Top Producers – Gus Dudgeon

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.)

David Bowie – Space Oddity – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

One of the reasons the song “Space Oddity” sounds so amazing is that it was produced by none other than Gus Dudgeon, the man behind all the best Elton John records. It has Paul Buckmaster doing the string arrangements as well. His work on Elton’s self-titled album is awe-inspiring; we know of none better. (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 – 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 – 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. (more…)

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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  • An outstanding early British pressing with big, bold Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last 
  • 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 killer 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.”

NOTE: The two discs in this set have slightly different labels. We have learned from our research that this is actually the way some sets were produced, so even though the labels are mismatched, this is in fact an authentic early British release.

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. (more…)

Elton John – 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…)

Honky Chateau – A Classic from Elton John

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  • An outstanding copy of this classic album, rating exceptionally good Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • Honky Chateau contains some of the most Tubey Magical High-Production-Value rock music ever recorded – thanks Ken Scott!
  • Not the quietest copy we’ve ever played – Mint Minus Minus to EX++ on both sides – but obviously one of the better sounding
  • 5 stars: “The most focused and accomplished set of songs Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever wrote … It’s one of the finest collections of mainstream singer/songwriter pop of the early ’70s.” 

If you doubt that Elton John was a kind of Pop Music Genius for much of the ’70s, just play this record. These eleven tracks should easily serve as all the proof you need. There’s not a dog in the bunch. Drop the needle on any track, you simply can’t go wrong.

We go years between shootouts for Honky Chateau. It’s beyond difficult to find clean British copies of this album with the right stampers, let alone copies that have Hot Stamper sound. Few albums are tougher for us to find with great sound and quiet vinyl. Most of the copies we buy from record dealers in England are noisy and only a fraction of them have the kind of sound that serious audiophiles are going to pay good money for.

Superb Music, Amazing Sound

This has to be one of the best sounding rock records of all time — certainly worthy of a prized spot on our Rock and Pop Top 100 List. It’s a shining example of just how good High-Production-Value rock music of the ’70s can be. (more…)