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Another of the magnificent songs on this album, some might
even argue that This Train is the best of them all. It's
set to an easy going swing beat and, like the rest of the
album, places Elton's piano and voice prominently in the
mix. It again features a stripped down sound, not even a
guitar in this one, and Paul
Buckmaster adds an elegant but
restrained string arrangement. Elton himself has compared
this song to the breezy swing sound of Burt
The intro is in Ab. Elton does a tasteful little diatonic downward progression to the Db. At the end, he modulates
to the key of F by dropping chromatically to the C7. The
chromatic move lends a jazz feel. Along with the swing
it clearly establishes a smokey-bar ambience to the whole
affair. Too bad Elton didn't bring in a stand up bass to
complete the mood.
Now when faced with the swing 8th rhythm, there are two
ways to notate: either with tuplet 8ths or with 16th notes.
Neither one is strictly correct. I chose to use 16ths.
Elton sets the verse against one of the simplest and oldest
of harmonic patterns, the I - vi - ii - V pattern, used by
the great songwriters from the 1930's and the early jazz
era. Elton spices it up with jazzy 9th and 7th chords. The
melody is memorable and so very easy to sing along with.
Elton modulates from a C7th back up to the Ab for an 8-bar
pre-chorus. This modulation works because there is a common
note, i.e. C, between the two keys. This leads to the chorus
which follows a IV - V - I - vi - ii - V - I harmonic pattern.
Notice that this is only a slight variation from the verse,
albeit in a different key. By ending on the I or Ab chord,
this is a perfect segue back to the intro.
Bernie's lyrics are powerful and bittersweet. Elton's singing
and phrasing wring every bit of heartfelt sentiment out of
this tale of growing older, wisdom and reflection. Elton's
train may not stop there anymore, but his brilliant songwriting
continues its journey down the tracks.