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Pop - Released January 1, 1971 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released January 1, 1975 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released May 19, 1975 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Pop - Released January 1, 1976 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released January 1, 1995 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released October 1, 2001 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Virgin EMI

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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 /TiVo
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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 /TiVo
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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 /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 3, 2017 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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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 /TiVo
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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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Elton John in the magazine