Elton John marks 40 years from the release of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road with the release of a deluxe remastered version of the breakthrough record
By the time Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was issued in 1973, Elton John had already released nine records.
He was nothing if not prodigious in those early years.
Between 1970 and 1971 he released no fewer than six albums, something almost unheard of at the time, except perhaps for The Beatles, who released a whopping nine albums between 1963 and 1964.
Included in Elton’s early outpouring were such classic entries as Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water.
While those records all served to enhance his growing reputation as a singer/songwriter, none of them really transformed him into an international superstar.
Then came Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
Powered by hits like Candle in the Wind, Bennie and the Jets, Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting and the title track, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road elevated Elton to the upper reaches of the pop music stratosphere.
That was 40 years ago.
To mark this special anniversary the celebrated tunesmith born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in Pinner, Middlesex, in 1947 has released a deluxe remastered version of his breakthrough record with some very special features.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has been re-released as a two-CD set.
Disc one features all the music from the original release — from the grand, sweeping Funeral For A Friend and the dreamy Sweet Painted Lady to pop gems like Bennie and the Jets, All the Girls Like Alice and Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.
The second disc is actually divided into two sections.
The first section, subtitled Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Revisited, features nine songs from the record performed by more contemporary artists personally chosen by Elton.
And believe me when I say there are some surprises here.
Candle in the Wind is given an acoustic treatment by contemporary British pop star Ed Sheeran. His version has a much faster tempo than the original but still serves the song well.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was entrusted to young country star Hunter Hayes who does a very respectable job.
And Hayes is only one of three country acts Elton called on for this record. The Zac Brown Band dispenses Harmony here while Grey Seal was handed to The Band Perry. No one drops the ball.
One of the more surprising choices was giving Bennie and the Jets to soul/R&B artist Miguel and hip-hop artist Wale. It may grow on you. It grew on me.
My two favourite tracks in this section are Emili Sande’s version of All the Girls Love Alice and Imelda May’s rockabilly version of Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock and Roll).
I’m also partial to American indie rocker John Grant’s take on Sweet Painted Lady.
The second half of disc two features nine songs recorded live during a performance at the Hammersmith Odeon in December of 1973.
Four of the songs are from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but the rest were pulled from other records.
You get Your Song from Elton John, Daniel and Crocodile Rock from Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player and Honky Cat and Rocket Man from Honky Cat.
Considering the live recording technology of the day these recordings are quite decent.
All and all this is as good a way to mark the 40th anniversary of a milestone recording as one might think of.
If you love Elton and have some money to spare there’s also a super deluxe version of this record that features four CDs and one DVD, housed in a beautiful presentation box and accompanied by a lavish 100-page book.
There’s also a version on yellow vinyl.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 629-6000, ext. 6057.