[Review] Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

This is Elton’s White Album and Exile on Main Street: a double-album masterpiece of creativity.

Kronomyth 8.0: Elton on Main Street.

This is Elton’s White Exile: the double-album chef d’oeuvre that encompassed in a single vista the breadth and depth of his musical world. The albums before and immediately after were twin peaks (typically a ballad and a rocker) in a forest of forgettable midtempo songs. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is a tour de force (Troll: What’s the French translation for pretentious weiner?) with eighteen songs where nearly all stand tall, crowned by two great ballads (“Candle in the Wind,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”) and two great rockers (“Bennie and the Jets,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”). In other words, just the sort of multilayer wedding cake to dispel the notion that Elton had irreversibly entered the kitchen of cookie-cutter complacency.

Beyond the best-known hits, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road contains credible forays into nearly every avenue of music that Elton had previously explored: 50s rock & roll (“Your Sister Can’t Twist,” which has a keyboard solo that XTC fans will find prescient), island music (“Jamaica Jerk-Off”), smartly arranged and pristine pop (“Grey Seal”), and a handful of character studies featuring outlaws (“The Ballad of Danny Bailey) and the out-of-place (“All The Girls Love Alice” and, of course, the aforementioned Candle). Like every great double-album should do (Blue Moves, I’m looking at you), Yellow Brick rewards each return with a handful of keepsakes. Maybe you’ll find yourself singing a few lines of “Sweet Painted Lady,” or it could be the chorus of “Harmony” in your head, but you’ll never walk away from this Road empty. Elton’s 70s albums are admittedly a mixed bag; some of them are great (Captain Fantastic), some are mostly stems and seeds (Caribou). Few of them are half as good as Goodbye, which for my money is the best thing Elton’s ever done.

Read more Elton John reviews

Original 2LP Version

A1. Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (11:05)
A2. Candle In The Wind (3:41)
A3. Bennie And The Jets (5:10)
B1. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (3:13)
B2. This Song Has No Title (2:18)
B3. Grey Seal (4:03)
B4. Jamaica Jerk-Off (3:36)
B5. I’ve Seen That Movie Too (5:59)
C1. Sweet Painted Lady (3:52)
C2. The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-1934) (4:24)
C3. Dirty Little Girl (5:03)
C4. All The Girls Love Alice (5:13)
D1. Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n’ Roll) (2:41)
D2. Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting (4:50)
D3. Roy Rogers (4:10)
D4. Social Disease (3:45)
D5. Harmony (2:49)

All lyrics by Bernie Taupin. All music by Elton John.

2CD reissue bonus tracks
18. Whenever You’re Ready (We’ll Go Steady Again)
19. Jack Rabbit
20. Screw You (Young Man’s Blues)
21. Candle In The Wind (acoustic mix)

The Players

Elton John (piano, organ, Farfisa organ, electric piano, mellotron, Leslie piano, vocals), Davey Johnstone (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, steel guitar, banjo, backing vocals), Dee Murray (bass, backing vocals), Nigel Olsson (drums, congas, tambourine, car effects, backing vocals), Bernie Taupin (lyrics) with Ray Cooper (tambourine on C4), Kiki Dee (backing vocals on C4), Leroy Gomez (saxophone on D4), David Hentschel (A.R.P. synthesizer on A1/C4), Del Newman (orchestral arrangements), Prince Rhino (vocal interjections on B3). Produced by Gus Dudgeon; engineered by David Hentschel. Co-ordination by Steve Brown.

The Pictures

Outside cover illustration by Ian Beck. Inside cover illustrations by David Larkham, Michael Ross, David Scutt. Art direction by David Larkham, Michael Ross, David Costa.

The Plastic

Released on 2LP and cassette on October 5, 1973 in the UK (DJM, DJLPD/Y8DJD-1001), the US (MCA, MCA2/MCAT2-10003), Australia (DJM, L/C-70025/6), Italy (Record Bazaar, 2RB-384), Japan (DJM, IFP-93105B) and Mexico (Musart, EDIB-60069) with trifold cover; reached #1 on the UK charts and #1 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 7x platinum record). Also released on yellow vinyl 2LP in the UK (DJM, DJE-29001) and Australia (DJM, L-70025/6) with trifold cover. 8-track features different track order.

  1. Re-issued on 2LP in Japan (DJM, 40AP-1561/2) with trifold cover.
  2. Re-issued on 2LP in Japan (DJM, K18P-107/8) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-issued on 2LP and cassette in 1980 in Canada (MCA, MCA2/MCAC2-6894) and Portugal (DJM, MM-77001) with trifold cover.
  4. Re-issued on 2LP in the UK (DJM, PRID-13).
  5. Re-released on remastered 2LP in 1984 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, MFSL-2-160).
  6. Re-issued on 2LP in the UK (Rocket, DJE-29001) with trifold cover.
  7. Re-issued on 2CD in the US (MCA, MCAD2-6894).
  8. Re-issued on 2CD in Germany (DJM, 821 747).
  9. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in the US and Canada (Polydor, P2/P4-21747).
  10. Re-issued on compact disc in Taiwan (Mercury, 528 159).
  11. Re-released on audiophile 2LP in the US (MCA, SD2-16614).
  12. Re-released on remastered compact disc and cassette in 1995 in the UK (Rocket, 528 159-2/4) and the US (Rocket, I2-28159).
  13. Re-released on expanded, remastered 30th anniverysary deluxe edition super audio 2CD in 2003 in the UK (Mercury, 9813205) and the US (Island, B0001570-36) with 4 bonus tracks.
  14. Re-issued on compact disc in 2005 in Japan (Universal, UICY-95011).
  15. Re-issued on compact disc in 2006 in Japan (Universal, UICY-9107).
  16. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 526).
  17. Re-released on 180g vinyl 2LP in 2008 in the UK (Mercury, 03746) with gatefold cover.
  18. Re-released on super high material 2CD in 2008 in Japan (Universal, UICY-93671/2).
  19. Re-released on virgin vinyl 2LP in 2009 in the UK (Simply Vinyl, SVLP-159).
  20. Re-packaged with Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player on 2CD on August 3, 2009 in France (Universal, 86190).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *