Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Remastered)
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Audio CD, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, 10 May 1995
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“The Album That Created A Superstar” - Originally released at the end of 1973, the double album ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ was the crowning moment of an upward trajectory marking the unstoppable rise of Elton John. It gave the world the global smashes ‘Candle In The Wind’, ‘Bennie & The Jets’, ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’, and the soaring title track. The new 40th anniversary edition of this landmark album has been comprehensively remastered and pressed onto 180GM vinyl.
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Fans will know that there's the Deluxe Edition with an Extra Disc of the whole album re-interpreted into modern day duets – and a 5-disc Super Deluxe Variant that gives us previously live shows, the duets set and DVD stuff too. But is all that fluff actually necessary - especially when you have to pay a pretty penny for it? I'd argue no - sometimes less is more. Let's get to the Norma Jeans, Bennie and His Jets and some sociable Fighting on a Saturday Night...
UK and US released 24 March 2014 – "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by ELTON JOHN on Universal/Mercury 375 858-9 (Barcode 602537585892) is a '40th Anniversary' single disc CD Remaster of the original 17-track 1973 double-album and plays out as follows (76:11 minutes):
1. (a) Funeral For A Friend (b) Love Lies Bleeding [Side 1]
2. Candle In The Wind
3. Bennie And The Jets
4. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road [Side 2]
5. This Song Has No Title
6. Grey Seal
7. Jamaica Jerk-Off
8. I've Seen That Movie Too
9. Sweet Painted Lady [Side 3]
10. The Ballad Of Danny Bailey (1909-34)
11. Dirty Little Girl
12. All The Girls Love Alice
13. Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n' Roll) [Side 4]
14. Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting
15. Roy Rogers
16. Social Disease
Tracks 1 to 17 are his 9th album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" – a double-LP set released October 1973 in the UK on DJM Records DJLPD 1001 and in the USA on MCA Records MCA2-10003. All tracks were written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin – David Hentschel (Dave Henschel) was the Engineer and Gus Dudgeon Produced. Del Newman did Orchestral Arrangements on Tracks 4, 8, 9, 10, 15 and 17. The core band was Elton John on all Keyboards and Lead Vocals, Davey Johnstone on All Guitars and Backing Vocals, Dee Murray on Bass and backing Vocals and Nigel Olsson on Drums and Backing Vocals. David Hentschel plays A.R.P. Synth on "Funeral For A Friend" and "All The Girls Love Alice". the 2LP set "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" hit the No. 1 spot on both the UK and USA LP charts in October 1973.
The 12-page booklet features the same layout as the Gus Dudgeon 1995 remaster in that it reproduces the inner tri-gatefold of the original vinyl double album with Ian Beck's lovely artwork as well as David Larkham and Michael Ross's illustrations and lyrics. There's no liner notes per say and basic credits. Long-time tape supremo BOB LUDWIG has handled the new 2014 Remaster. Fans will know that the 2003 DELUXE EDITION double had stunning remasters from Andy Strange, Chris Bellman and Tony Cousins – so is this version any better? I don’t know if better is the word – more 'equal too'. I like both - but there's something about this new go at it that sounds just that little bit more nuanced...
1973 was a huge year for Elton. Along with Bernie Taupin his lyricist – their collaborative songwriting mojo seemed to be not just on fire but blazing. His 8th album the beautifully and elaborately packaged "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player" with the big hits "Daniel" and "Crocodile Rock" had gone to No. 1 in both Blighty and The States in February - and no sooner had the public drawn breath then they were hit with his double-album meisterwerk in October 1973 – "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (another Number 1 winner). It opens with the eleven-minute magnificence of "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" – a two-part almost Prog monster that rocks, rolls and sweeps for the whole of its brilliant duration. It proved such a winner with fans that DJM Records couldn't resist actually releasing its eleven minutes as the A-side to a 12" Single EP in September 1978 in a unique Picture Sleeve (DJT 15000). The hero of the hour is surely Davey Johnstone and his stunning axework that seems to be everywhere in your speakers. It's followed by the album's most iconic song "Candle In The Wind" – a love song and homage to the sad demise of Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe – later reprised by Elton to reflect the world's sadness at Diana Spencer's loss in 1997 – another princess taken too soon. There's real warmth in this transfer and the song is still touching. The 'live' feel to "Bennie And The Jets" comes over like a football anthem – those punched piano riffs are in your face and threatening to smash the cocktail glasses over the hotel waiter's head.
Another hero of the album is the Jazz sleaze shuffle of "I've Seen That Movie Too" – here in gorgeous Audio (Drums, Bass and Piano all shining) – the whole thing elevated into a thing of musical beauty by Del Newman's complimentary string arrangements. Its cleverly followed by another forgotten Elton sweetie - "Sweet Painted Lady" - and to this day I don't know whose playing the Accordion or Tuba (all part of Del Newman’s strings)? The transfer of "Danny Bailey..." gives more muscle to those Backing Vocals and Strings - while Davey's lowdown and snotty Guitar sound on "Dirty Little Girl" gives the 'hasn't had a bath in years' tune real anger and attack. Speaking of Blistering Guitar parts – the sexually knowing "All The Girls Love Alice" rocks like a mother – Davey ripping it up while David Hentschel bottoms the chorus with that clever ARP Synth fill. The faster-than-anything-else bubblegum pop of the souped-up "Your Sister Can't Twist..." sounds utterly amazing but actually leaves me cold. You can't say the same of the 'belly full of beer' rocker "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" leaping out of your speakers like a boot boy intent on damaging private property (what a tune this is).
Side 4 winds down with "Roy Rogers" – the dynamic duo's obsession with all things Wild West surfacing once again. The overall soundstage is full and incredibly alive – those strings and pedal steel wrapping themselves around Elton's vocals. The twittering birds and bulldog barks of "Social Disease" start to increase in Volume as the song progresses – and again the Remaster is fantastic - highlighting Elton's Piano and Davey's Banjo plucking. It ends on the surprisingly upbeat "Harmony" and there's amazing clarity on the Acoustic Guitars and those layered backing vocals.
Re-listening to 1973's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" in its entirety in 2016 and you're struck by its track-after-track brilliance – a genuine 1970s Classic Rock LP masterpiece. My only fidget would be that there's a truly gorgeous 'Acoustic Mix' of "Candle In The Wind" on the 2003 Deluxe Edition that would have made the most perfect singular additional Bonus Track on here – ending the whole thing on a reminder of just how touching Elton’s songwriting chops were/still are (but alas).
"...Never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in..." - Elton sang sadly on "Candle In The Wind". Well if you're in a nostalgic mood - start your journey back down the Yellow Brick Road right here. And remember - this gorgeous Audio '40th Anniversary' trek won't cost you a flight to Vegas or a night at Caesars Palace either...but I suspect it'll feel just as good...
To some people, Sir Elton John never bettered this double album from 1973-74. For others, it's a patchy album loaded with hits in the first half and full of filler at the end. For me, it's up there with some of the great entertainer's best work and for the life of me can't see where there is ANY filler or sub-par songs. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", from here abbreviated to the acronym GYBR, marked the merging of all the various styles that Elton and Bernie Taupin had been trying out through the earlier years of their song-writing career. They'd had a few hits along the way but this had not been reflected in sales. This album is where it all gels. Perfect melodies, thoughtful & sometimes controversial lyrics, great production with a solid work ethic. The end result is one of the greatest double albums of popular music ever released. That's enough of my praise and opinions about this album. What's in the Super Deluxe Edition and is it worth the coin?
Disc one is the complete double album which fits on one cd. It's been lovingly remastered by Bob Ludwig. Read his name and say no more. You know this is going to sound like it did 40 years ago if not better. All good so far.
Disc two, "Revisited & Beyond". The first nine tracks of this disc are contemporary re-recordings/interpretations. I think this portion depends on a few variables. Do you like the artist responsible for the cover and their style of music? If you you are partial to a bit of The Zac Brown Band, Ed Sheeran, or Emeli Sandé (which I am) you might enjoy these recordings which, if you believe the blurb, Elton picked out himself. For me it's like a box of all-sorts chocolates and what I like others may not and vice versa. The one that stays closest to the original is Imelda May's take on "Your Sister Can't Twist..". All the other tracks have each artists distinct sound and arrangements with what I would kindly call mixed results. The remainder of disc two consists of some demos, single only releases and b-sides. Do not be deceived. There are some mega hits here such as "Philadephia Freedom", Elton's superb cover of The Who's "Pinball Wizard" for the film Tommy as well as the seasonal favourite "Step Into Christmas".
Discs three & four are the sugar for the fans and if you like live Elton as much as I do you're in for a real treat. Live At Hammersmith Odeon December 1973, recorded for and broadcast by the BBC, features nine tracks from the recently released GYBR album and a selection of EJ's hits of the time including Daniel, Rocket Man and a personal favourite of mine Honky Cat. To date there have only been five commercially released live albums and this is one of a handful of recordings featuring the original five piece EJ Band with Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson, Ray Cooper and the late great Dee Murray on bass. These two discs are almost worth the price of this set. It's such a joy to hear Elton performing these songs (in their original key) before he almost lost his voice for good at the end of the 80's. The master musicians are on fire as well.
Disc five is a dvd featuring the period documentary "Say Goodbye To Norma Jean And Other Things". It's vintage stuff and for what it is makes for interesting viewing but not what you'd call essential or fascinating. It's also unfortunately been edited and modified for this release (All images and references to John Reid and Elton's mum have been removed). If you're looking for a great doco on how GYBR came to be click here "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Classic Albums [DVD] ". This very informative documentary was a bonus disc in the 30th Anniversary edition "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (+DVD)" with the album on two hybrid SACD's featuring a 5.1 surround sound mix which can also be found here "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" on Blu-ray audio as another part of the 40th Anniversary re-issue series.
If you're a hardcore Elton fan like me and are chasing some rare live stuff this Super Deluxe is what you need. If you are new to this album try the Blu-Ray audio via the link above or the other editions in the 40th Anniversary series "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" single cd, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" 2cd deluxe or you can go old school with "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" on double vinyl. Whatever your format, it's all here.
"Harmony And Me We're Pretty Good Company..."