Believe it or not kids, there was a time when Elton John was not only cool, but wrote songs you didn’t have to listen to on the sly with the windows rolled up in the car or through earbuds, pretending you were listening to The National.
That period stopped sometime around 1975, but two years earlier John (with an immense amount of help from his lyricist Bernie Taupin) turned in his best collaboration: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Overtly commercial? Oh hell yes, furs and rhinestone sunglasses ain’t cheap. But the album, clocking in at 17 tracks, was intelligent, expansive and an exercise in sing-along pop brilliance.
Along with the album’s title track, still a classic rock staple, the record included “Candle in the Wind,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and a slew of other songs just as good, if not better (including “This Song Has No Title” and “Sweet Painted Lady”). There are also a couple of dogs (ahem, “Jamaica Jerk-Off”), but name any double-album that didn’t have a little fat that needed to be trimmed.
The music has been played ad nauseum in the past few decades, but you’d be hard pressed to find as many songs from one album that are still just as infectious as these are 40 years later.
The label is re-releasing two version in honor of the anniversary, this, the two CD version which is crammed with nine mostly-solid covers by folks like Zac Brown Band and Fallout Boy (not the best track here), and an even more impressive nine more songs recorded live in London in December 1973. There is also a massive five-disc collection, but that’s probably best saved for the Elton John’s stalkers out there.