Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Elton John Deluxe Editions Reviews

 
This picture is courtesy of Fishpond.com.au.  Click image to purchase at Fishpond.

Today I have a review of 2 Elton John albums which must be on their 4th re-release now!  The first one is the self-titled Elton John Deluxe Edition, followed by Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition!  The reason I say that this must be their 4th re-release is because they were originally released in 1970 on LP records, then when CDs first came out in the 80s, they were re-released then onto CD, but with nothing special about them and (from what I’ve read) very poor quality, but then in 1995, they got re-released  with 10 other Elton albums under the series name of Elton John - The Classic Years!  This time they weren't the same as the original CDs of the 80s, they were digitally re-mastered and re-packaged with bonus tracks and sleeve notes done by John Tobler.  After 13 years, in 2008, the Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection albums were re-released yet again, but this time as Deluxe Editions and it is this reissue of those two albums that I am reviewing here!

I think the CDs were released here in Australia back in June or July 2008 and I think earlier in 2008 for other countries.  Anyway, I got the Deluxe Editions of the Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection albums on the week of my birthday in August 2008!  Being a huge Elton fan, I could not wait to get them home to listen to!  I'm going to start with the Elton John Deluxe Edition CD!

The Elton John Deluxe Edition is a double CD packed with many great treats to listen to!  First, Disc One contains the entire track listing for the original album the way it was in 1970 without extra tracks.  My favourite songs from Disc One would have to be Your Song, I Need You To Turn To, Take Me To The Pilot (even though no one knows the meaning of it), Border Song, The Greatest Discovery and No Shoe Strings On Louise!  The first CD of the set contains the following songs:

  1. Your Song
  2. I Need You To Turn To
  3. Take Me To The Pilot
  4. No Shoe Strings On Louise
  5. First Episode At Hienton
  6. Sixty Years On
  7. Border Song
  8. The Greatest Discovery
  9. The Cage
  10. The King Must Die

CD Two, the Bonus Disc of the set is the most exciting thing about the Deluxe Edition of the Elton John album!  Leading off Disc Two is the Demo Version of Your Song!  I have to admit when I bought Elton's To Be Continued... 4 CD box set off e-Bay a few years ago, I never thought they'd bring the Demo of Your Song out any other way.  That is where this great CD set proved me wrong!  I think the Your Song demo on this set is so much better quality than the one on the above mentioned box set!  In fact, Your Song isn't the only demo on the Deluxe Edition, there is a demo version of every song off the original album except First Episode At Hienton and Border Song, which makes me wonder if those two songs don't have demo versions or whether they're holding them off for another future release of the Elton John album.  All the demos of album songs appear in the order they do on the first CD of the set, which is the way the original album was!  I have to say that I like pretty much all the demos made of the album songs although The Greatest Discovery has a bit of a glitch in it where at one part of the song, the tape must have gone a bit wobbly, but then that was the only part and it only lasted for less than a second!  I like how Elton even sings the part that the strings section of an orchestra is supposed to do!

The Piano Demo of Rock And Roll Madonna is, IMO, better than the finished version!  Next is 3 rare and unheard of demos of great songs called Thank You Mama, All The Way Down To El Paso and I'm Going Home!  I think All The Way Down To El Paso and I'm Going Home could have been great album songs had they've been finished with the band, but I like them the way they appear on the set as just demos!  Anyway, what if they did try to finish the songs and the band kind of spoiled the songs?  They wouldn’t be as good then!  Next is the Piano Demo of Grey Seal, which, to be honest, I do like better than the eventually finished 1970 version of the song!  After the Grey Seal Piano Demo is yet another version of Rock And Roll Madonna, but this time it is the Incomplete Band Demo, which I also like better than the version that was eventually put out on a single B-side!  There is someone laughing at the end of the band demo of the song, which I'm sure could have been Elton, but I really don't know!

Next comes the 3 songs that were added as bonus tracks on The Classic Years version of the CD!  Bad Side Of The Moon, Grey Seal and Rock And Roll Madonna (the finished version) got moved onto the 2nd disc of the set!  I love Bad Side Of The Moon, but as I've said above, the Demo versions of Rock And Roll Madonna and Grey Seal are so much better than the finished versions!  The last 3 songs on the bonus CD are from BBC sessions, well, two of them are, but one of them, Your Song, is just the studio version with the orchestra taken out, listen closely and you’ll still hear some orchestra instruments playing.  The other two songs from the BBC sessions are Border Song and Take Me To The PilotBorder Song's BBC session version features a group called Hookfoot, who helped Elton out at the time!  Now that I'm finished giving you the rundown on what I think of all the songs on the Elton John Deluxe Edition CD, I thought I'd put the track listing for that CD as well, so here we go, the track listing for CD Two!

  1. Your Song - Demo Version
  2. I Need You To Turn To – Piano Demo
  3. Take Me To The Pilot - Piano Demo
  4. No Shoe Strings On Louise - Piano Demo
  5. Sixty Years On - Piano Demo
  6. The Greatest Discovery - Piano Demo
  7. The Cage - Demo
  8. The King Must Die - Piano Demo
  9. Rock And Roll Madonna - Piano Demo
  10. Thank You Mama - Piano Demo
  11. All The Way Down To El Paso - Piano Demo
  12. I'm Going Home - Piano Demo
  13. Grey Seal - Piano Demo
  14. Rock And Roll Madonna - Incomplete Band Demo
  15. Bad Side Of The Moon
  16. Grey Seal
  17. Rock And Roll Madonna
  18. Border Song - BBC Session (with Hookfoot)
  19. Your Song - BBC Session
  20. Take Me To The Pilot - BBC Session

 
This picture is courtesy of Fishpond.com.au.  Click image to purchase at Fishpond

The next album I'm reviewing, as you see from the image above, is Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition!  Another great re-release packed with many great treasures!  Like the Elton John Deluxe Edition, the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition is a double CD set and, like the Elton John Deluxe Edition, this one has the full, original album on Disc One with no added bonus tracks like The Classic Years version does, this one is just the full album and the songs that were bonus tracks on The Classic Years re-master have been moved onto Disc Two along with other great songs!

Now, I love the fact of being able to play the original album on Disc One, but I also feel a bit sad in a way because from what I've read in the Hercules International Elton John Fan Club forums, people were disappointed that there are some songs missing off the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition Bonus CD, and even a review for the CD at amazon.com was disappointed with the CD as well.  Apparently there are supposed to be really good demo versions of Bern Down The Mission, Amoreena and Where To Now St. Peter and a demo song that isn't on there called Rolling Western Union, which is rather sad, but lets get to the good things about it!

My favourite songs from the Tumbleweed Connection original album (Disc One on the Deluxe Edition) are Come Down In Time, Country Comfort, Son OF Your Father, My Father's Gun, Love Song, Amoreena and Burn Down The Mission.  All the other songs on the album are great too, but these are my absolute favourites!  I love the way Bernie Taupin can get images into your head when you listen to the words of the songs.   The song I like the least is Talking Old Soldiers.  Here is the track listing for CD One of Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition;

  1. Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun
  2. Come Down In Time
  3. Country Comfort
  4. Son Of Your Father
  5. My Father’s Gun
  6. Where To Now St. Peter?
  7. Love Song
  8. Amoreena
  9. Talking Old Soldiers
  10. Burn Down The Mission

The Bonus CD of Tumbleweed Connection’s Deluxe Edition is pretty good and, like the album above, all the treasures are on the bonus CD!  The first 5 songs on Disc Two (the bonus disc) are demo versions of some of the album songs!  One song that has had a name change when the album was released is Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun, which has a piano demo on Disc Two, but under the name of There Goes A Well Known Gun!  I like There Goes A Well Known Gun better than the album version as it has more of a Country-Rock feeling to it!  Come Down In Time is a piano demo of the same track on Disc One and the same can be said about Country Comfort, Son OF Your Father and Talking Old Soldiers.  I love the demo versions of just as much as the original album versions except Talking Old Soldiers, which I prefer the demo for some reason.  Next in line after the piano demo version of Talking Old Soldiers is the piano demo version of Into The Old Man’s Shoes!  That song wasn’t included on the original album, but I think it was the B-side of the Your Song single in 1970 or 1971 and the finished track was included on the 1992 double Rare Masters CD of rare Elton songs, then again in 1995 on The Classic Years re-master of Tumbleweed Connection as a bonus track!

The piano demo of Into The Old Man’s Shoes is followed by a great song called Sisters Of The Cross, a song that must have been recorded during the album sessions, but never finished, therefore we’re treated to the piano demo of the song on Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition, but it hasn’t been officially released, just on bootleg CDs!  I think it is a pretty good song!  That is followed by the original version of Madman Across The Water which is the title track to the follow-up studio album (this excludes a live album and a soundtrack to a movie) after Tumbleweed Connection.  The version of the song on the Madman Across The Water album was done with guitarist Chris Spedding and Davey Johnstone, but this original version was done with Mick Ronson and I think the reason it was included on the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition and The Classic Years re-master of that album is probably because it must have been recorded during the sessions of Tumbleweed Connection instead of the Madman Across The Water sessions. Even though I do like both of the versions, I prefer the final version on the Madman Across The Water album better than this version as, IMO, it sounds so much nicer !  Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that this original version of Madman Across The Water was also included on the double CD set called Rare Masters!

The original version of Madman Across The Water is followed on the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition by the final, finished version of Into The Old Man’s Shoes!  I like both the final and demo versions of Into The Old Man’s Shoes, it is a pretty good song!  In fact, the final version of Into The Old Man’s Shoes and the original version of Madman Across The Water were on The Classic Years re-master of Tumbleweed Connection in 1995 as bonus tracks on the single CD!  I was amazed that they weren’t on the first disc of the set like they are on the 1995 release, but they obviously must have liked the idea of putting no tracks after the original album, which is understandable, but then they probably would have been able to add 2 or 3 more songs on (depending on how short they are), but I still like the way it is now!

Into The Old Man’s Shoes is followed up nicely by 4 songs from the BBC Sessions and they are My Father’s Gun (a pretty good version of the song), Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun (similar to the album version, but not entirely the same, but good!  I think I like this version better), Burn Down The Mission (well, it’s a great song anyway, I like this one and the studio version on the album) and Amoreena (still a great song)!  All four songs from the BBC session are pretty good!  All in all, the bonus disc of the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition is definitely worth the listen!  Here is the track listing for Disc Two of Tumbleweed Connection’s Deluxe Edition:

Into The Old Man’s Shoes is followed up nicely by 4 songs from the BBC Sessions and they are My Father’s Gun (a pretty good version of the song), Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun (similar to the album version, but not entirely the same, but good!  I think I like this version better), Burn Down The Mission (well, it’s a great song anyway, I like this one and the studio version on the album) and Amoreena (still a great song)!  All four songs from the BBC session are pretty good!  All in all, the bonus disc of the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition is definitely worth the listen!  Here is the track listing for Disc Two of Tumbleweed Connection’s Deluxe Edition:

  1. There Goes A Well Known Gun – Previously Unreleased
  2. Come Down In Time – Piano Demo, Previously Unreleased
  3. Country Comfort – Piano Demo, Previously Unreleased
  4. Son Of Your Father – Previously Unreleased
  5. Talking Old Soldiers – Piano Demo, Previously Unreleased
  6. Into The Old Man’s Shoes – Piano Demo, Previously Unreleased
  7. Sisters Of The Cross – Piano Demo, Previously Unreleased
  8. Madman Across The Water - Original Version
  9. Into The Old Man’s Shoes
  10. My Father’s Gun – BBC Session
  11. Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun – BBC Session, Previously Unreleased
  12. Burn Down The Mission – BBC Session, Previously Unreleased
  13. Amoreena – BBC Session, Previously Unreleased

Overall, I think the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition is a fantastic CD re-release of the great album, even better than the 1995 version included in The Classic Years series.  Even the notes in the booklet have a few extra paragraphs and sentences added in here and there, though they are pretty much the exact same notes that are included in The Classic Years re-master and I think even the notes in the CDs of The Classic Years are copied from John Tobler’s Elton book called 25 Years In The Charts.  Likewise, the Elton John Deluxe Edition's booklet is pretty much the same as The Classic Years version's booklet except with a few sentences and paragraphs added here and there, I'm talking about the notes, not the booklet as a whole, at least the booklets of both editions have different layouts and pictures than the original 1995 re-masters!

The Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Editions doesn’t have a normal ordinary CD jewel case, it is in a cardboard case, pretty much designed similar to the old vinyl version with gatefold sleeves (well, I’ve never actually seen the original LP or its case, so I don’t really know what it is like), but it has plastic CD trays for both discs and the booklet slides into a slot at one side of the opened out case.  The Deluxe Edition of the Elton John album is exactly the same CD case layout, some people call them digipacks for some reason, but that doesn’t matter, I don’t care about that!  Both Deluxe Editions look so good!  I just hope they both don’t go the same way my Elton John Greatest Hits 1970 – 2002 3CD set went with its cardboard case (I think it has something to do with air bubbles or something between the CD trays and  the cardboard), but I’m keeping them in their Deluxe Edition labelled plastic, which is tight, so hopefully it’ll stop that from happening, and also the fact that I’ve got them on my computer to listen to means I don’t have to keep taking the CDs out of the cases and eventually wrecking them!

If you are new to Elton’s music and you’re deciding between the Deluxe Editions of these two great albums or the re-masters in The Classic Years, I strongly recommend you buy the Deluxe Editions (although The Classic Years ones are just as good, just not as much bonus tracks), but if you’re an all-time Elton fan and have already got the ones from The Classic Years, it is up to you; the Deluxe Editions definitely have more to offer, but if you’re wanting me to tell you the difference between quality of sound of the Deluxe Editions and The Classic Years versions, I’m afraid I can not help you there.  As I’ve said before, I’m hearing impaired, so I may not be as good at picking up differences in sound quality.  I may be able to notice the difference between the sound of the original CD versions of these albums compared to The Classic Years versions, but that’s because they were both made differently and Gus Dudgeon fixed the problems that existed on the original 1980s releases of the albums for the ones included in The Classic Years re-masters, but that is all.  I give both of these Deluxe Editions 5 stars out of 5 because they are both really, really good to listen to!

I’ve still got a few more Deluxe Edition Elton John CDs to buy, not to mention I’ve still got some of The Classic Years (the 1998 series, just 3 more to get) and Digitally Re-mastered (the 2003 series, only 2 more to go) CD series to finish buying!  From what I’ve read on the Internet, we can expect a Madman Across The Water Deluxe Edition this year too, as well as a box set with duets and other songs and also the other big news for this year is Elton John may bring another album out at the end of this year!  Yikes!!  All these CDs I have to buy is amazing!  One day I will have them all in my collection!

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