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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Pop > Multi-Channel Music > Elton John (1970/Universal SA-CD/SACD/Super Audio CD)

Elton John Ė Elton John (1970/Super Audio Compact Disc)

 

PCM CD: B†††† DSD 5.1: A-†††† DSD Stereo: B+†††† Music:A-

 

 

In one of the greatest, most legendary solo debuts in music history, an obscure British recording artist became a music powerhouse.When The Beatles broke up, everyone was looking for the next act to have that kind of phenomenal success.Like the Madonna/Cyndi Lauper dual debuts in 1984, David Bowie and Elton John both arrived at the change of the 1960s into the 1970s.While Bowie caught on commercially later in 1973, Elton John was an immediate hit in 1970 and to the world seemed to have come out of nowhere.

 

Both artists would be extraordinarily prolific throughout the decade, but once Elton got started up, the critical and commercial success was unbelievable.This first album was a multi-seller, put John on the map and boasted several classics.This stunning new multi-channel hybrid Super Audio Compact Disc offers the album, plus three bonus tracks as follows:

 

1)     Your Song

2)     I Need To Turn To You

3)     Take Me To The Pilot

4)     No Shoe Strings On 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

11) Bad Side Of The Moon

12) Grey Seal (original version)

13) Rock N Roll Madonna

 

 

Unbelievably, only one single hit the Top 40 in the U.S., but Your Song is a standard classic and was enough to make the album a classic and big seller.Still selling to this day, other songs also established John as one of the most formidable singers, songwriters and musicians in music history.Take Me To The Pilot is one of those great Rock classics that just got better with age and became an album cut favorite on radio all over the country.Sixty Years On is the kind of self-reflective gem that made listeners take the singer/songwriter cycle seriously in the first place.The piece on love, death and the fear of loneliness and aging is as stunning now as is ever was.As for The Border Song, it is simply one of the greatest distillations of Gospel, Soul and Pop since Ray Charles himself made such a thing possible.The most amazing thing about it is how it paradoxically walks the thin line between the secular and religious, but either way, its simple plea against lies and hate brilliantly builds to its climax, the character singing becomes self-aware of an overshadowing evil.As he reaches for the truth to rectify things, the songís arrangement expands as a mirror of the freedom he experiences from the lies, peaking with his total self-awareness of his individuality and that of those scorned.This is the kind of grand Elton John that is especially a precursor of the genius (John and Bernie Taupin) that made Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (reviewed elsewhere on this site) possible.

 

As for the rest of the album, it could have as many hits as Thriller if the industry was savvier then about singles.If Border Song borders on Country Rock, even The Band could appreciate No Shoestrings On Louise, which like all great John/Taupin records takes you to another world.The Cage is a semi-futuristic rocker about being trapped, while The King Must Die is a fitting ending to the original album in a summary of its daring.The bonus tracks are also impressive, including the favorite Bad Side Of The Moon, which has surfaced on special collections of Johnís work before.Here, it really packs a punch as one of his smartest, most underrated rockers.Then there is the original version of Grey Seal, originally cut for this album before it finally landed up in its harder-rocking, better-known version on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.This is also a very impressive version and a fine alternative for those who love the record.Rock N Roll Madonna is another such song, more in a 1950s Rock style that has also surfaced on other collections before.

 

If the content was not extraordinary enough, then there is the performance of this disc, more evidence that the SACD format and its Direct Stream Digital (DSD) signal convinces me further that at its best, this sound tops vinyl or any other sound prerecorded sound format out there.The PCM 2.0 16Bit/44.1kHz Stereo sound alone is good, but the DSD is better, here in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, though the 5.1 is absolutely jaw-dropping and revealing of these classics in a way never heard before.For a song as played as Your Song, when hearing it in this 5.1 mix, it is like a privileged performance until you realize it is the original cut of the song.There is so much one has missed for over 30 years in just what a great record this really is.

 

Take Me To The Pilot is opened up more, while Border Song becomes quietly grander.Bad Side Of The Moon is a track this critic played often on a fine CD copy, but the 5.1 mix here buries that version.And to think that CD sounded clear, but it was not.Most important, you can hear depth in Johnís voice and what a truly gifted piano player he is.Once again, Greg Penny has done a remix that is very faithful to the original recordings, yet retains a remarkable amount of the flavor and feel of the original recordings.That makes Elton John a model for great 5.1 music and that an album its age can sound this dynamic is practically a miracle, but Universalís SACD releases of his catalog have been the talk of the industry for good reason.It is among the reasons the format will continue to hang in there.We intend to cover more Elton John SACD titles ASAP and hope Universal issues the entire catalog.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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