Elton John – Honky
Château (Super Audio Compact Disc)
PCM 2.0: B DSD
2.0: B+ DSD 5.1: A- Music: A-
The fourth studio album of Elton John not only continued
the build-up of his career, but was a further breakout, becoming the first of
seven #1 albums in a row! Continuing
his delving into Country while staying very Rock and Pop, Honky Château
(1972) began Eltonmania in ways no one was expecting. The songs that make up this classic include:
Honky Cat – A brilliant Country Funk Pop
Rock piece that has the main character finding the natural backwoods over the
“unnatural” city, but realizes the use of religion as oppression and nature as
a prison made him loose time in his life.
The slyly existential lyrics by Bernie Taupin and terrific arrangement
by John are the kind of brilliant melding that made them an unstoppable force
to begin with.
Mellow – Living up to its name, this
is a solid track that is straightforward and works nicely. John’s piano and vocals are top notch, which
is why this has been a favorite album cut for over thirty years.
I Think I’m Gonna Kill Myself – This
gem is one of the very first and still few effective songs about why people
want to self-destruct, along with some classics from Split Enz and is truer now
than ever. That he does it in an
ironically upbeat way is just genius.
Susie (Dramas) – Another great cut that
begins in a standard way, than takes some nice musical and vocal turns that
make it come off well.
Rocket Man (I Think It’s Gonna Be A Long Long Time) – No
doubt that this is one of the great John/Taupin masterworks, even being
referenced oddly as a dark joke as recently as Michael Bay’s action hit The
Rock (1996), but it became a profound counterpart to David Bowie’s immortal
Space Oddity and in an age of digital video overkill, the lyrics
remember how healthy minds and souls realize how isolating and dehumanizing
technology constantly is. It is also a
love song and much more, using many acoustic instruments contrary to bad songs
about outer space. Needless to say it
was a huge hit and the best cut on this incredible album.
Salvation – There was always a dark
undertone to this record that seemed to betray its lyrics and decades later,
believe that was still the intent.
Slave – Whether applying to the
Underground Railroad of the 1800s or Civil Rights movement in 1972, this is a
great, subtle protest song with a difference.
Amy – A raw love story, love song
that has some edge and realism.
Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters – A fan
classic that just grows on you about how phony and plastic society and routines
Hercules – Done
in a late 1950s Rock style with echo, down and dirty, in a way worthy of Jerry
(alternate version) – This paired-down, swifter version of track seven
works better than you would think and is a bonus track on this SACD.
Years ago, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs had issued this as
one of their coveted Original Master Recording 24-karat Gold CDs, a title which
has commanded some serious dollars.
With this SACD, that should change. The CD tracks here are at least as good, while the DSD 2.0 and
especially 5.1 mixes are stunning. Greg
Penny once again delivers an amazing soundfield that does justice to the music
and never overdoes anything. Vocals are
never too forward, nothing is harsh and the instruments never sound out of
place. Rocket Man is
particularly impressive, sounding very much as it always has, but opened up
without one flaw. Honky Cat is
livelier than ever and I Think I’m Gonna Kill Myself is even more
effective. Honky Château is a
must-have back catalog SACD title because its fidelity is stunning and the
masters are in outstanding shape.
- Nicholas Sheffo