Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

With three White Hot shootout winning sides and one Super Hot side, the four sides of these 2 LPs will show you a GYBR you never imagined could exist. We certainly never expected to hear it sound like this, I can tell you that. I’ve never begun to hear these songs have the energy, presence and rock and roll POWER that they do here.

The most obvious problems with the sound of this album are those common to most rock records of the era: lack of presence and top end, too much compression / congestion, smear, lack of weight from the lower mids on down — we hear tons of Classic Rock records with this litany of shortcomings.

But it’s not the fault of the master tape, it’s probably not even the fault of the mastering engineer most of the time. It’s just plain bad pressing quality. The sound simply doesn’t get stamped onto the vinyl properly and the result is a rough collection of the problems above.

And if you don’t know how to clean your records properly, forget it, you have virtually no chance of hearing good sound on GYBR. (We can help you with cleaning if you feel you need it. Just drop us a line.)

We Like To Rock

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 (assuming that you have the kind of big speaker system required to play it).

There’s some real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals, in-your-listening-room presence and plenty of rock and roll energy. Here’s how the four sides of this copy shook out on this British copy.

Side One

A+++ — nothing was even close! Big bottom, open top and huge size for starters, with dynamics and energy that put all comers to shame.

Love Lies Bleeding rocks like a monster here — you won’t believe it!

Side Two

A++, with BIG drums and a solid piano, good energy too. It’s the top that’s not all there, and it could use a bit more richness. Still, just shy of the best.

Side Three

A+++ piano is solid and rich, so clear with no smear (easily audible on the instrument). The overall sound is super transparent with nice punch down low.

Side Four

A+++ again! I wrote “Wow!” twice on the notes — once for each song we played — because both of them were just knocking it out of the park. Big space and rockin’ like crazy. You will be astounded by Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting on this copy — it is PERFECTION.

Total

11 pluses out of 12? Don’t expect to see another one any time soon. Not many Brit copies have survived. It took us years to find enough to do this shootout and it will probably be years before we can do another.

The Average Copy

Years ago we discussed how tough a nut to crack this one has been for us:

It should be noted that good sounding Brit copies of this record are almost IMPOSSIBLE to find! If you find a copy with even one good sounding quiet side you should consider yourself very lucky. Most copies are noisy and dull as dishwater.

And that was strictly for the Brit copies. The domestic 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 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.

Modern Reissue Sound

Some copies on some sides sound too much like a modern reissue; they tend to lack weight and be “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. 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. It’s sound so real that it lets us forget we’re even listening to a record.

GYBR Listening Exercises

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 love but one that nobody else seems to care for. (Admittedly the sound is dreadful.)

Condition Alerts

Most of the intros to the sides will be noisier than the average quality of the surfaces further in. We had practically no Inner Groove Distortion issues this time around, always a good thing with old rock records like these that were played on the godawful turntables of their day.

Note that it is very rare to find any side that plays better than Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus. No side of any copy we are putting up today plays Mint Minus and we would expect that to be equally true down the road.

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