Top Artists – Elton John

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 – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Disastrous Remasters from MoFi and Direct Disk Labs

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Sonic Grade: F (DD Labs) / D (MoFi)

2 Hall of Shame entries and two more Half Speeds debunked.

If you have the Direct Disc Labs half-speed you have one truly awful record in your collection, so sucked out in the midrange, so compressed everywhere, what the hell were they thinking making this rockin’ album sound like that? It’s positively disgraceful. It makes MoFi look like they knew what they doing, and we know that sure isn’t true.

In truth we did not actually have a copy of the MoFi handy for this shootout, but in our defense let us just say that we’ve heard their pressing many times over the course of the last twenty years. It’s better than the DD Labs version but not good enough for me to want to play it — compressed and sucked-out like practically every record they ever made, just not as badly as the DD Labs version.

The most obvious problems with the sound of this album are ones common to many if not most rock records of the era: lack of presence, too much compression, smear, lack of weight from the lower mids on down — we hear lots 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 right and the result is one or more 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.

The Average Copy (more…)

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 – Greatest Hits – Reviewed in 2006

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

This is an EXCELLENT sounding British DJM pressing of Elton’s Greatest Hits, with all the tubey magic that that implies. These are the real tapes, folks, pressed on that see-thru purple DJM vinyl. 

The sound of course varies from track to track. ‘Your Song’ and ‘Saturday Night’ are GREAT here. The other tracks on side one are good but not like those two.

Side two has better sound overall than side one, with an OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD ‘Border Song.’

The record plays Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, about as quiet as DJM pressings get.

I love what Steve Hoffman did with this album, but I haven’t played it in a long time and can’t say how it compares to this one, sorry. (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 – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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More Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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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. (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…)