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Another remaster and another addition to Universal's very successful "Deluxe Edition" series, some of which have been excellent value. We have already seen "Captain Fantastic" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" given the deluxe treatment. According to the expanded essay by John Tobler contained within the booklet of this double cd reissue of one of Sir Elton's career defining early 70's albums for DJM records, it has been released (along with Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition) to commemerate 40 years of recording. And what a wealth of material it contains. It's not so much how good the album sounds, it's all the extra material contained on the second disc, most of which is previously unreleased, that make these new deluxe editions a must have for any fan of Mr.John.

It's not the first remaster of course. Almost all his classic 70's back catalogue was first given a clean up in 1995 by the late Gus Dudgeon, Elton's longtime producer and collaborator. The remainder of the 70's albums and most of the 80's and 90's were finished by 2003. And for those of us who were quick enough (and have the relevant hardware) to snap them up, six of his classic 70's albums were reissued in Hybrid SACD 5.1 by Universal America's excellent "Chronicles" series a few years back. If you have an SACD player, they are pretty nice sounding surround remixes (track down the deluxe edition of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road:Remastered SACD/+DVD" and you'll understand what I'm talking about).

So onto the 2008 clean up. The albums themselves sound like they were recorded yesterday, very nice indeed. Universal, along with Sony and EMI use single bit technology DSD or direct steam digital that Sony & Philips created for archiving all their aging analogue tape back catalogue. So any remasters they have released since 2001 wil sound as close to the original master as possible. The bonus tracks that were on the 1995 remasters are included on the second disc along with almost all of the album in demo form or alternate versions and some previously unreleased live radio performances. Worth the price of admission for the second disc alone. I hope that all his classic albums get the same treatment as each one passes the big 40 anniversary and we don't have to wait "Sixty Years On".
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Reginald Dwight's 2nd album proper was recorded in a week in January 1970 at Trident Studios in London and then released in the spring of 1970. It included the monster hit "Your Song" and after years of soul-destroying session work and an underachieving debut album "Empty Sky" - both the single and the self-titled album finally kick-started Elton John's extraordinary career which is still strong nearly 45 years after the event. This 2 June 2008 DELUXE EDITION is a fully upgraded 2CD version of that forgotten 2nd album and along with the DELUXE EDITION of "Tumbleweed Connection" (the album that followed it - see my separate review) - these two beauties are in my books already up there as reissues of the year. Here are the classily photographed side-profile details...

Disc 1 (39:29 minutes):
1. Your Song
2. I Need You To Turn To
3. Take Me To The Pilot
4. No Shoe Strings For Louise
5. First Episode At Hienton
6. Sixty Years On
7. Border Song
8. The Greatest Discovery
9. The Cage
10. The King Must Die
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Elton John" originally released in the UK in April 1970 on DJM Records DJLPS 406 and in the USA on Uni Records 73090

Disc 2 (69:53 minutes):
1. Your Song (Demo Version)
2. I Need You To Turn To (Piano Demo)
3. Take Me To The Pilot (Piano Demo)
4. No Shoe Strings For Louise (Piano Demo)
5. Sixty Years On (Piano Demo)
6. The Greatest Discovery (Piano Demo)
7. The Cage (Demo)
8. The King Must Die (Piano Demo)
9. Rock And Roll Madonna (Piano Demo)
10. Thank You Mama (Piano Demo)
11. All The Way Down To El Paso (Piano Demo)
12. I'm Going Home (Piano Demo)
13. Grey Seal (Piano Demo)
14. Rock And Roll Madonna (Incomplete Band Demo)
15. Bad Side Of The Moon - non-album B-side of "Border Song" released March 1970 in the UK on DJM Records DJS 217
16. Grey Seal
17. Rock And Roll Madonna - 17 and 16 are the A & B-sides of a non-album UK 7" single released June 1970 on DJM Records DJS 222. The B-side "Grey Seal" is known here are the `1970 Version" as it differs to the track that later appeared on the 1973 double "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"
18. Border Song (BBC Radio 1 Session, Sound Of The Seventies Show, July 1970)
19. Your Song (as per 18)
20. Take Me To The Pilot (as per 18)
Outside of the 3 non-album single sides noted above (15, 16 and 17) - the other 17 tracks are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED DEMO, PIANO and BBC VERSIONS.

The LP originally sported a matt gatefold sleeve, which has been faithfully reproduced in the upgraded 28-page booklet that accompanies this set. Along with period photos of Elton, there's a very informative new essay by noted writer JOHN TOBLER, session details on the bonus tracks, both CDs are picture discs and the booklet reflects both the rear sleeve ensemble photo and the lyrics on the inner spread in the same way they were on the gatefold of the original album - all very nice touches indeed. But the big news is the SOUND....

Sourcing the first generation original masters tapes from the Universal Archives, GIOVANNI SCATOLA and TONY COUSINS at Metropolis Mastering in London have carried out the remastering - and surely an EMMY awaits each of them! As the owner of way too many re-issue CDs, this (and Tumbleweed Connection) are simply the best remaster of old albums that I've ever heard! Twenty seconds into the overly familiar "Your Song", with its brand new piano and acoustic guitar clarity and its string-arranged beauty fully renewed, I was already writing a review and picking my jaw up off the table as I went!

So what's changed? When GUS DUDGEON replaced the useless 1980s CDs with the excellent 1995 remasters, he got the best sound out of the tapes that he could at the time (he sadly passed away a few years ago). But 13 years on to 2008 and that's a lifetime in remastering techniques. These 2008 versions BREATHE - you can hear everything - and clearly too. Songs like "First Episode At Hienton", "Sixty Years On" and "The King Must Die" heavily feature the fantastic string arrangements of PAUL BUCKMASTER (who did "Space Oddity" for Bowie) - well now you can hear how good they are! The sound is so clean, it makes you double take on almost every track - a TRULY BEAUTIFUL JOB DONE and easy to see why Elton would want these new versions out in the marketplace as soon as possible.

FRANK CLARK and COLIN GREEN provide sweet guitar work on "Your Song" and "Sixty Years On", while guest vocalists MADELINE BELL, TONY HAZZARD, LESLIE DUNCAN and ROGER COOK feature especially well on the brilliant "No Strings For Louise" and "The Cage". DIANA LEWIS plays Moog on the sparse "First Episode At Hienton". CALEB QUAYE of HOOKFOOT provides Lead Guitar on "Take Me To The Pilot" while TONY COX of PENTANGLE drums on "The Greatest Discovery" and the epic album closer "The King Must Die".

DISC 2 gives us 12 excellent PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED Piano Demos in a row (1-12) along with two separate BBC sessions - the "Dave Lee Travis Show" from April 1970 and the "Sounds Of The Seventies Show" from July 1970 (tracks 18, 19 and 20). They vary in sound quality, but are more than pleasantly good. It should be noted that Track 1, the demo version of "Your Song" did turn up on the "To Be Continued" box set years back, but that was only briefly available. "Bad Side Of The Moon" is the non-album B-side of the 7" single "Border Song" issued March 1970 in the UK on DJM Records DJS 217, while "Rock & Roll Madonna" and "Grey Seal" are the A&B sides of the non-album 7" single DJS 222 issued in the UK in June 1970. "Grey Seal" was re-recorded and turned up on "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" - the version on this disc is often referred to as "Version 1970". These 3 were originally bonus tracks on the 1995 reissue CD of the album; here they've upgraded sound quality.

Then comes a genuine sensation; recorded for the Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis for his "Sound Of The Seventies" Sessions in July 1970 is an almost note-perfect rendition of "YOUR SONG" which frankly rivals the issued version. Luckily the sound is BEAUTIFUL, his performance heartfelt and not wearied by 38 years of playing the same song. It's FANTASTIC STUFF and a reminder of what initially drew so many music lovers to Elton in the first place - his great song-writing and vocal delivery. Whatever way you cut it, this version is an absolute gem and will thrill fans to the core!

To sum up: I've loved coming back to this album - the great sound quality - actual tunes with thought-provoking lyrics - the attention to detail in the well-thought out packaging - the bonuses you'll play more than once - all of it. For fans of this unduly forgotten album - an absolute must buy - and roll on the same deluxe treatment for "Madman Across The Water" and "Honky Chateau"...
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on 8 April 2013
First of all this is a great album, Your song, 60 years on, The greatest Discovery and the great King must die to name a few. The mastering is very good, keeping the quality levels at a high standard,but this album always sounded good even my original LP is still sounding great.
Disc two has some interesting out-takes and other bonus material, a piano led Your song, and not just a live selection from a concert at the time, which for me never warrants a deluxe issue. so why did i knock of a star?. Well after all the effort with the disc's, you get the worst tackiest box to hold the Cd's in I have ever had the pleasure of buying.
Gone is the plastic slip case,that you get with most of the Universal deluxe issue's, instead the cardboard box is wrapped with what only can be described as sellotape, wrapped around the box, which you then have to cut open, looks very tacky, so i thought well as it looks really bad now, perhaps I'll remove it, err bad idea this the rips the picture of the cover. This is ridiculous and not what you expect for £12.99. Considering CD's it cost less than a £1.00 to manufacture a CD,this is a disgrace and Universal should be ashamed with this package, A good set ruined by cut backs, bring back the original deluxe packaging.
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on 5 October 2015
Disc 1 is a superbly re-mastered version of the original album while disc 2 contains demo versions of the album tracks plus a few BBC sessions dating from around the time the album was released. While demo versions can sometimes compare favourably with album tracks, this is not the case here as the demos on disc 2 are not really up to that standard. The BBC sessions however are great and well worth having. This has never been my favourite Elton John album as it has a tendency to over-produced slushy sentimentality but I think the more stripped-down and rockier content of the second disc helps to redress the balance. On my copy, disc 1 has been labelled as disc 2 and vice versa. How stupid is that?
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VINE VOICEon 13 April 2009
YES!!! The bonus cd is worth the money! the demos are revelatory in every way, you can hear Elton John still a bit shy behind his piano, with a voice waiting to be spread across the world. I will concentrate the review on the bonus tracks, for reviews on the album there are many that you can read, but man, it is a FANTASTIC ALBUM!
The bonus cd starts with a 'Your song' piano only demo which is a beauty in itself, in this album you'll also be able to hear Elton singing along some of the orchestral movements of the final version of the 'Greatest Discovery'. These piano only demo songs just inspire me to write an Indie Movie of true characters and go along with it, they are so truthful, there's no S..t here, and anyone who appreciates music will just love them.

Elton's talent is evident in every song, the melodies are just brilliant, I never get tired of these songs it has so many GREAT moments even forgeting about 'Your Song' which is the big hit. 'Sixty Years On' in its piano version will make you cry... is such a brilliant underrated song.

Seriously these demos are worth the money of this reissue. 'Rock n' Roll Madonna' sounds amazing, with a great groove, although in this one I'd say the band version is superior, which doesn't mean this one is not good though. B-Sides and rarities were already included in the previous reissue (Grey Seal, Bad Side of the of the Moon and Rock n' Roll Madonna) is nice to see they are also included here along with the rest of the goodies into a single cd.

And finally you get three songs from a BBC sessions (Border Song, Your Song and Take me to the pilot) and again they sound naked and truthful... I have many Elton John live albums but the innocence of these recordings are unique.

Let the music play!
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on 29 July 2013
The trouble with Amazon reviews is that often there's no distinction between the bog-standard version or the Deluxe version of a particular CD release. Here, I'm writing about the Deluxe version that has been kicking around for some time now, but one well worth getting if you're an Elton fan or even if you just like quality music. Elton's second album showcases his music from an early stage of his recording career - it might be slightly solemn in places, but is chock full of those trademark Elton melodies that became 'ear worms' for a generation. This is Elton and Bernie honing their craft, full of hints of how they would later develop.

Of course, the opening track is 'Your Song', and it's easy to forget after years of being overplayed what an exquisite song it is - and why John Lennon spotted Elton as being a talent to keep an eye on. Here, on the Deluxe version of this album, it really breathes and shines anew. The rest of the album has many highlights, and the intimate setting created by the remastering of the original tapes is magical. A second disc is brimming with alternative takes, demos and BBC live versions of songs, but the real meat of this set shows a master craftsman starting to spread his wings before the world went mad a few short years later. A beautifully produced set.
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on 1 November 2008
This was the album where Elton John found his voice. Gone were the psychedelic leanings and world-weary vocal stylings of failed debut 'Empty Sky', to be replaced by a dark romanticism with which the cover photo of Elton peering moodily out of the shadows was perfectly in keeping. Crucial to the success of Elton's 70s work was his teaming up with producer Gus Dudgeon and arranger Paul Buckmaster who had already proved their artistic and commercial chops on David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' single. Considering its eventual ubiquity it's incredible to think that opening track 'Your Song' wasn't originally considered for single release, only becoming Elton's first chart hit the following year, by which time he had already released his next album. On songs such as the delicate `I Need You To Turn To', the romantic `First Episode At Hienton' and the pessimistic `Sixty Years On' Bernie Taupin's poetic lyrics are perfectly matched by Elton's melodic flair, and the album is constantly saved from becoming too precious by Paul Buckmaster's rich and unsentimental string arrangements which are as essential to these songs as Robert Kirby's were for Nick Drake. The reflective mood is occasionally broken by more boisterous tunes such as the cryptic `Take Me To The Pilot', the Stonesy `No Shoestrings On Louise' and gospel shouter `The Cage' which has a splendid moog solo. In those days Elton's voice had a remarkable flexibility and range, best demonstrated on dramatic closing track `The King Is Dead'. This welcome deluxe reissue adds an amazing quantity of previously unheard demos, including 3 otherwise unrecorded songs which prove to be disappointingly uninspiring. All of the original album tracks are also represented in demo form bar 'Border Song' and 'First Episode At Hienton'. The first of these is included as a BBC session; the second was also previously recorded for the John Peel show back in 1968, but presumably this tape no longer survives. Also included are the non-album tracks recorded during the same sessions: the single 'Rock And Roll Madonna' and two b-sides, 'Bad Side Of The Moon' and 'Grey Seal', which are easily as good as anything on the album. The oddest bonus track is a BBC version of 'Your Song', which is merely an alternate mix of the standard version, making it more likely a 'network session' than a specially recorded rendition. This is the area where these deluxe reissues fail to totally satisfy. Room could have easily been made for more than just three BBC session tracks, and the source information for these seems to be somewhat inaccurate. But, all in all, a pivotal album, beautifully repackaged and excellently priced.
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on 16 June 2014
i bought this when it was first released and wore out two vinyl versions. it was the first CD i bought when i got a CD player and now one of the first down loads on my new kindle. love hearing the demo versions of the songs.
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on 7 March 2009
This re-issue just shows how good EJ was in those early years and the quality of songs is just amazing combined with a production of simplicity that in my opinion was never created again. The demo / bonus tracks provide an interesting insight into the development of what was to prove to be one of EJ's greatest albums.
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on 19 November 2013
Had on vinyl since the early 70s. This is essential for any EJ fan. I bought it for the extras as I still play the vinyl regularly. Well worth it for some great versions. The album is probably famous for having Your Song but there are many other gems here.
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