Exploring new music can become tiresome. While I have a blast listening to tunes delivered by TIDAL Hi-Fi, I have a respectable physical library and I felt it was about time to get the platter spinning and re-experience the music I know and love with every aspect of my soul.
The Very Best Of Elton John is one album that I have had a love affair with for the last quarter century. Despite the elapsed time, I can still recall the independent music store my mother took me to, when I was about 10, in order to purchase the album. At the time my weekly chore was to vacuum the floors (otherwise known as hovering to our British counterparts). Anyway, I would get two dollars each week and upon saving enough money I would be taken to the Sydney suburb of Beecroft, where in a dark and dingy shopping complex, the music store was located. The name of the store escapes my memory, but it was either so packed or so small, that no more than four people could fit in the store at any given time. Despite that, I knew exactly what I wanted as I had seen advertisements for Elton John's 1990 career perspective compilation, The Very Best Of Elton John, on television.
The record store, thankfully, had a copy of the double cassette and I was blown away, for I had never previously seen a double cassette case. I guess you never forget your first! Back then, even the double CD releases came in the fat double-jewel case. Now, you get the flimsy flip insert that has a tendency to break. They also feel less substantial, for a double cassette or CD was once a valued possession and hefty enough to be a value added proposition for a fan; even if it were all a figment of the imagination.
While I'm not entirely sure what lead me to this compilation and an appreciation of Elton John, I do recall enjoying the song Sacrifice, from John's 1989 album Sleeping With The Past. While I also wanted that cassette, my mother likely pushed me towards the compilation as it not only included Sacrifice, but a selection of the very best songs Elton John ever recorded. Regardless, I wasn’t dissatisfied as The Very Best Of Elton John would receive regular airplay at the Greentree house.
Music has always been an escape for me and it has always been my constant companion. I know many people would roll their eyes at that statement, but music lovers know exactly what I’m talking about. If you give music a chance, it will guide you through a tumultuous and unpredictable life. I truly believe one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is music. Buy them a CD or a vinyl record and let them connect with the music. The other greatest gift is books. Yes, the younger generation primarily streams music, but actually owning music takes the appreciation to another level. Perhaps I’m just becoming an old fool, but I still adore holding the CD or vinyl record as I have an emotional connection with each album in my collection. Okay, so I have an emotional connection to TIDAL Hi-Fi, but only to the service, not really the albums contained within my virtual library. When I truly want to appreciate the album, I buy the CD or vinyl record. Look at it this way, would you be content with an air guitar, or would you prefer to own a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard?
I loved the Elton John compilation so much that my Grandmother ended up buying me the accompanying music video release that would allow me to become even more attached to John and his music. As I’ve mentioned here many times before, my grandmother would often be the one that would encourage my music collection. I assume she saw the solace it gave me and I will be forever grateful. Yes, my mother may have taken me to buy The Very Best Of Elton John, but one day I will tell you the story of how I was banned from listening to Guns N’ Roses and how she forced me to sell not only my beloved Guns N’ Roses collection but my entire music collection.
Unfortunately, both my double cassette and VHS edition of the album had to be sold. While I got reasonable prices for the collection, it never matched the true value I placed on them. All was not lost, however, as I did digitise the double cassette to an MP3 file before sending it on its way. I still have that MP3 file. While the sound is well below par of the quality I generally aim for, it was the only way I could listen to this exceptional release as it had been long out-of-print by the time I could afford to repurchase my collection.
I'm sure some of you are wondering why I never picked up a secondhand edition of the compilation. Well, I'm not a fan of buying secondhand music as it fails to support the music industry and the artist. I also like that new feel and as I am overly protective of my music collection, even the slightest blemish is enough for me to not make a purchase, or return the album for a replacement. Plus, when you see Australia's JB Hi-Fi placing The Beatles In Mono vinyl box set on the store floor, to get kicked repeatedly, you know that many people don't truly care about collecting and appreciating a music collection, certainly not to the same level I do. Honestly, I have never had a scratched CD. The disc goes in the player, then is put straight back into the case. Hold on a second, that isn’t entirely true. I did lend my copy of Linkin Park’s Meteora to a family member that was staying with us for a few weeks. Well, when I got that CD back, it was fucked! Scratches everywhere and jumped on every CD player I owned. I was devastated and I’m still pissed off about it to this day as it was never replaced, nor was an apology ever issued. As a result, I no longer lend out my music. While I can respect that not everyone is as manic as I, these examples are all the justification I need to stay clear of buying secondhand music.
Anyway, some 15 years after losing the compilation of my youth, my significant other surprised me on my birthday with the vinyl re-issue of The Very Best Of Elton John. To say there were tears would be an understatement. Even as I write this paragraph, I can’t control my emotions and the tears are flowing uncontrollably. It is moments like this that remind me why I don't do YouTube reviews. While I have many prized possessions, very few of them impact me in this manner. I’m not generally the type of person to show my emotions, but this album and music, in general, has the tendency to bring my emotions to the surface. Interestingly, I like that person within myself that cries over music, or at the end of a partiality moving film or book. I tend to push him away, but by doing so I am robbing myself of a strangely pleasurable emotive experience.
People are often amazed that I don’t sing out loud to music. Well, I do, just not in the company of others. I like to connect with the music in my own way, but I can assure you I’m on stage and singing my heart out, even if you can’t see it. That said, this is the only album I can think of that has me singing for the entire two hours. I know every lyric and never miss a beat. It is an exceptional release and if I could say only one thing to Elton John it would be: you're a bloody legend! THANK YOU!
I also can’t thank Universal enough for reissuing one of the greatest compilations in history. Yes, John has released a number of other compilations, but I truly love his pre-1990 work the best and while he is still one of the world’s greatest musicians, I can be satisfied with this compilation. Plus, I think we could all agree that John’s pre-1990 songwriting collaboration with Bernie Taupin is unmatched.
Anyway, let’s get to the actual review. While I would love to embed the album from TIDAL et al, this compilation isn't available on any streaming service. It isn’t even available for purchase on iTunes. However, let’s not be discouraged as I have painstakingly constructed a playlist of the songs. TIDAL will, of course, be embedded below, but I have also made the playlist available for Spotify users.
Your Song is a superb song to commence this compilation on. While there really isn't a bad song on this release, the easy listening musicality of Your Song is lovely. It’s a basic composition, but one of pure perfection. As is to be expected, John's vocal is beyond reproach. Your Song truly is exceptional!
Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long Long Time) is such an amazing song. My kids love this song, primarily because it was featured in The Big Bang Theory episode “The Friendship Contraction”. Personally, I've always enjoyed this song and felt it is a fundamental foundation of John's classic rock era. This song, on its own, would be exceptional for any artist's career, yet it is just one of many exceptional recordings combining the skills of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
Honky Cat is such a fun tune. The rhythm is addictive and the horn elements of the song are perfectly placed. I simply couldn't imagine this compilation without it.
Crocodile Rock has always been a favourite of mine. I simply can't stop singing along to this song. Yes, it’s showing it's age, but good music is good music.
Daniel slows the compilation down a little, never feels out-of-place. Daniel is a beautiful vocal ballad that simply could not have been sung by anyone else.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is an absolute classic!
Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) is the perfect song to conclude the first side on. It’s energetic and is immediately the type of song that springs to mind when I think of classic rock and roll. I dare you to listen and not sing-a-long, I find it impossible!
Candle In The Wind is one of the most beautiful songs ever written and recorded. While the '97 rendition is the original's equal, I tend to come back to this release as my preferred edition. Regardless, as fans, we are very fortunate to have both versions. Thank you, Bernie and Elton!
Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me is a fantastic song. Much like Billy Joel's music, the central focus of the piano is ideal. I truly wish we'd see another true piano-inspired artist in the modern recording era. Perhaps it is simply a case that no-one is able to compete with these exceptional artists, but I feel it has more to do with the production and recording styles of modern music.
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds was an exception Beatles track, but I truly believe John made it his own and subsequently I feel his rendition is superior in all aspects. The comment section is now open for your rebukes.
Philadelphia Freedom is EPIC!
Someone Saved My Life Tonight is one of my all-time favourite Elton John songs. It is a lovely vocal ballad with a perfect balance and overall composition. I absolutely love the sonic build up and John's vocals are simply gorgeous. Songs like this remind me why I love music so much.
Don't Go Breaking My Heart is a good duet with Kiki Dee, but I can't help but wonder what the song would have sounded like with Dusty Springfield on vocals. We will likely never know as that version was rejected. Regardless, Don't Go Breaking My Heart is a fun song and a fan favourite.
Bennie And The Jets has an incredible soundstage and is a stellar performance, although John's vocal isn’t as clear on this song as it is on the other tracks. Despite this, the song works incredibly well and is always a pleasure to listen to.
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word is nothing short of the literal truth. It is a beautiful song and I dare say many of us have utilised this song when things with our significant others aren’t going to plan. John's vocal performance is beyond reproach. Absolutely magnificent!
Song For Guy is a lovely instrumental-based song. Unfortunately, my vinyl record has a pressing fault that results in a dropout upon each rotation. It’s a shame, but that is simply one of the issues you must learn to live with when collecting and appreciating vinyl. Other than that, the pressing is superb and I've yet to hear anyone else raise it as an issue, so it may just be my copy. Yes, I can confirm my record is clean. I'm kind of anal about that stuff.
Part Time Love is a great song and the dropout that plagued Song For Guy is gone. Part Time Love has aged musically, but it is still fun with plenty of energy. I love it!
Blue Eyes sees John sing in a much lower register than normal. While it works extremely well, I'm glad it wasn't his chosen vocal style for all songs.
I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues is simply fantastic!
I’m Still Standing is one of my daughter's favourite songs as it was covered by Taron Egerton in the film Sing. As I’m writing this review, she has been listening to the original all day. Thank you, Universal for including the MP3 download code! That said, I'm Still Standing is a song I don't tire of, although the tiny speakers in my daughter’s iMac are starting to drive me nuts. Yes, I’ve given her better speakers, but she never uses them. Truth-be-told, I remember playing this song over and over and over and over…you get the idea. It is addictive and truly awesome!
Kiss The Bride is one of the greatest songs ever recorded!
Sad Songs (Say So Much) is a groovy song that isn't sad at all. I Love it!
Whispers was a bit of a shock when I first listened to the record as the tracking of the Australian release had Passengers in its place. Whispers is a great song, but Passengers just feels right. Given the number of times I heard the cassette, I don't know if I will ever get used to hearing Whispers after Sad Songs (Say So Much). That said, it really is a great song and is worthy of inclusion on this compilation.
Nikita has always been a favourite of mine, yet I've always been at a loss to explain why it is so compelling. I just know I enjoy it. Sometimes that is all you need.
Sacrifice is one of my favourite Elton John songs. The vocal delivery, musicality, and overall performance make this song a memorable experience.
You Gotta Love Someone is the perfect song to conclude the album with. It is uplifting and compels me to listen to the compilation again; two hours of Elton John is simply not enough!
Without a doubt, The Very Best Of Elton John is just that. It doesn't get any better than this!
Unfortunately, the re-issued vinyl compilation is difficult to pick up new, but if you don't mind buying secondhand, there are a few available on Discogs. At the time of publication, there are also a couple of copies that are listed as new and sealed.
Click here to read other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds.