab | Fm7 | Gb | Ebm7 | Ab | Ab ||
The chorus soars through a I - V - vi - iii - IV - V - I
- I pattern. The first 2 bars of this pattern are Db and
Ab. The 2nd 2 bars use the relative minors of these chords,
i.e. Bbm and Fm. This gives you a parallel harmonic motion
to the motion in the first 2 bars, using the minor keys.
Listen for this simple but beautiful parallel relationship.
The chorus then ends with the simple IV - V - I.
|| Db | Ab | Bbm | Fm7 | Gb | Ab | Db | Db |
| Db | Ab | Bbm | Fm7 | Gb | Ab || back to intro
This is just an all around well-crafted song: simple, elegant
and with gorgeous lyrics. I hope you enjoy it as much as