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The Freedom of Music: Review: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

March 23rd, 2014

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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

In May, 1973, Elton John and his band abandoned recording sessions in Jamaica and journeyed to France to have as second go at recording their sixth album in three years. Seventeen days later they had a seventeen-song double album, mixed and ready to go. 70-2527b

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road may not be Elton John’s best overall album, I give the nod to Captan Fantastic or Madman Across the Water myself. But with an opening four songs that consists of Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Candle in the Wind, Bennie and the Jets and the title track, it’s hard to argue there’s a better collection of songs, by anybody, that isn’t a greatest hits album. If reduced to a single album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road would consist of those four songs (which is all of side one, and the first song of side 2), add Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting and Harmony, and have Grey Seal, I’ve Seen That Movie Too, All the Girls Love Alice, Your Sister Can’t Twist but She Can Rock and Roll to pick between for the last song or two. Instead, Elton went for a double album masterpiece, and almost succeeded.

Newly remastered by one of the industry’s best, Robert Ludwig at Gateway Mastering, and hitting stores this week, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road gets a major sound upgrade, bringing clarity to the music and energy to the groove. The new mastering, to put it simply, rocks. Add to that a tribute/singles disc, plus a two-disk live show from 1973, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is good enough to buy again. The Deluxe Edition features the original remastered album, a bonus disc with cover versions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road songs, two discs of a live, 1973 show from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road tour, a bonus DVD and a 100 page hardback book.

Appearing live at Hammersmith Odeon in December, 1973, John was at the top of his game as a musician, singer and performer. He was, by then, in the superstar pantheon with a superb, well honed band. The concert, in short, as presented here, is excellent. John has always been, and still is, a superb live performer, but he may never have been better than he was in the mid-70’s. The Hammersmith Odeon gig, given over to disc three and four in this Deluxe Edition is presented as exhibit A.

elton-john-8bThe second disc in the four disc set is the weak link on this edition. Starting with nine of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’s seventeen songs performed by modern artists, the tribute shows John and writing partner Bernie Taupin’s songs as being versatile and mouldable and most of the performances are very good: Hunter Hayes’ Goodbye yellow Brick Road and The Band Perry’s Grey Seal were notable, as was bluegrassers Zac Brown Band’s stunning version of Harmony. Ed Sheeran’s alt- rock acoustic guitar version of Candle in the Wind works surprisingly well and had he opted for a ukulele instead of guitar, much like Clem Snide did with Journey’s Faithfully, it might be the highlight of the album. Even Miguel’s version of Bennie and the Jets, featuring a rap by Wale, surprised with how well it works.

Had they followed the tribute disc idea through to the complete album, this may have worked better. Instead they opted for half a disc of tribute and half “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Revisited.” Featuring alternate versions, outtakes and, weirdly, a couple of non-album hits from the era. The net result is the second disc feels unfocused and at times confusing.

As an overall package, however, the new remastered Deluxe Edition is simply excellent and well worth picking up for any Elton John fan.

Tracklist
Disc 1

cover-low-resGoodbye Yellow Brick Road 2014 ReMaster
1 / Funeral For a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding
2 / Candle in The Wind
3 / Bennie and The Jets
4 / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
5 / This Song Has No Title
6 / Grey Seal
7 / Jamaica Jerk-off
8 / I’ve Seen That Movie Too
9 / Sweet Painted lady
10 / The Ballad of Danny Bailey [1909-1934]
11 / Dirty Little Girl
12 / All The Girls Love Alice
13 / Your Sister Can’t Twist [but She Can Rock ’n Roll]
14 / Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting
15 / Roy Rogers
16 / Social Disease
17 / Harmony

Disc 2

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Revisited

1 / Candle in The wind performed by Ed Sheeran
2 / Bennie and The Jets performed by Miguel, featuring Wale
3 / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road performed by Hunter Hayes
4 / Grey Seal performed by The Band Perry
5 / Sweet Painted Lady performed by John Grant
6 / All The Girls Love Alice performed by Emeli Sandé
7 / Your Sister Can’t Twist [but She Can Rock ’n Roll] performed by Imelda May
8 / Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting performed by Fall Out Boy
9 / Harmony performed by Zac Brown Band

Beyond The Yellow Brick Road

10 / Grey Seal – Piano demo
11 / Grey Seal – Version 1970
12 / Jack Rabbit
13 / Whenever You’re Ready [We’ll Go Steady Again]
14 / Screw You [Young Man’s Blues]
15 / Candle in The Wind – acoustic Mix
16 / Step into Christmas/Ho! Ho! Ho! [Who’d be a Turkey at Christmas]
18 / Philadelphia Freedom
19 / Pinball Wizard

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Elton John Live at Hammersmith Odeon, December, 1973

Part 1:
1 / Funeral For a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding
2 / Candle in The Wind
3 / Hercules
4 / Rocket Man
5 / Bennie and The Jets
6 / Daniel
7 / This Song Has No Title
8 / Honky Cat

Part 2:
1 / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
2 / The Ballad of Danny Bailey [1909-1934]
3 / Elderberry Wine
4 / Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
5 / I’ve Seen That Movie Too
6 / All The Girls Love Alice
7 / Crocodile Rock
8 / Your Song
9 / Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

Also included in the Bonus Edition a DVD: Elton John And Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye To Norma Jean And Other Things plus a 100 Page Hardback Book – packed with rare photos, memorabilia and a new essay containing interviews with Elton John and Bernie Taupin.


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