Labels We Love – DJM

Elton John’s Caribou Is Usually Noisy and Sounds Bad – Why Is That?

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There’s a good reason you’ve practically never seen this album for sale on our site. In fact there are quite a number of good reasons.

The first one is bad vinyl — most DJM pressings of Caribou are just too noisy to sell. They can look perfectly mint and play noisy as hell; it’s not abuse, it’s bad vinyl. (Empty Sky is the same way; out and out bad vinyl, full of noise, grit and grain.)

The second problem is bad sound. Whether it’s bad mastering or bad vinyl incapable of holding onto good mastering, no one can say. Since so many copies were pressed of this monster Number One album (topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic), perhaps they pressed a few too many after the stampers were worn out.

Or pulled too many stampers off the mother.

Or made too many stampers from the father.

Or used crap vinyl right from the start.

Of course there’s not an iota of evidence to back up any of these assertions, but I just thought I would throw it out there as a topic for speculation. (Have you noticed how much audiophiles and audiophile reviewers love to talk about things that they have no empirical evidence for one way or the other? Very little of that sort of thing can be found on our site. We like to stick to the sound of the records we’ve played and leave most of the “reasoning” about the sound to others.)

Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection

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

A side two for the ages — it beat our best Ref Copy to earn a Four Plus (A++++) grade. Both sides are stunning with superb Demo Quality sound: huge, rich, spacious, dynamic and lively. An incredible recording and longtime member of our Top 100 — our pick for Elton’s very best music and sound. 

We rate records with a Four Plus grade so rarely that we don’t even have a graphic for it on our Sonic Grade chart seen above. The scale only goes up to three pluses, but this side two blew our minds to earn a fourth!  

This is an incredible recording, but finding killer pressings like this is no walk in the park. We’ve had countless copies with promising sound that were just not in any condition to sell, and plenty of clean ones that just didn’t sound good.

This copy really delivers on the sound side — you get stunning immediacy, big-time presence, tons of depth to the soundfield, full-bodied vocals, amazing transparency, and BOATLOADS of Tubey Magic. Elton John fans, today is your lucky day.  (more…)

Elton John – Honky Chateau – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

This British Import Honky Chateau is THE BEST SOUNDING COPY WE’VE EVER HEARD — BY FAR! We just finished a big shootout for this wonderful album, and this copy took top honors with MASTER TAPE SOUND!

This has to be one of the best sounding rock records of all time — certainly worthy of a spot on our Top Rock LPs List. A Hot Stamper copy like this really tells you why. The highs are silky sweet, the vocals are full-bodied and breathy, and the tonal balance is perfection from top to bottom. (more…)

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. (more…)

Elton John – Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player

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More Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player

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

The tonality here is rich, tubey and warm. It doesn’t get thick or murky as many copies have a tendency to do.

The amazing engineer KEN SCOTT (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, Truth, Birds of Fire) is the man responsible for the sound here.

The kind of Tubey Magical richness, smoothness and fullness he achieved at Trident in the early ’70s as well as here at a certain French country estate have never been equaled elsewhere in our opinion. (more…)

Elton John – Madman Across The Water

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More Madman Across The Water

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

Shockingly good sound, the best sound for any copy that has ever made it to the site. This Madman is guaranteed to blow your mind. It certainly blew ours. 

A ridiculously tough album to find with the right sound and reasonably quiet surfaces — which is why we never have them on the site. (more…)

Elton John – Empty Sky – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Empty Sky

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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. (more…)

Elton John – Elton John – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Elton John – Elton John

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

This original DJM British pressing has a SUPERB Demo Disc Quality side two and a wonderful A++ side one! You could easily play a hundred records from the ’70s and not hear one that sounds this good. The richness and sweetness of this side have to be heard to be believed. We would be very surprised if this copy didn’t become your favorite Elton John record — it’s an absolute knockout.

As is usually the case for this album and specifically these Brit DJM pressings, the vinyl is a bit noisy — Mint Minus Minus with constant moderate surface noise under the music.

Folks, if you’re looking for Classic Rock that still appeals to sophisticated adults forty plus years after it came out, this is the album for you. It’s one of the four Classic Elton John records (five if you count GYBR) that belong in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection.* (more…)

Elton John – Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy

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More Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy

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  • You’ll find superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this relatively quiet UK pressing 
  • Includes two of our favorites: (Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket and the massive hit Someone Saved My Life Tonight
  • 5 stars: “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.”

It isn’t easy to find clean early British copies of Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy these days, let alone ones that actually sound very good, but this copy proves that it can be done. It’s killer on both sides. (more…)

Elton John Self-Titled – Live and Learn

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A classic case of Live and Learn. Scroll down to read what we learned from our recent shootout. To illustrate how the game is played we’ve copied some of the previous commentary into this listing to show the change in our understanding from 2004 to today.

Folks, if you’re looking for Classic Rock that appeals to adults with sophisticated tastes forty plus years after it was made, this is the album for you.

What’s especially remarkable about this album is the quality of the string arrangements. I don’t know of another pop record that uses strings better or has better string tone. The strings are all over this record, not only adding uniquely interesting qualities to the backgrounds of the arrangements, but actually taking the foreground on some of the songs, most notably Sixty Years On. When the strings give in to a lovely harp just before Elton starts singing, the effect is positively glorious. It’s the nexus where amazing Tubey Mgical sound meets the best in popular music suffused with brilliant orchestral instrumentation. Who did it better than The Beatles and Elton John? They stand alone. (more…)