Monday, May 23, 2011

The #79 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era--"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John

We have revealed the names of 20 of the Top 100 Albums of All-Time in the Rock Era*.  Up next is 79--

It belongs to Elton John, and it's the double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road from 1973.  It was Elton's seventh studio album and although I believe Captain Fantastic is a better album, it is this one that checks in next.  As I have mentioned previously in the countdown, you might say a double album is twice as hard to come up with, if only because of the extra length and requirement for more material.  As double albums go, however, this is about as good as it gets.  There are two double albums ranked ahead of it--I'll let you guess what those are.

The album stood on top for 7 weeks and remained in the Top 10 for 17.  It was on the chart for 43 weeks and has sold 3 million copies so far.  Those statistics are commendable, but clearly it is the airplay and Track Rating* that helped the album land a spot in the Top 100.  The Track Rating* turns out to be 9.15, in the upper half of these 100 albums. 

Three big hits--"Bennie and the Jets", the title song and "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" not only publicized the album but thrust Elton into the limelight as a force to be reckoned with.  Up until this album, his following had grown from merely a cult following (his early material is fascinating to listen to) to being a legitimate star.  But GYBR made John a superstar, a springboard towards even greater success for the rest of the decade and the years to come.

In addition to the singles mentioned above, there are numerous other quality tracks.  "Candle in the Wind", Bernie Taupin's tribute to Marilyn Monroe, remains one of Elton's most popular songs.  And for years, John used "Funeral For a Friend"/"Love Lies Bleeding" as the opener for concerts--it certainly has become a classic.  "Grey Seal" is another winner from the album that was originally a b-side for a 1970 45 release but was re-recorded for this album.  "Harmony", "This Song Has No Title", "Sweet Painted Lady", "Your Sister Can't Twist", "Roy Rogers" and "Social Disease" are other quality tracks from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  "All the Girls Love Alice" is another good track albeit somewhat controversial. The sheer talent of writers like Taupin and John still amazes me.  I spoke above of the challenges to making a high-quality double album.  Taupin wrote the lyrics to GYBR in a mere two and a half weeks, with Elton coming up with the music in three days.  Seriously?  You can't teach talent like that; it's a gift.

The album was conceived at the Pink Flamingo Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica.  The team working on the album began production in January of 1973 but because the famous Joe Frazier-George Foreman boxing match was also in Kingston and because of political tension resulting from Jamaica's poor economy, Elton and his cohorts decided to  move to France to record it, specifically at the Chateau d'Herouville.  Elton also used Strawberry Studios in France and Trident Studios in London.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road:
(All songs written by Bernie Taupin and Elton John.)
Side A
1.  "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" --11:07
2.  "Candle in the Wind" --3:50
3.  "Bennie and the Jets" --5:23

Side B
1.  "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" --3:13
2.  "This Song Has No Title" --2:23
3.  "Grey Seal" --4:00
4.  "Jamaica Jerk-Off" --3:39
5.  "I've Seen That Movie Too" --5:59

Side C
1.  "Sweet Painted Lady" --3:54
2.  "The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-34)" --4:23
3.  "Dirty Little Girl" --5:00
4.  "All the Girls Love Alice" --5:09

Side D
1.  "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n' Roll)" --2:42
2.  "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" --4:57
3.  "Roy Rogers" --4:07
4.  "Social Disease" --3:42
5.  "Harmony" --2:46

Elton played the piano, electric piano, Leslie piano, organ, Farfisa organ and mellotron on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  Dee Murray was on bass, Davey Johnstone played acoustic, electric, Leslie, slide and steel guitars and banjo on the album, Nigel Olsson was the drummer and Ray Cooper played congas and tambourine.  Murray, Johnstone and Olsson lent backing vocals as well.  Leroy Gomez contributed the saxophone solo on "Social Disease".  Kiki Dee, whom Elton would later team up with for the smash "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", sang backup vocals on "All the Girls Love Alice".   
Gus Dudgeon produced the album, the Engineer was David Hentschel and the album was arranged by Del Newman.  David Larkham, Michael Ross and Ian Beck contributed art work.

The album was released October 5, 1973 on MCA Records.  Elton John is at #79 with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

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