Elton John – Empty Sky – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Empty Sky


A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

The undiscovered gem in the Elton John catalog! This original British Import demonstrates just how good a recording this is. The sound is excellent and the music is surprisingly good — and weird in a fun way! It certainly bears little relation to the middle-of-the-road pop songs Elton’s been making since the ’80s. These guys were young and figuring out their sound here, and this album takes Elton to some pretty interesting places. A fun debut album that is certainly worth a listen if you’re a fan of the classic albums that were to follow.

We’ve had dozens of these on our shelves for years but struggled to get this shootout done until recently. The main thing holding us back was how noisy most copies are, even the minty looking ones. Anyone who’s played DJM Brit pressings knows those guys had a very hard time pressing quiet vinyl.

This isn’t the best sounding Elton John album, but it’s certainly the best sounding pair of pressings of his debut we could find out of the dozen we played. There are moments where the sound is wonderful. That said, things do vary a bit from track to track.

This is a bunch of young guys figuring things out — some of it works very well and some of it not so well — but I think any Elton fan is going to enjoy hearing this early material with sound that’s always correct and often wonderful. It’s been a long time coming, but we think in the end the music is worth all the trouble we went through to find quiet enough vinyl with good sound.

I remember when we finished work on the title track – it just floored me. I thought it was the best thing I’d ever heard in my life. – Elton John


Side One

Empty Sky 
Western Ford Gateway
Hymn 2000

Side Two

Lady What’s Tomorrow 
The Scaffold
Skyline Pigeon 
Gulliver / Hay-Chewed / Reprise

Background on Empty Sky

Empty Sky is the debut album by British singer/songwriter Elton John, released on 6 June 1969. It was finally released in the US in January 1975, with a different cover photograph, well after John’s fame had been established internationally. Recorded during the winter of 1968 and spring of 1969 in a DJM 8-track studio, Empty Sky is the only album in the early part of his career not produced by Gus Dudgeon, instead helmed by friend and DJM staffer Steve Brown.

John plays harpsichord on several tracks, including “Skyline Pigeon”, which John has described as being “the first song Bernie and I ever got excited about that we ever wrote.”

John used musicians that were either his or Brown’s friends. Guitarist Caleb Quaye and drummer Roger Pope, both members of the band Hookfoot at the time, played on many of the tracks. (Quaye and Pope would rejoin John a few years later as part of his studio and touring band behind Rock of the Westies in 1975 and Blue Moves in 1976.) Tony Murray from The Troggs played bass.