Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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  • An outstanding early British pressing with big, bold Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last 
  • There’s real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals, in-your-listening-room midrange presence and no shortage of rock and roll energy
  • Overflowing with great songs, way too many to list – Candle In The Wind, Bennie And The Jets, and GYBR all sound killer here
  • A Top 100 Title: “…its individual moments are spectacular and the glitzy, crowd-pleasing showmanship that fuels the album pretty much defines what made Elton John a superstar in the early ’70s.”

NOTE: The two discs in this set have slightly different labels. We have learned from our research that this is actually the way some sets were produced, so even though the labels are mismatched, this is in fact an authentic early British release.

GYBR has the best rocker Elton and Bernie ever wrote: Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. Of course, it’s one of the tracks on side four we used to test with — if you’re going to listen to GYBR all day, why not play the songs that are the most fun to play? On the good pressings, the song just KILLS.

This early British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Elton, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road from 1973 have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1973
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above.

Modern Reissue Sound on Vintage British Vinyl?

Some British copies on some sides sound too much like a modern reissue; they lack weight and tend to be too “clean” sounding. We take serious points off when records sound modern, a sound the current spate of reissues cannot get away from and one of the main reasons we gave up on them many, many years ago. Not our thing, sorry.

All the other major audiophile record dealers sell that junk, so if you like that sound you will have no trouble finding plenty of titles that offer it. It frankly bores us to tears. Why do audiophiles like the sound of records that sound like good CDs? We like to play records that sound like good records. We like records that sound so real that we can forget we’re even listening to a record.

As you’re playing your copy at home, or maybe this one if you end up with it, listen for the Abbey Road guitars; they are everywhere on this album, along with some Abbey Road arrangements and chord progressions. Caleb Quaye’s wah wah from all of Elton’s classic early albums is gone; he wouldn’t return until Rock of the Westies, an album I quite like but one that nobody else seems to care for. (Admittedly the sound is not what it should be.)

What We’re Listening For on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Less grit – smoother, sweeter and more transparent, less congested sound, something that, if you know GYBR at all, is not easy to come by.

A bigger presentation – more size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you play this record on the better.

More bass and tighter bass. This is fundamentally a rock record. It needs weight down low to rock the way Elton and his bandmates wanted it to.

Present, breathy vocals. A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.

Good top end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.

Last but not least, balance. All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven’t played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find. Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Candle in the Wind
Bennie and the Jets

Side Two

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
This Song Has No Title
Grey Seal
Jamaica Jerk Off
I’ve Seen That Movie Too

Side Three

Sweet Painted Lady
The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-34)
Dirty Little Girl
All the Girls Love Alice

Side Four

Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n’ Roll)
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Roy Rogers
Social Disease
Harmony

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was where Elton John’s personality began to gather more attention than his music, as it topped the American charts for eight straight weeks. In many ways, the double album was a recap of all the styles and sounds that made John a star. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is all over the map, beginning with the prog rock epic “Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding)” and immediately careening into the balladry of “Candle in the Wind.” For the rest of the album, John leaps between popcraft (“Bennie and the Jets”), ballads (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”), hard rock (“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”), novelties (“Jamaica Jerk-Off”), Bernie Taupin’s literary pretensions (“The Ballad of Danny Bailey”), and everything in between… its individual moments are spectacular and the glitzy, crowd-pleasing showmanship that fuels the album pretty much defines what made Elton John a superstar in the early ’70s.

Half Speed Masters — From Bad to Worse

If you have the Direct Disc Labs half-speed you have one truly awful record in your collection, so sucked out in the midrange, so compressed everywhere, what the hell were they thinking making this rockin’ album sound like that? It’s positively disgraceful. It makes MoFi look like they knew what they doing, and we know that sure isn’t true.

In truth we did not actually have a copy of the MoFi handy for this shootout, but in our defense let us just say that we’ve heard their pressing many times over the course of the last twenty years. It’s better than the DD Labs version but not good enough for us to want to play. It’s compressed and sucked-out like practically every record they ever made, just not as badly as the DD Labs version.


The domestic MCA copies we played were bright, transistory, spitty and aggressive as all get out. If you had one of those bad domestic pressings and bought the half-speed back in the day at least you could play the record without your ears starting to hemorrhage. But you would run the danger of falling asleep somewhere in the middle of a side, always a danger with the kind of lifeless sound that labels using half-speed mastering seem to find attractive. This, it should go without saying, is not our sound here at Better Records.