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Elton John
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Review by peteyspambucket November 17, 2004 (10 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
In many ways this is a special standout in the latest group of Elton John reissues. The engineers must have had an easier time with this one because the sound from the old tapes is excellent on this one, and the miking of the sessions captured a lot of nuances. Elton himself was in amazing vocal form, and the music is timeless.

This disc sounds like a modern recording and does not hint at it's almost 30 year vintage. The sound is lively and vibrant and colorful. The percussion gets a huge boost in clarity and dynamic range. The guitars are isolated enough so that you can hear everything. The backing vocals and orchestra are mostly in the rear channels, so you can hear them without the other instruments covering them.

The segues into SOMEONE SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT is nailed this time. In the past, you could hear a hint of the previous song at the beginning of the track mark. The extras on this disc will make this a MUST HAVE for many, with hits like LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS and PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM. In LUCY, the organ solo is strictly in the center channel, and it's great to hear it like that!

This is another SACD that just goes to the top of my recommended list. Buy it with confidence. A GEM!

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Review by fredblue May 23, 2009 (9 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I feel I must first qualify this review by saying that prior to hearing the Multi-channel mix on this SACD, this is an album I had played in stereo literally hundreds and hundreds of times over the years.

On 2 different pressings of LP and in 3 different incarnations of redbook CD (the first DJM CD, Gus Dudgeon's 1995 remaster and later, for reference/comparison Tony Cousins' 2005 "Deluxe Edition" remaster of Greg Penny's SACD soundmix) on several different hi-fi systems, it always sounded great and this has simply long been one of my most cherished albums, in all respects.

So when I say that I now find it IMPOSSIBLE to listen to any other version of this album out of the half dozen that I possess, this is no hyperbole. The M/C layer of this SACD is without a doubt the only presentation of this LP that I can now sit down and really enjoy.

I should also add I have found it extremely difficult trying to write this review while listening to this M/C SACD! Why? Even after over a year of returning to this SACD since I gave my system an overhaul and a good many replays in surround sound of this album in that time, it is still so commanding of my attention! Even now I cannot help but be engaged and want to stop writing and really admire every aspect of it's supreme production values and revel in these incredible performances of such magical songs in such stunningly pristine fidelity.

Of all the Greg Penny 5.1 mixes of what is generally referred to as "Classic" Elton John material that saw a release on the SACD format, this is for me, the very, very best in a masterful set.

Of course we'll never know how good those 5.1 mixes of "Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player", "Caribou", "Made In England", "Rock of the Westies" and "Blue Moves" are, unless Elton's management or Universal Music see fit to release them. I cannot be alone in longing for these similarly classic Elton John albums to finally be released in stunning SACD Multi-channel form at last?!?

And so onto the disc itself... I won’t describe it track by track, as it would take me days to analyse each track and everything about it and that is really the joy for YOU to discover when you listen to it!

As a general comment which I would apply to all of the tracks from the original album (not the 3 bonus tracks, more about those later..) the mix is wonderfully "steered" and discrete with many "events" in the rear and centre channels and yet it is still respectful of the original 2-channel mix I've loved for so long and heard so many times.

It’s as much a testament to Greg Penny's intelligent and sympathetic handling of the material, as it is to the skill of the original producer, the legendary Gus Dudgeon - a man I feel very priviliged to have met, not long before he was so tragically killed in a motoring accident. There can be no denying these are impeccable recordings from a golden age of popular music production, remixed into 5.1 by somebody who really understands the material and who has a flair for how best to re-present the many layers of the original multi-track masters into 6 channels.

I’d also advise the original album tracks of this mix really need to be played pretty loud to fully appreciate it’s many nuances, as it can seem a little tame or subtle at first. Not in the same way as the mediocre (at best) SACD 5.1 mix of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars”, which advises to be played at “maximum volume”.. that is no help to that SACD, it still sounds anaemic to my ears, even when played loud! Here though, turning up the volume helps enormously! This is not music that has been compressed to oblivion. Everything you need to hear is there, you just have to turn it all up a little to fully appreciate it. Just like I used to with all my favourite LP’s and crank them up!

I feel it’s appropriate to mention the 3 extra tracks at this stage. They all do sound equally as terrific as the rest of the album, I would argue that their mixes are even more ambitious for the most part than the album itself, which believe me does have it’s moments!

I’ll just take this opportunity to mention one bit of what I’d call possible indulgent “surround porn” (!) that has just played through my system while writing this! I’m not complaining, I love it but it gives you an idea of some of the more discrete “events” in this mix!

During the chorus of “(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket” there is some wild panning of Elton’s vocals, that whizz from speaker to speaker, from front to back, back to front and back again... ! It goes a little something like this...

“Feel no pain” emerges from the centre channel, the refrain of “No pain” from Elton emerges from the left rear, then the lead vocal of “No Regrets” from Elton in the centre, then Elton’s refrain of “No Regrets” flies over to the right rear and then we whizz back to the centre for “When the line’s been signed you’re someone else”...

You just have to hear it for yourself to see what you make of it but for me it takes the song and the performance to a whole new level, despite what some “stereophile’s” might consider to be it’s rather extravagant use of the channels! Personally, it not only sounds awesome, it expands upon the song musically and is more than just a gimmick, although I could see some purists seeing it that way, it's wonderful!

Back to the 3 extra’s.. sorry I just had to document that moment in the mix as it happened! The bonuses seem to have been recorded at a higher level than the rest of the album, particularly the last bonus track, “Philadelphia Freedom” which is considerably louder than all the others! This is not a complaint, as it is my all-time favourite Elton John song and what a superb mix! All the elements on this one really come together, with lush orchestral flourishes in the rears, the thunder of Nigel’s drums, Dee’s bassline, Davey’s little guitar licks that always got muddied somewhere along the way in stereo, everything that for me constitutes the zenith of that “Classic” Elton John sound is here, in breathtaking sound quality, in a brilliantly realised interpretive 5.1 mix.

Time constraints (perhaps space too, I won’t know til I “click” below!?) prevent me extolling the virtues of this incredible disc further! I’ll sum up by saying if I had to bite the bullet and choose only ONE rock/pop M/C SACD in my collection of over 50, without any shadow of a doubt, THIS would be IT!

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Review by BigTony July 10, 2008 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I must admit to first listening to this on lp all those years ago, and not really liking it. I'd just seen Elton on his 'Single Man Tour' so this was a surprise . However, after reading such great reviews, and being a snip at £8 from Amazon, i thought i'd try.

Wow!!!! What a Disc! It sounds fantastic, the songs are brilliant, the mix is great,, its a masterpiece. The only song i faintly remember is Philadelphia Freedom, but everything just sounds so new. It just can't be the same lp.

If you only remember Elton as a caricature , then this disc will show you what an awesome talent Elton was in the '70s.

So, do like i did, order it today. Then play it, and try and contain that smile!


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