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Rock - Released January 1, 2014 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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It was designed to be a blockbuster and it was. Prior to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John had hits -- his second album, Elton John, went Top 10 in the U.S. and U.K., and he had smash singles in "Crocodile Rock" and "Daniel" -- but this 1973 album was a statement of purpose spilling over two LPs, which was all the better to showcase every element of John's spangled personality. Opening with the 11-minute melodramatic exercise "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" -- as prog as Elton ever got -- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road immediately embraces excess but also tunefulness, as John immediately switches over to "Candle in the Wind" and "Bennie & the Jets," two songs that form the core of his canon and go a long way toward explaining the over-stuffed appeal of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This was truly the debut of Elton John the entertainer, the pro who knows how to satisfy every segment of his audience, and this eagerness to please means the record is giddy but also overwhelming, a rush of too much muchness. Still, taken a side at a time, or even a song a time, it is a thing of wonder, serving up such perfectly sculpted pop songs as "Grey Seal," full-bore rockers as "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock & Roll)," cinematic ballads like "I've Seen That Movie Too," throwbacks to the dusty conceptual sweep of Tumbleweed Connection in the form of "The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-34)," and preposterous glam novelties, like "Jamaica Jerk-Off." This touched on everything John did before, and suggested ways he'd move in the near-future, and that sprawl is always messy but usually delightful, a testament to Elton's '70s power as a star and a musician. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Virgin EMI

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Empty Sky was followed by Elton John, a more focused and realized record that deservedly became his first hit. John and Bernie Taupin's songwriting had become more immediate and successful; in particular, John's music had become sharper and more diverse, rescuing Taupin's frequently nebulous lyrics. "Take Me to the Pilot" might not make much sense lyrically, but John had the good sense to ground its willfully cryptic words with a catchy blues-based melody. Next to the increased sense of songcraft, the most noticeable change on Elton John is the addition of Paul Buckmaster's grandiose string arrangements. Buckmaster's orchestrations are never subtle, but they never overwhelm the vocalist, nor do they make the songs schmaltzy. Instead, they fit the ambitions of John and Taupin, as the instant standard "Your Song" illustrates. Even with the strings and choirs that dominate the sound of the album, John manages to rock out on a fair share of the record. Though there are a couple of underdeveloped songs, Elton John remains one of his best records. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Virgin EMI

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Sitting atop the charts in 1975, Elton John and Bernie Taupin recalled their rise to power in Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, their first explicitly conceptual effort since Tumbleweed Connection. It's no coincidence that it's their best album since then, showcasing each at the peak of his power, as John crafts supple, elastic, versatile pop and Taupin's inscrutable wordplay is evocative, even moving. What's best about the record is that it works best of a piece -- although it entered the charts at number one, this only had one huge hit in "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," which sounds even better here, since it tidily fits into the musical and lyrical themes. And although the musical skill on display here is dazzling, as it bounces between country and hard rock within the same song, this is certainly a grower. The album needs time to reveal its treasures, but once it does, it rivals Tumbleweed in terms of sheer consistency and eclipses it in scope, capturing John and Taupin at a pinnacle. They collapsed in hubris and excess not long afterward -- Rock of the Westies, which followed just months later is as scattered as this is focused -- but this remains a testament to the strengths of their creative partnership. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Virgin EMI

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Trading the cinematic aspirations of Tumbleweed Connection for a tentative stab at prog rock, Elton John and Bernie Taupin delivered another excellent collection of songs with Madman Across the Water. Like its two predecessors, Madman Across the Water is driven by the sweeping string arrangements of Paul Buckmaster, who gives the songs here a richly dark and haunting edge. And these are songs that benefit from grandiose treatments. With most songs clocking in around five minutes, the record feels like a major work, and in many ways it is. While it's not as adventurous as Tumbleweed Connection, the overall quality of the record is very high, particularly on character sketches "Levon" and "Razor Face," as well as the melodramatic "Tiny Dancer" and the paranoid title track. Madman Across the Water begins to fall apart toward the end, but the record remains an ambitious and rewarding work, and John never attained its darkly introspective atmosphere again. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released February 5, 2016 | Virgin EMI

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Elton John gives away his game with not just the title of Wonderful Crazy Night but its artwork. Our hero stands against a garish, colorful backdrop, sporting a grin a mile wide, signaling that he's once again ready to have fun. The measured melancholy of The Diving Board aside, Elton hasn't precisely avoided fun since returning to making records for himself, not the charts, with 2001's Songs from the West Coast, but a certain sobriety crept into the proceedings, particularly when he joined forces with producer T-Bone Burnett for The Union, the 2010 duet album with Leon Russell. Burnett is back for Wonderful Crazy Night and so is John's touring band, making their first studio appearance since 2006's The Captain & the Kid. It's possible to feel the presence of all of Elton's collaborators: the band brings a bit of a kick to the proceedings and the ever-tasteful Burnett reins things in, keeping things from being too crazy, while lyricist Bernie Taupin schemes with John to keep things from being too wonderful. To be sure, there's a fair amount of joy and swagger here, particularly on the ebullient opening pair of "Wonderful Crazy Night" and "In the Name of You," two songs perched between a canny, knowing nostalgia and casual craft. As the record rolls on, seams start to appear, not in the performances or production -- this is an album that sounds as comforting as a long candlelit bath -- but in the compositions. Often, the tunes appear to be handsome constructions -- grand, stately, and well appointed -- but their foundations are shaky, constructed from threadbare melodies and words that dissipate not long after they land. It's an odd mix of lazy and laborious; the songs feeling tossed together in an afternoon and then recorded meticulously. As such, Wonderful Crazy Night never lingers in the imagination -- there are no hooks to pull a listener back in for another spin -- but it sounds just fine as it plays. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Virgin EMI

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Rock - Released February 5, 2016 | Virgin EMI

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His true fans know well that the golden age of Elton John is starting to get away from them ... However, with The Diving Board published in 2013, the master of British pop proved that all was most certainly not lost... with Wonderful Crazy Night, this quasi-resurrection is confirmed. For this 33rd studio album offers traces of musical DNA that escaped from his legendary 1972 song, Rocket Man. Above all, this 2016 vintage presents stylish alloy, nervous pop, and soft rock, as if it were a secret formula. In each song, the melodies bulge and, as always with Elton John, Bernie Taupin takes care of the writing, with the production entrusted in turn to T Bone Burnett (already producer of The Diving Board). Elton John has performed somewhat of a clean-up, not inviting any of the musicians with whom he usually works.  At 68, Sir Elton signs off an energetic record, combining his expected strengths with some unexpected freshness. © CM / Qobuz

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Elton John in the magazine