If his first album, the low-budget 'Empty Sky' hinted at Elton John's potential, his second ('the black album') well and truly confirmed it and is one of the most significant albums of the early 70s. Its distinctive character derives from the three features which would become Elton's trademark sound in his early albums - his unique vocal delivery, his expressive piano playing, and the use of heavy orchestration. The songs range from tender ballads with baroque influences, to bluesy rock numbers, and the slow but powerful songs for which he is perhaps best known. Only one ('Your song') was a hit record, but many others have become well-established classics of Elton's repertoire (notably 'Border song', 'Take me to the pilot', 'Sixty years on' and 'The king must die'). (Three additional early songs, not originally included on the album, also appear.) Paul Buckmaster's orchestral arrangements on this album might be criticised as being too grandiose and overbearing at times, but they are part of what gives the record its distinctive character and helped to establish Elton as a very individual new talent in his early days. After two further heavily orchestrated albums, his song arrangements became much more stripped-down and conventionally commercial, as can be heard on 'Goodbye yellow brick road', but the black album showcases Elton's raw talent before 'stardom' arrived. A landmark album - but if you like the style of this you should also obtain the subsequent 'Tumbleweed connection' and 'Madman across the water', which are also EJ classics.