Sunday, June 8, 2008


I'm a fan of reissues - and not just because I've made decent money writing liner notes for them. As long as there is a decent reason for the upgrade - mainly improved sound or bonus tracks - I'm into it. My main personal preference is to do them as two disc sets.  I like to have one disc that is the exact same songs in the same running order as the original, and the second disc can have all of the extras. 
Elton John's second and third albums - Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection, both released in 1970 - have just been reissued as two-cd sets, and they are worth the money. (FYI, most people think Elton John is his debut, but in fact, 1969's Empty Sky was; but like his big influence The Band, self-titled his second album.)

Tumbleweed is my personal favorite Elton John album. I remember Rolling Stone doing a '70s issue, and Bruce Hornsby did a list of his favorite Elton songs. Most of them were from this album, none of which I'd ever heard. I looked for the CD in the store, and didn't recognize any of the other songs, I don't think I'd even heard "Burn Down The Mission" at that point. But I bought it anyway, and I was blown away. It's Elton at his most Band-influenced, and I'd say that Elton and Bernie Taupin's songwriting was a match for Band leader Robbie Robertson's. 

Anyway, I think lots of Elton's greatest songs (not necessarily greatest hits) were on these two albums. Which leads me to the bonus tracks. There are Elton's piano demos for almost all of the songs, which is amazing. You're so used to thinking of Elton as a rock star, a celebrity. But when he was recording these demos, that destiny wasn't yet set in stone: he was hungry, and really going for it. I'm not saying that the piano versions should replace the studio recordings, which are phenomenal. But it's really cool to listen to them. If you're an Elton fan, you've got to pick these up; you're really in for a treat. 

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