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Music Review: Elton John – Greatest Hits

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Elton John spent one month inside a studio in January 1974 to record Caribou before setting off on a world tour. In order to keep him in the public eye, he and his label decided to release a Greatest Hits album. It was a wise decision as it would become his biggest selling album with 24,000,000 copies sold. And it was the number one album in the United States for ten weeks.

By 1974 Elton John had amassed a large number of hit singles and ten of them were gathered to create this release. When looking at the tracklisting, each one is instantly recognizable thirty-five years later and still forms part of the foundation of his live act.

The album is also an indication of what a formidable presence he was on radio play lists. This was during the era when singles mattered both financially and for publicity. Even people who did not buy his studio albums would be familiar with these songs and more likely to purchase them all together, which is exactly what happened.

“Your Song” was from his first release in the U.S. and was originally the B-side of the “Take Me To The Pilot” single until radio disc jockeys flipped the record over. It is a gentle and innocent love ballad which set the tone for many more that would follow. “Border Song,” a gospel tinged track complete with a choir, was the other early inclusion.

I am always amazed that “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” could come from the same studio album. The first is 1970’s soft rock at its best and the second is just a wonderful foray into explosive rock ‘n’ roll.

“Honky Cat” is a song that has grown on me over the years. John delivers a jazzy vocal and some of the best piano work of his career. Its lack of guitar is made up for by its creative use of a horn section. “Rocket Man” continues to build and soar almost four decades after its release. When you add in “Daniel,” “Bennie and The Jets,” and “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” you have an album with no weak tracks.

The great '50s-sounding romp, “Crocodile Rock,” brings the set to a close. It's infectious, nostalgic, and upbeat, all of which allowed it to spend three weeks as the number one song in the U.S. in early 1973.

When this album was released in 1974 it made for an appealing compilation and millions flocked to purchase it. Vinyl copies can still be easily found at flea markets and tag sales. While it has been superseded by more extensive and complete greatest hits compilations by Elton John over the years; if you want a glimpse of his very best, then this is the place to start.

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