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Ghost Canyon

Title - 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (40th Anniversary)'
Artist - Elton John

This always-incredible Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition) has just been released and man, is it FANTASTIC! Elton John's masterpiece is great on every level. The piano work is terrific, the lyrics are inspired, and Elton's voice is in top form here.

This new Super Deluxe Edition box-set includes the original album remastered, a CD of all-new cover versions by contemporary artists (personally chosen by Elton), a CD that contains Demo tracks and B-sides, the full Live At Hammersmith Odeon 1973 concert (on two CDs), and a DVD of Bryan Forbes' 1973 film 'Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye to Norma Jean and Other Things.'

Indeed, in addition to the CDs and DVD, the box also contains a 100-page illustrated hardback book packed with rare photos, memorabilia and a new essay; one that contains brand new interviews with Elton John and Bernie Taupin!

The story of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is an interesting one. By 1973, Elton John and Bernie Taupin had already logged enough hits to become a part of rock history. But even as their fan base continued to grow, they hadn't yet reached their peak. When Honky Chateau became Elton's first #1 album in 1972, it proved that he was not just someone FM radio played all the time. Even AM listeners (and the biggest 7" single buyers) had taken notice as well.

Continuing with the breakneck pace of his early 70's days, Elton recorded Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player early in 1973 and gained his first #1 single with 'Crocodile Rock.' Whether or not Elton and Bernie had a sudden burst of creativity or wanted to give their fans more bang for their buck, they decided to make the next LP a double. Which, as rock history has dictated many times before, is almost a no-win situation for all concerned.

I mean, rarely in history has a double album been great with every single song a near classic off the bat. So not many were expecting much from Elton and Bernie's new Goodbye Yellow Brick Road later that very same year. But as the singles came out, started hitting and climbing the charts, even the lesser-known album tracks were still being acknowledged as being pretty damn good!

Suddenly, and as the years rolled by, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road became not only their collaborative crowning achievement, but a great example of how a double album should be made.

As the wind gently howls, the orchestral music gradually rising, the spacey synthesizer soon overpowering, it's then that the dulcet tones of the piano come in to balance the musical entity. This is how 'Funeral For A Friend' begins, and as the piano fires up along with the inclusion of fierce guitars midway through, this is how we are introduced to it's co-musical partner, 'Love Lies Bleeding.' The beautiful 'Candle In The Wind' is next, and always turns my inner thoughts to the funeral for Lady Diana Spencer that Elton reworked the song for.

Moving on and next we get the "live" opening to 'Bennie And The Jets,' which is backed by the enormous title track itself, 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.' I huge song, not only the name of the album, but a staple that has remained a part of Elton's live sets for the apst 40 years. Along next is the lesser-known 'This Song Has No Title,' a beautiful mid-tempo composition, it's backed by the frantic pacing of 'Grey Seal,' and then both the fun of 'Jamaica Jerk-Off' and the storytelling of 'I've Seen That Movie Too.'

The lush accordion and seaside sway of 'Sweet Painted Lady' is next and is followed by the deeply-struck piano keys of 'The Ballad Of Danny Bailey (1909-34),' 'Dirty Little Girl,' and then both the vibrant 'All the Girls Love Alice' and the highly-entertaining bop-rock of 'Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock'n'Roll).'

The new mixing that has gone into this 40th Anniversary album are so very evident. It truly seems like the producer has pulled out all the stops and created a powerful, knock-your-socks-off reinterpretation that really deserves to be called "surround sound." Bold, vibrant music surges into all five speakers (should you yourself have it set up in this manner, of course) and each song now sounds crisp, fresh, and ultimately cleaner that they have ever done.

This masterpiece of 70's music then continues onwards with Elton's massive #1 hit single, 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting,' and that itself is backed by the lite 'Roy Rogers' and then the bouncy 'Social Disease.'

The aforementioned surround sound mixing of this original album on all the tracks actually demonstrates the advantages and disadvantages of said new remixes, so to speak. On the plus side, you hear details that were buried before; backing vocals, guitar parts, and other dynamics leap out at you. This was always a lush recording, but you can now appreciate some of the ingredients more fully. And the reason I bring this up now, with the one song left, is that it really applies to this last song more than any otf the others: 'Harmony.'

As an album, it's probably one of Elton's best albums and contains a lot of diverse music over one full hour. Indeed, this CD alone is a must-get for fans and audiophile fanatics everywhere.

The next CD is split into two: the first is Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Revisted, where stars of today give us their own unique versions of some of the songs from this great album. It all begins with a much more upbeat 'Candle In The Wind' from Ed Sheeran, before heading into a harder, jittery 'Bennie and the Jets' from Miguel. Keeping the "live" aspect going as a constant backing track, along with a rap mid-section, next up is a sadly bland 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' from Hunter Hayes, but then the lacklustre run is brought to an end with the brilliant 'Grey Seal from The Band Perry.

John Grant's 'Sweet Painted Lady' is a joy to listen to, and then 'All The Girls Love Alice' from Emili Sande keeps the joy freeflowing. But, and with all that said, the true highlight of this tribute album is Imelda May's rockabilly fire of 'Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock And Roll).' Man, May nails it and some! Fall Out Boy put their own stamp on 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting,' before this portion of the disc rounds out with a delicious 'Harmony' from The Zac Brown Band.

Still on the same disc, weirdly, it has to be said, the next chapter is entitled Beyond The Yellow Brick Road and features different mixes, demos and B-sides all associated with the original album. 'Grey Seal (Piano Demo)' is exactly what it says on the label, and is backed by another version of it; this time 'Grey Seal (1970 Original).' A quite stunning backwoods 'Jack Rabbit' is along next, and is followed by 'Whenever You're Ready (We'll Go Steady),' a fiesty 'Screw You (Young Man Blues),' and then a stunningly acoustic version of 'Candle In The Wind.'

The always-fun-to-hear 'Step Into Christmas' is rightly followed by the lesser-known 'Ho Ho Ho (Who'd Be A Turkey At Christmas?),' with the disc finally rounding out with two of Elton's biggest hits, 'Philadelphia Freedom' and then 'Pinball Wizard.'

The last two (2) CDs included in this terrific box-set are of the full Live At Hammersmith Odeon 1973 concert: 'Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding,' 'Candle In The Wind,' 'Hercules,' 'Rocket Man,' 'Bennie And The Jets,' 'Daniel,' 'This Song Has No Title,' and then 'Honky Cat.'

The second disc picks the concert right back up with: 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,' 'The Ballad Of Danny Bailey,' 'Elderberry Wine,' 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,' 'I've Seen That Movie Too,' 'All The Girls Love Alice,' 'Crocodile Rock,' and then both 'Your Song' and then finally a blistering 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting.'

As mentioned above, the fifth and final disc of this 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Collection is a DVD entitled, 'Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye To Norma Jean and Other Things.' In all truth, it's probably better if we call it a self-parody event, full of stark silliness. That said, it is still very insightful, if you allow it to be. Although some of the black comedy comes from filmmaker Bryan Forbes ('Séance On A Wet Afternoon') who asks such questions as, "Are you the Shirley Temple of the piano?”. I swear I'm not making this up, because Elton actually answers it - and seriously!

Anyway, and with ALL that said, this was also released on a standard vinyl as well as a limited-edition yellow vinyl! Audiophiles will also undoubtedly want to explore the Pure Audio Blu-Ray album which was released on April 15th.

Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk