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01/19/04
Reviewed by - Matt Rowe
Elton John
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
30th Anniversary Deluxe
Edition
Released: November 25, 2003
Origination Year: 1973
Time: 89:38 - 2CDs
Tracks: 22
Produced by: Greg Penny
Style: Studio
Format: SACD
Enhancement: DSD/Bonus Tracks
Website:
www.eltonjohn.com


"You're gonna hear electric music, Solid walls of sound."

Elton John went from folksy love ballads to an increasingly more flamboyant presentation of his music. And the world went along for the ride. From his poignant and soft "Your Song" to the honky tonk of "Honky Cat" to the mix of wild (Benny and The Jets) and of flourish (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road), Elton evolved in a natural pattern thus ensuring that his audience would move along with him.

Elton John's first double album seemed at the time of issue to be a bit extravagant, generally being reserved for lengthy live releases. But Elton had a lyricist extraordinaire on the team, one who could write flawless hits without fail. Bernie Taupin had a literal avalanche of songs stored up in his head and, after being channeled through his pen, was accurately interpreted and communicated by the showy and talented Elton John. It was Elton John's range and knack for the flash that lifted many Taupin songs into the Top 40 where the record buying public identified with them. Elton John sold rock and roll to his fans who numbered in the millions.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John's 7th major release followed a wealth of hit albums yielding a Greatest Hits just a year after this album's release. The extravagance in GYBR is immediately heard in the first song, the spacious "Funeral For a Friend" with a hefty weigh-in at 11-plus minutes. But it was alright because the song was a pure joy to listen to. It didn't drag or become ponderous.

"Candle in the Wind", a song that would later gain further prominence by becoming attached to the death of Princess Diana, is on this album. This was years after Taupin originally wrote the song as somewhat of an ode to Marilyn Monroe. It was a bigger hit in England than the US in the 70s, a fact later remedied. But that wouldn't deter other songs on the album from ascending. There is "Bennie and the Jets", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", and "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting", all massive hit singles that powered the turbines of this costly double album.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road's other songs were no slouch either. As luxurious as any of the hits, many of the songs gave back quality for the dollars spent to acquire the LP. This quality is heard in the folky tinge of "This Song Has No Title". It's heard in spunky "All the Girls Love Alice". It's heard in the 50s styled "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock N Roll)". Which brings us to the here and now and the junkie's pleasure of hi-res SACD. With all that quality contained in the essence of the songs does DSD restore and enhance the sonics of the classic, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Absolutely!

The Stereo mix is as rich a sound as you'll possibly hear. The nuances of the mix bring out the heartbeat of a guitar, the shape of a piano note, and the fullness of the original intent. In "Bennie and the Jets", the echo of the room and how it sounds to you, the listener, creates an extraordinary experience. The same is said for "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" with the broad impact the song delivers by crunching guitars and rich vocals. Every instrument has a name and speaks to you clearly rather than being part of a flat montage like a poorly mixed CD. The memorable highlight of this issue is "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", at least for me. The opulence of Elton's piano and his voice on this song as well as the choir of voices that accompany him are simply beautiful. The orchestral arrangements are grandly mixed in without overwhelming the track or Elton John's vocals. It is a joy to listen to. You'll find yourself playing and replaying the track to reacquaint yourself with one of the great songs of our time like a parched horse at a waterhole.

The Multi-Channel mix is equally as impressive for a number of reasons. Take everything I said about the Stereo mix and spread them around the channels to allow for a feeling that you're sitting at the piano with Elton. Every song despite how well they come off sounding on the Stereo mix becomes otherworldly in Multi-Channel. The vocals are isolated to stream from the center with a secondary issue from the L/R. This creates an expansive feeling. The instruments are more vibrant than they are in Stereo because they're allowed to breathe. In short, you get a full experience. With the purchase of this set, you are gifting yourself with an impressive and lasting listen to one of Elton's classics, one that resonates long after you have shut down the entertainment center.

The CD layer is pretty good if not a little heavy. It's as if the potential locked away in the SACD portion is bursting at the seams to escape its bounds. That may seem scary but it does allow for a richer travel experience due in large part to the capability of DSD. The bass is very evident and the sonics good for a CD. Certainly, it shows off the quality of the mix on CD but it is still a CD. You'll notice the differences as you play each level for yourself.

With three ways to enjoy this classic, you're getting bang for your buck.

The extra songs included on this set are fun but hardly compelling. "Jack Rabbit" is a foot-stompin' countrified 'under a minute' tune that slips into oblivion after you've heard it. "Screw You (Young Man Blues)" is a bit fresher but loses its flavour after a few listens. The acoustic version of "Candle in the Wind" is just the kind of extras that work well with a set like this. It softer and more like an impromptu sit-down where someone grabs a guitar and whips out a song. "Whenever You're Ready (We'll Go Steady)" is an OK tune but like "Screw You (Young Man Blues)" it's over the hill after a few listens.

If you have text readout capability on your SACD player, you'll see at the end of the second disc the following text, 'This album is a tribute to the genius of Gus Dudgeon'. It's a bit of trivia but Dudgeon produced many of Elton's albums. It is a fitting tribute. Gus Dudgeon passed from this world in 2002.

This SACD re-issue is, like the original LP, spread out over 2 discs. The discs are housed in a digipak with a protective plastic OCard slip-cover. The package provides an expansive 28 page booklet with all lyrics, a highly imformative essay, and something that now seems to be part of the deal in every big re-issue, pictures of master tape manifests. These pictures now seem to be a part of the mysticism surrounding the sound extraction process, proliferating like scars on bodies of big motion picture actors in the films they star in. Hollywood. Rock Stars.

Elton John's catalogue is vast. We are certainly awaiting the others. If Rocket Records wants to enjoy the highest selling SACDs yet, they need only to remix the Greatest Hits packages of Elton John, starting with Volume 1, into the DSD realm.

We're waiting.

Track Listing:

CD - Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding; Candle in the Wind; Bennie and the Jets; Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; This Song Has No Title; Grey Seal; Jamaica Jerk-Off; I've Seen That Movie Too; Sweet Painted Lady; The Balld of Danney Bailey (1909-1934); Dirty Little Girl; All the Young Girls Love Alice; Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock n Roll); Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting; Roy Rogers; Social Disease; Harmony. Bonus Tracks - Whenever You're Ready (We'll Go Steady); Jack Rabbit; Screw You (Young Man Blues); Candle in the Wind (Acoustic Mix).

Elton John - Elton John: Vocals / Piano; Dee Murray: Bass / Backing Vocals; Davey Johnstone: Guitar / Backing Vocals; Nigel Olsson: Drums / Backing Vocals; Bernie Taupin: Lyricist.


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