Elton John – Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy

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

This British DJM pressing has TWO INCREDIBLE SIDES — A++ for the first and A+++ for the second! We finally gathered up enough reasonably clean copies to get this shootout going, which was no mean feat itself. Most of the copies we played were grainy, murky, veiled or lifeless, but this one gave us a Captain Fantastic we could really get into. The sound is lively, dynamic, and tubey magical throughout. The clarity, transparency, and immediacy are all superb.  

Side one is rich, full-bodied and warm with a BIG three-dimensional soundfield. Elton’s piano has real weight which allows the dynamics of his performace to really come through. The overall sound is dramatically more open and spacious than on most of the copies we played.

Side two is even better, with excellent presence, astonishing clarity, and tons of energy. Listen to all that ambience around the vocals and then try to find it on a typical copy — good luck!

The domestic copies we played were an absolute joke, and most of our import copies weren’t all that much better. Of course, the import copies all suffered from significant surface noise — something we expected from that DJM vinyl. This one plays about Mint Minus Minus throughout, though there are moments on side two where it is a bit noisier than that. Those of you who can’t live with this kind of this are advised to pass, but if you want to hear this album sound truly amazing, I don’t know what other option you have.

This album has a good batch of songs, including the hit Someone Saved My Life Tonight. All Music Guide gave it five big stars, but we’d rank it a notch below the self-titled album, Honky Chateau and Tumbleweed Connection.

You may or may not know that the CDs of almost all of Elton’s catalog are HORRENDOUS. The Mobile Fidelity gold discs are generally quite good but, of course, they didn’t do this title.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy 
Tower of Babel 
Bitter Fingers 
Tell Me When the Whistle Blows 
Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Side Two

(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket 
Better off Dead 
Writing 
We All Fall in Love Sometimes 
Curtains

AMG Review

Sitting atop the charts in 1975, Elton John and Bernie Taupin recalled their rise to power in Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, their first explicitly conceptual effort since Tumbleweed Connection. It’s no coincidence that it’s their best album since then, showcasing each at the peak of his power, as John crafts supple, elastic, versatile pop and Taupin’s inscrutable wordplay is evocative, even moving.