To atone for producer Gus Dudgeon’s curious refusal to utilize his extraordinary road band in the studio during his early career, Elton John released 11-17-70 which is among the essential live albums of any era in rock. Bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson distinguished themselves as an elite rhythm section comparable to Entwistle/Moon and Bruce/Baker.
However whereas those aforementioned players were often self-indulgent, extending compositions beyond recognition – Murray and Olsson served the song. And they were gifted backing vocalists who arranged their own harmonies – which were a major dynamic in Elton’s chart-topping successes. When Elton canned Murray and Olsson in 1975, his career tanked artistically and commercially. When he rehired Dee and Nigel in the early 1980s, his career enjoyed a remarkable resurgence. Since Dee passed in 1992, Elton has waxed many fine records - but not any great ones, to my ears....
I’m sure a young Jaco Pastorius was inspired by Dee’s groundbreaking use of a volume pedal, natural distortion, bass chords, harmonics, and phrasing. Dee played with a strong rhythm & blues feel with passages that glided over the bar line. According to Dudgeon, Dee usually nailed his parts in a few passes.
To my ears, all of Dee's work with Elton is essential, especially Honky Chateau (1972), Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1973), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973), and Too Low for Zero (1983).
Note to Reggie Dwight: Dee, Nigel, Davey Johnstone, and Ray Cooper - who comprised the original Elton John Band - are long overdue for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors....talk to your pal Jann!