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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Pop > Blues > Gospel > Country > Elton John: Madman Across The Water (1971/50th Anniversary 2-CD Set/Rocket Records/Universal Music)

Elton John: Madman Across The Water (1971/50th Anniversary 2-CD Set/Rocket Records/Universal Music)

Sound: B Extras: B Album: A-

With all the classic movies coming out in 4K Blu-ray editions all the time now and allowing us to revisit cinema's great classics and other big hits, it is a treat when we can revisit a classic album that not only holds up well, but actually seems to get better with age. In 2004, as higher resolution formats were arriving for music, some great classic albums were reissued and in some cases, key sets of the catalogs of several major artists. Of several of Elton John's early classics, Madman Across The Water (1971) was one of the best from what I felt was the best of all the collections of major artists who saw their works get such deluxe treatment. Here's what I had to say about the album and that amazing Super Audio Compact Disc (aka SACD or SA-CD) with its still-stunning 5.1 mix:


Well, 18 years later, it is the 50th Anniversary of this classic, which has only grown more popular and even more people have discovered it. It has also aged very, very well. A vinyl set has been issued, as well as a Blu-ray version with 3 CDs, the Blu-ray of which has two new 5.1 mixes we look forward to hearing. In the meantime, this is the 2-CD Set and here are its tracks:

CD 1

Tiny Dancer (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)

Levon (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)

Razor Face (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)

Madman Across The Water (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)

Indian Sunset (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)

Holiday Inn (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)

Rotten Peaches (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)

All The Nasties (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)

Goodbye (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)

Indian Sunset (Live Radio Broadcast)

Madman Across The Water (Original Version, featuring Mick Ronson)

Rock Me When He's Gone

Levon (Mono Single Version)

Razor Face (Extended Version)

CD 2

Madman Across The Water (1970 Piano Demo)

Tiny Dancer (Piano Demo)

Levon (Piano Demo)

Razor Face (Piano Demo)

Madman Across The Water (1971 Piano Demo)

Indian Sunset (Piano Demo)

Holiday Inn (Piano Demo)

Rotten Peaches (Piano Demo)

All The Nasties (Piano Demo)

Goodbye (Piano Demo)

Rock Me When He's Gone (Piano Demo)

Rock Me When He's Gone (Full Version)

Needless to say this is the first time I have heard the Ludwig versions, at least in stereo and they are not bad, but nothing shocking or dramatic. I will have to hear the 5.1 mixes to really have a final opinion on them, but they're fine. That leaves the bonus tracks, all of which are worth hearing, including what is apparently a song that did not make the final album in Rock Me (When He's Gone) which is not bad and would have fit the album, but only so memorable.

The live and alternate versions of the rest re all a pleasure to hear, but its some of the demo tracks on CD 2 that sound good and in the case of Levon, Holiday Inn, Rotten Peaches and the title song, you can hear how good the songs are even when he, Bernie Taupin, Gus Dudgeon and Paul Buckmaster had not settled the final cuts. Most of these demo tracks have never before been released, so they are worth going out of your way for.

It all makes you want to hear more, which does exist on the Blu-ray set. In the meantime, it just gives you the idea how high the creative level that all were working on and on a personal note, think it is great that Rick Wakeman, one of the geniuses from the brilliant progressive rock Yes plays on three songs on the album: Razor Face, Rotten Peaches and the title song. That just further adds to the albums greatness.

As for playback quality, the PCM 2.0 16bit/44.1 kHz Stereo sounds good on the newly remastered tracks, but a little better on the bonus material for whatever reasons. They all pale to the insanely excellent sound quality on the older Super Audio CD, but sound fine for the format.

Outside of the extra tracks, the only bonus is the solid 40-page booklet on the album, including the new tracks and how the album was made, with plenty of key illustrations and tech information. Let's hope the rest of Elton's catalog gets this treatment!

- Nicholas Sheffo


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