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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Virgin EMI

Distinctions 3F de Télérama
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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
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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, 1972 | Virgin EMI

Considerably lighter than Madman Across the Water, Honky Chateau is a rollicking collection of ballads, rockers, blues, country-rock, and soul songs. On paper, it reads like an eclectic mess, but it plays as the most focused and accomplished set of songs Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever wrote. The skittering boogie of "Honky Cat" and the light psychedelic pop of "Rocket Man" helped send Honky Chateau to the top of the charts, but what is truly impressive about the album is the depth of its material. From the surprisingly cynical and nasty "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself" to the moving ballad "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," John is at the top of his form, crafting immaculate pop songs with memorable melodies and powerful hooks. While Taupin's lyrics aren't much more comprehensible than before, John delivers them with skill and passion, making them feel more substantial than they are. But what makes Honky Chateau a classic is the songcraft, and the way John ties disparate strands of roots music into distinctive and idiosyncratic pop -- it's one of the finest collections of mainstream singer/songwriter pop of the early '70s. ~ 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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Pop - Released November 6, 1995 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released January 1, 1970 | Virgin EMI

Instead of repeating the formula that made Elton John a success, John and Bernie Taupin attempted their most ambitious record to date for the follow-up to their breakthrough. A loose concept album about the American West, Tumbleweed Connection emphasized the pretensions that always lay beneath their songcraft. Half of the songs don't follow conventional pop song structures; instead, they flow between verses and vague choruses. These experiments are remarkably successful, primarily because Taupin's lyrics are evocative and John's melodic sense is at its best. As should be expected for a concept album about the Wild West, the music draws from country and blues in equal measures, ranging from the bluesy choruses of "Ballad of a Well-Known Gun" and the modified country of "Country Comfort" to the gospel-inflected "Burn Down the Mission" and the rolling, soulful "Amoreena." Paul Buckmaster manages to write dramatic but appropriate string arrangements that accentuate the cinematic feel of the album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 24, 2020 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Pop music rarely mixes with politics, but in the middle of the Cold War, a Western star such as Elton John performing a rousing show in a Moscow concert hall is a joy to behold, a symbol of attempted appeasement between East and West. Elton John’s tour of the Soviet Union took place not long after he had announced a withdrawal from music, citing professional and moral exhaustion. Despite this, and although the production was rather understated (Elton John, his Steinway, his Yamaha CP80 and his percussionist Ray Cooper), the British singer genuinely electrified the Russian public with this performance in May 1979. Propelled by the fact that his album A Single Man (released one year beforehand) was the first official release of a Western pop album in the Soviet Union, the Rocket Man singer seemed to tap into the energy that he had been struggling to keep hold of. At the time, the Soviet government was reluctantly lifting cultural restrictions. This concert was broadcast by the BBC, and it is from original analog tapes recovered from the archives of the British radio that this disc was completely remastered by Elton John and Bob Ludwig. The delectable programme of the concert contains epic versions (12 minutes each) of I Heard It Through the Grapevine and Bennie and the Jets, a moving rendition of Tonight as well as a devilishly enjoyable mash-up of Crocodile Rock, Get Back and Back in the USSR. In fact, the Russian authorities had asked Elton John not to sing that last one. But that would be to underestimate the singer’s free spirit. Finally, this live album teaches us that music only temporarily cools tension as a few months later, tensions between the two blocs picked up again with the invasion of Afghanistan and the election of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States. © Nicolas Magenham/Qobuz
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

After a dozen albums with lyrical collaborator Bernie Taupin, A Single Man (1978) represents Elton John's first full-length release away from their decade-long partnership. John's initial intent was to complete work on a Taupin-era remnant that had been on the back burner, titled Ego. However, he found himself with some interesting melodies and eventually teamed up with former Vigrass & Osborne member Gary Osborne. Also contributing to this album's different approach is producer Gus Dudgeon -- who had worked with John as far back as his debut long-player, Empty Sky (1969). The infusion of new musical associates takes notable effect on songs such as the opener, "Shine on Through," which John had previously worked up during the Thom Bell Philly soul sessions that produced the hit "Mama Can't Buy You Love." (That version is available as one of three previously unissued sides on the Complete Thom Bell Sessions EP.) Among the other standouts are the gospel-tinged "Georgia," the lengthy blues-rocker "It Ain't Gonna Be Easy," and the ultra campy, if not lightweight, "Big Dipper." The single "Part-Time Love" only made a nominal chart impact despite its catchy and danceable melody. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

Elton John began inching back into the mainstream with Jump Up, an uneven but strong record highlighted by "Empty Garden." Its success set the stage for Too Low for Zero, a full-fledged reunion with his best collaborator, Bernie Taupin, and his classic touring band. Happily, this is a reunion that works like gangbusters, capturing everybody at a near-peak of their form. That means there aren't just hit singles, but there are album tracks, like the opener, "Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)," that strongly (and favorably) recall Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. John hadn't been this engaging in years, not since Gerald Ford was in office. Why does this work so well? Well, the question isn't just consistency, since records like A Single Man were strong, but it's because each cut here showcases John at a peak. He's rocking with a vengeance on "I'm Still Standing" and "Kiss the Bride," crafting a gorgeous romantic standard with "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" -- songs that anchor this album, giving the hits context. While this may not be as rich as his classic early period, it's a terrific record, an exemplary illustration of what a veteran artist could achieve in the early '80s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1974 | Virgin EMI

Glitzy showmanship is what fuels Caribou, a less successful album than its early-'70s predecessors. Though the shiny surface of the album is alluring, only a few tracks rank among John's best work. "The Bitch Is Back" is one of his best hard rock cuts and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" is one of his classic ballads, but the album tracks tend to be ridiculous filler on the order of "Solar Prestige a Gammon" or competent genre exercises like "You're So Static." There are a couple of exceptions -- "Pinky" is a fine ballad and "Dixie Lily" is an endearing stab at country -- but on the whole, Caribou is a disappointment. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1973 | Virgin EMI

Elton John became a true superstar with 1972's Honky Chateau. He followed that album with Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, his most direct, pop-oriented album to date. Designed as a pastiche of classic and contemporary pop styles, the album almost sounds like an attempt to demonstrate the diversity of the John/Taupin team. Though the hits are remarkable -- "Daniel" is a moving ballad and "Crocodile Rock" is a sly take on '50s rock & roll -- the album is slightly uneven. Several of the album tracks, particularly the knowing "I'm Going to Be a Teenage Idol" and the rocking "Elderberry Wine," are as strong as anything John had recorded, but there are too many melodies that simply don't catch hold. Nevertheless, the singles were strong enough to keep the album at the top of the charts, and at its best, it is a very enjoyable piece of well-crafted pop/rock. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1969 | Virgin EMI

Although he had made a number of re-recordings of popular songs for a budget record label in the late '60s, Empty Sky was the first true solo album Elton John recorded after leaving Bluesology; it also marked the beginning of his long and fruitful collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin. Empty Sky is quite indicative of the post-Sgt. Pepper's era. With its ambitious arrangements and lyrics, it's clear that John and Taupin intended the album to be a major statement. Though it shows some signs of John's R&B roots, most of the album alternates between vaguely psychedelic rock and Taupin and John's burgeoning pop songcraft, capped off by a bizarre reprise of brief moments of all of the songs on the record. There aren't any forgotten gems on Empty Sky, but it does suggest John's potential. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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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
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Pop - Released January 1, 1976 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

Sandwiched between 1984's Top 20 hit Breaking Hearts and 1986's commercial disaster Leather Jackets, 1985's Ice on Fire is a forgotten Elton John effort. While it is hardly a masterpiece -- it isn't even up to the standard of such '80s efforts as Too Low for Zero -- it's still an enjoyable record, living proof of the power of professionalism. John was riding high on his comeback of the early '80s and ready to turn out another record. And that's what Ice on Fire is -- another Elton John album, in the best possible sense. Sure, it does mark the reunion of John and lyricist Bernie Taupin with producer Gus Dudgeon, who helmed John's greatest recordings, but you'd never know it from the sound of the record. Ice on Fire is pure 1985, heavy on synthetic drums and keyboards -- the kind of record where Davy Johnstone is credited with guitar, but it never sounds as if there's a guitar on the record, or any other "real" instrument, for that matter. That's not really a criticism, since John always made state-of-the-art records, so it should come as little surprise that this sounds like its time; it's sort of fun, in a way, since it instantly brings back its era. The biggest complaint is that much of the record never rises to the level of memorable. The two singles, the cold-war ballad "Nikita" and the George Michael-featured "Wrap Her Up," are the strongest items here, but even those are rather disposable. The rest of the album shares the same sparkling, canned production, and a few songs could have held their own on the Top 40, but much of it is just average Elton. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1975 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

The past Elton John has in mind is the era of soul music of the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, and although all the songs are new, he recreates it well here. The album's most notable selection is the ballad "Sacrifice," which amazingly became his first-ever number one hit in the U.K. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released January 1, 1980 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Elton John entered the second decade of his pop music career releasing his 21st long-player during the 33rd year of his life, hence the album's title. It also marked the tentative return of former writing partner Bernie Taupin after a four-year sabbatical. Although the reunion yielded a trio of tunes, "Chasing the Crown," "Two Rooms at the End of the World," and "White Lady White Powder," unfortunately they all suffer from the same nauseating disco vibe that made John's previous effort, 1979's Victim of Love, so thoroughly dismissible. However, the following year's 21 at 33 is far from a complete washout. Building on the strength of his relationship with Gary Osborne -- with whom John had created A Single Man (1978) -- the pair wrote the standouts "Dear God" and "Take Me Back" as well as the hit single "Little Jeannie." "Sartorial Eloquence" harks back to the classic "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," thanks to the all-star backing vocals from Eagles Glenn Frey and Don Henley as well as Toni Tennille, Bruce Johnston, and Peter Noone (from Herman's Hermits). Interestingly, John briefly reassembled his 1970s core band of Davey Johnstone (guitar), Dee Murray (bass), and Nigel Olsson (drums), although their contributions sound more like an afterthought when compared to those of studio stalwarts Richie Zito (guitar), Steve Lukather (guitar), Lenny Castro (percussion), and an all-star horn section of Chuck Findley (trumpet), Jim Horn (sax), and Jerry Hey (trumpet). The scattered nature and lack of cohesion on 21 at 33 would translate onto John's next few albums such as The Fox (1981) and Jump Up! (1982). Not until the full-fledged reunion with Taupin and backing quartet on Too Low for Zero (1983) would John begin to reestablish himself as a central pop music figure. ~ Lindsay Planer

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Elton John in the magazine