Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Record label: Universal
On his milestone seventh album, Elton John left behind his sepia-toned singer-songwriter reality for a far brighter Hollywood-inspired rock & roll fantasy. At times, the diverse but filler-free 1973 double album's vivid Technicolor tunes – from the mournful prog-rock of opener "Funeral for a Friend" to the sunny, symphonic pop finale "Harmony" – suggest what the Beatles might have created had they stuck together a few more years. This welcome five-CD-plus-DVD expansion adds several non-LP singles; a new, nine-cut tribute set featuring contemporary fans from Miguel to Fall Out Boy (John Grant's sighing "Sweet Painted Lady" is the highlight); a vintage documentary about the album's creation; and, best of all, an explosive London concert that demonstrates how hard John and his kickass band could rock between eloquent ballads like "Your Song.
By 1973, Elton John’s career was exploding. It wasn’t as if success had eluded him prior to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; “Your Song” was a Top 10 hit late in 1970, and each of 1972’s releases, Honky Chateau and Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, yielded a pair of Top 10 hits with timeless classics like “Rocket Man,” “Honky Cat,” “Daniel” and the rollicking “Crocodile Rock.” However, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road had a 1-2 punch, literally, with the title track climbing all the way to No. 2 in October of 1973 and “Bennie And The Jets” taking the top spot the following February.
An unassailable high watermark in Elton’s lengthy career, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is a concept album of sorts. Packed with motifs and allusions to cinema, it’s also a subtle commentary on the singer’s stratospheric rise to superstardom, lyricist Bernie Taupin retrospectively suggesting disillusionment was a recurring theme. That’s certainly true of the title track and Candle In The Wind, and it also rears its head on the reflective Harmony, the searching for answers in Grey Seal, and the embittered life lessons of I’ve Seen That Movie Too.
It’s only a few minutes into the previously unreleased 1973 documentary Elton John And Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye To Norma Jean and Other Things that Elton John proclaims confidently “I’d like to become a legend”. The, quirky but compelling film tells the tale of John’s explosive, unbelievably flamboyant four year rise to international fame that was cemented by ‘73s Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player then somehow sharpened and preened to greater heights at the end of that same year with the release of this album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. It’s his highest selling album, spawned the best-selling single of all-time and is arguably regarded as his best work.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’s title track is a gorgeous lament about fame, a celebrity’s dream of normalcy. The song addresses Elton John’s popularity in lyricist Bernie Taupin’s opening words: “When are you gonna come down? When are you going to land?” The rocket man was anxious about his trajectory. Ironically, 1974’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road marks the beginning of Elton John as a sequin-suited showman.