- An excellent early British pressing with big, bold Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR SIDES
- Finding a copy with no marks or issues is no easy task these days, and the DJM vinyl on this pressing is about as quiet as these UK LPs ever are
- 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 outstanding 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.”
- If you’re an Elton John fan, this has to be considered a Must Own Title of his from 1973
- The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
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 vintage British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 the band, 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 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 studio space
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 qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
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.
Elton John Shootouts
Elton John is one of the handful of artists to produce an immensely enjoyable and meaningful body of work throughout the ’70s, music that holds up to this day. The music on his albums, so multi-faceted and multi-layered, will endlessly reward the listener who makes the effort and takes the time to dive deep into the sound of his classic releases.
Repeated plays are the order of the day. The more critically you listen, the more you are sure to discover within the exceedingly dense mixes favored by Elton and his bandmates. And the better your stereo gets the more you can appreciate the care and effort that went into the production of the recordings.
Elton John albums always make for tough shootouts. His producers’ (GUS DUDGEON being the best of them) and engineers’ (KEN SCOTT and ROBIN GEOFFREY CABLE, likewise the best) approach to recording — everything-but-the-kitchen-sink as a rule — make it difficult to translate their complex sounds to disc, vinyl or otherwise.
Everything has to be tuned up and on the money before we can even hope to get the record sounding right. Careful VTA adjustment could not be more critical in this respect.
If we’re not hearing the sound we want, we keep messing with the adjustments until we do. There is no getting around sweating the details when sitting down to test a complex recording such as this. If you can’t stand the tweaking tedium, get out of the kitchen (or listening room as the case may be). Obsessing over every aspect of record reproduction is what we do for a living. Pink Floyd’s recordings require us to be at the top of our game, both in terms of reproducing their albums as well as evaluating the merits of individual pressings.
When you love it, it’s not work, it’s fun. Tedious, occasionally exasperating fun, but still fun nonetheless.
A Must Own Rock Record
GYBR is a recording that belongs in any serious Rock Music Collection.
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Candle in the Wind
Bennie and the Jets
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
This Song Has No Title
Jamaica Jerk Off
I’ve Seen That Movie Too
Sweet Painted Lady
The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-34)
Dirty Little Girl
All the Girls Love Alice
Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n’ Roll)
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
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.