Well, what can we say? This is the album that contains the song that launched the rocket man's career into the stratosphere. I remember, those many years ago (1970), first hearing "Your Song" on the radio. Man, was I hooked, the perfect song! I immediately, without passing Go, went straight to my local record store and snatched up 'Elton John', the album. (It was around this same time that one Cat Stevens "Wild World" came out, and The Dead's 'Working Man's Dead' LP. Heady times, indeed!)
Matt, the lucky bastard (but we love him dearly - his job is not easy, and he does it so well...and you'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer guy. Can I have that raise now, Matt?), was able to snag 'Madman Across the Water' and 'Honky Chateau' in hi-res SACD (see his reviews of those two excellent discs in 'Archives'). The only one I've seen thus far is 'Elton John', and I grabbed it! (I want the two you have, Matt...I WILL get them!)
This was Elton's baroque/country/folk-rock album, and the talent displayed here hinted at wonderful things to come from this unknown legend. John's music, coupled with Bernie Taupin's lyrics, were a match made in heaven! Soon to be long-time associates and legends themselves, Gus Dudgeon (producer) and Paul Buckmaster (arranger) are on board here to launch the perfection that was Elton John.
This Hybrid SACD offers DSD hi-res multi-channel and stereo, as well as PCM CD stereo (you can play it anywhere). Once again, as is getting to be the pattern, as good as the stereo mixes are, it's the surround mix that kicks this one through the uprights. The sound is rich and natural, as pristine and shining and clear and in-the-room as any I've heard. The bass is notably full and round and deep. The liner notes contain a fine essay by John Tobler, all lyrics, and song-by-song performers. There are three additional tracks appended here, and they are not throw-aways - well worth having.
The exquisite "Your Song" (one of my all-times favorites) starts this disc as that beautiful, instantly identifiable piano figure emerges from sheer darkness, Elton's voice in-the-room, arpeggiated acoustic guitar and strings surround - a perfect song, rendered perfectly, in hi-res. The imaging, depth, air and transparency are palpable...to die for. "I Need You to Turn To" sports in-the-room harpsichord, the strings full and enveloping, the voice full and center stage. The great funk'n'roll of "Take Me To The Pilot" will surely get your groove on, or you're surely dead. "No Shoe Strings on Louise" is a rousing country-rocker, with bass as big and round as the world, backing vocals in the surrounds. "Border Song" is a gospel-tinged mover with enveloping choir and strings in the surrounds. Holy Moses! "The Greatest Discovery" is a touching, music-box-like song of birth and discovery - literally. Cello in the R surround, then strings enter all around. Elegant, wondrous and beautiful. All three extras are well worth having. Included is an early version of "Grey Seal", which would do a bit of morphing and end up on the great 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' (see Matt's review in 'Archives').
Those of you who only know Elton John from his later, ummm, more questionable material need to hear this. And major KUDOS and APPRECIATION to the Universal "family" of labels for their full and voluminous support of the SACD format!! Can I get a hoo-yah!? (It bothers me to no end that an entire generation is being raised on the sub-standard sound of music downloads - the antithesis of hi-resolution's aim for a perfect sound.) The sumptuous quality of the recording and mix here, from master tapes now 34 years old, is astounding! 'Elton John' is a wonderful Hybrid SACD release of a truly classic album.
My highest recommendation!