Without Question
Elton John's The Road to El Dorado
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Live Band Version
Key: G Structure: A-B-C-A-B-C-C

In 2000, Elton once again teamed up with lyricist Tim Rice to write a dozen songs for the animated film The Road to El Dorado. As part of the promotion for the movie, Elton made personal appearances and performed several concerts with a full band to play several of the tracks from the movie. This version of the song is taken from a performance on VH1 recorded in February and broadcast in March. Pretty much it's identical to the studio version.

The word that first came to mind when I heard this song was beautiful. Elton has done it again. He absolutely has conquered the animation song medium. In conquering it, he set a standard that will be difficult for others to match. I've included the mp3 for your reference. You can tell Elton's in a great mood as he introduces the song with a brief story complete with some baudy humor.

There are several key things to note. First of all, the piano is very much a role player rather than being in the forefront of this arrangement. By in large, and even more so in the studio version, the piano stays in the background interwoven with the other instruments. There is no prototypical Elton piano playing here.

Nevertheless, this is a beautifully crafted song filled with simple little parts shared by all of the other instruments. The strings really embrace the harmonies and melody. The little organ part blends in beautifully and compliments Elton's singing in the opening verse. The fretless bass - just gorgeous even though limited to 2 well placed riffs in the song. And finally that little horn riff pops out. Truly amazing! This is producer Patrick Leonard's work and it makes the song just shine.

As with all great Elton songs, there is a signature riff. This one is a trip around the circle-of-fourths starting at Eb. It shows up in the beginning, middle and end of the song and stands out as an excellent contrast against the G-major palette established in the rest of the song. Through syncopation and harmony, it provides both movement and focus.

The verses follow a simple ballad path using I-IV-V-I. The chorus modulates to C, leading to an amazing and dramatic Em7b5 under the words "I love you" which then resolves to an A7. Those 3 words, "I love you," have probably been used in more songs than any other 3, but I challenge anyone to find an example of a piece of music which more passionately supports them musically than this song. It's a beautiful moment in a beautiful piece of music.

Ultimately the movie was not much of a success. As a result, the music didn't do so well either and Elton soon dropped it from his set lists. It's really a shame if you ask me because I still love it here at the Music Café.