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Pop - Released November 10, 2017 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Arriving ten years after the single-disc Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits (known as Rocket Man: Number Ones in North America) and 15 years after the double-disc Greatest Hits 1970-2002, Diamonds ups the game by offering two variations on Elton John's greatest hits: a double-CD version and a limited-edition triple-disc box set. Given John's canon is close to set, it should come as no surprise that Diamonds follows the same path as its predecessors -- indeed, the first ten songs on Diamonds are the same as those on Greatest Hits 1970-2002, with minor rejiggering; ultimately, there is a 26-song overlap -- but within its standard two-disc set, it finds a place for some important hits absent in prior comps. Notably, this has "Little Jeannie," "I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That," and his live duet with George Michael, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," all welcome additions, and as it extends into the present, it also finds space for John's artistic renaissance of the 21st century in the form of "Electricity," "Home Again," and "Looking Up." The third disc on the deluxe version deepens the story further by adding a bunch of hits that could've feasibly been included on the first two discs -- "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Pinball Wizard," "Mama Can't Buy You Love," "Part-Time Love," "Victim of Love," "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)," "Kiss the Bride," the superstar charity single "That's What Friends Are For" -- and also underscores his enduring stardom and cultural reach by including OK '90s U.K. hits with Kiki Dee, Pavarotti, and LeAnn Rimes, plus his 2012 U.S. dance hit with Pnau, "Good Morning to the Night" (conspicuous in their absence is any duet with Leon Russell). This last disc offers up plenty of hits but it also feels slightly messy because of the leap from "Kiss the Bride" to "Live Like Horses," but that only indicates how John would've been equally well served by a four-disc set. Instead, we get this excellent -- if incomplete -- collection that is equally satisfying in either its double-disc or triple-disc incarnation. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Pop - Released January 1, 1990 | Virgin EMI

This four-CD set has had a somewhat confused history, mostly owing to licensing changes and the mergers and acquisitions of various record labels. Prepared in the late '80s by MCA Records, which had the rights to Elton John's U.S. catalog, To Be Continued... marked a major improvement over the sound of his extant CDs of the period. But MCA's rights lapsed in the 1990s, and the Elton John catalog reverted to Polydor Records, which put it back out in upgraded editions on the Island Records label. This set was deleted by 1994, and was soon selling for serious amounts of money as a collector's item. Then, in 1999, MCA's parent company, Universal Music, bought Polydor, and suddenly this box reappeared. As to its virtues, the 68 songs here include all of the highlights of the first 25 years of Elton John's career -- not just the hits and the notable album tracks, but outtakes, unissued live tracks, and demos. Disc one opens with the first original song that Elton John ever recorded, a solo composition called "Come Back Baby," cut with Bluesology, his mid-'60s band, and also includes the solo demo of "Your Song" and a previously unissued outtake of "Gray Seal"; their presence alone ensures that most fans will regard this set as a must-own item. There's nothing quite as compelling as those early treasures, but disc two and disc three do pull together all of the essential sides from across ten years of history, including John's work with John Lennon, Kiki Dee, and France Gall, and includes a previously unissued live version of "I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford)." Disc four, covering the years 1982-1990, is highlighted by the single mix of "Act of War," featuring Millie Jackson, and a previously unissued live version of "Carla Etude." The accompanying booklet includes some very interesting reminiscences by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, but obviously not enough on the specific tracks -- the producers felt compelled to add in a free-standing sheet detailing recording dates and personnel. Astonishingly, the sound on this set has held up extremely well, despite its dating back to the 1990 -- one can hear Caleb Quaye and Les Thatcher's guitars cleanly on the outtake of "Gray Seal," and the piano, bass, and orchestra on "Friends" are close and vivid. And the more recent stuff sounds even better. It's a rare occurrence in pop music reissues, especially with all of the upgrades in sound, sources, and technology going on all of the time, but producer Andy McKaie built something to last with this box. ~ Bruce Eder

Pop - Released October 20, 1992 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)


Rock - Released October 5, 1973 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)


Elton John in the magazine