Sunday, 18 November 2012
Oh, I’m just being a bit cheeky. What Madonna was referring to was those Stars On 45 jobs, where you got a verse and a chorus of a hit single, then it segued into another, and so on, and so forth, so you got 14 “songs” in 3 minutes. “You Can Dance” was Madonna’s gift to the disco world, a remix album ’for the fans’, an album consisting of two lengthy continuous mixes of Madonna tunes, to give you the impression you was in a club that played nothing but Madonna music. Madonna had become aware of the growing remix trend, and was keen to experiment with the format, allowing some of her closest buddies to re-work some of the old songs for this LP. Although the timing of it’s release was possibly a bit cynical - November 1987, just in time for the Christmas market - the album was not a quick cash in job, and although it can sound rather quaint now compared to some remix albums, where little gets left of the original songs once the remixers have had their hands on them, many people will tell you that it is an important cog in the Madonna machine.
The theory behind the album was that Madonna, when she had started, was an “Underground“ New York dance music queen. But “Like A Virgin” and “True Blue” had turned her into a megastar. It wasn’t quite that she had sold out, but that she now belonged to the public. The disco indebted debut LP had been followed by a pair of pure pop outings, and “You Can Dance” was designed to take Madonna back to her roots, taking some of the big pop hits, and reworking them for the club crowd.
Even before plans for this album were hatched, 1987 had been quite a busy year for Ms Ciccone. The fifth and final single from “True Blue”, “La Isla Bonita”, had been another number 1 single in the UK, and she had set off on her first World Tour, making her first “proper” live UK debut at Roundhay Park in Leeds on August 15th. The “Who’s That Girl” tour took it’s name from the movie of the same name, for which a soundtrack LP, overseen by Madonna herself, was issued in the summer of 1987.
“Who’s That Girl” has long been listed in Madonna discographies, even though it is clearly a compilation release. Of the nine songs on the record, Madonna only sings four of them, with a mixture of other acts filling up the rest of the LP. But helped in part by Madonna’s name and image being all over the cover, and the fact that some of the material remains exclusive to the album to this very day, it’s long been considered an “essential” part of the back catalogue. Although the title track was issued as a single worldwide, the remaining three songs are not easily available in their LP form elsewhere - “Causing A Commotion” was remixed for single release, “The Look Of Love” was issued in the UK and France, but not the US, whilst the final song, “Can’t Stop”, is unavailable anywhere in any form apart from on the LP.
Although “You Can Dance” was allocated a catalogue number that would have placed it mid-way release date wise slap bang between “True Blue” and “Who’s That Girl”, I understand that no work on the album began until the summer of 1987. The album was to include seven Madonna songs - six oldies and a new one, “Spotlight”, taped during the “True Blue” sessions but left unreleased because it apparently sounded too much like “Holiday”. I say oldies, rather than hits, because although most of the songs on here had been issued as singles somewhere in the world, they were rather obscure. So you got “Holiday” and “Into The Groove”, but you also got the likes of “Over And Over” and “Where’s The Party”, neither issued as singles in the UK or US.
Six of the seven songs were to be remixed for the project, but not, as you might have expected, the six oldies. Instead, “Spotlight” was to be given a revamp - the unreleased version had lasted about four minutes in length, and so it was to be given the 12” treatment for the LP. Instead, it was 1983’s “Physical Attraction” that was to remain unblemished for the album. The only concession, of course, was that as this song was to be part of a continuous mix, the opening bars of the song would sound different to the version on the “Madonna” LP, but once it was underway, production wise, it would sound identical to the original album mix.
Vinyl was still king in 1987, which explains why two mixes, rather than one, were to be created from the seven songs. Madonna would eventually get to do a “single” continuous mix album with the UK CD edition of “Confessions On A Dance Floor”, some eighteen years later. In addition to this, of the six songs being reworked for the project, five were also to be remixed in “Dub” form, these mixes being made to be spread across the CD and Cassette formats as bonus tracks. Quite why no dub mix of “Everybody” was made, I have no idea, as there would have been enough space on the CD edition of the album to squeeze it on.
Also highly desirable is the “You Can Dance - Single Edits” promo, issued on both vinyl and CD. This contained edited mixes of all seven tracks (the edit of “Physical Attraction” was the original US 7” Edit from 83, the rest were edits of the 1987 revamps), the idea being that if any singles were to be lifted from the LP, then these were the mixes to be used. In the end, only two of the six new edits surfaced commercially, when the “Single Edit” mixes of “Spotlight” and “Where’s The Party” adorned either side of a Japanese 45 issued in early 1988. The vinyl version of the “Single Edits” promo comes in a different sleeve to the CD, the latter was housed in the same basic cover that was to be used for the regular album.
The commercially released vinyl edition of “You Can Dance” featured sleeve notes that were printed on a wrap-around sash on the outer sleeve of the LP that was quite easily damageable. Indeed, the barcode printed on the back of the sash was also printed on the actual back of the sleeve, just in case any went missing whilst they were still in the shops. A select number featured a free poster as well, complete with a suitably stickered front cover.
The Cassette and CD editions featured different bonus dub mixes, the first Madonna album to deliberately be released to try and get punters to buy it twice. The Cassette featured dub mixes of “Spotlight” and “Holiday” at the end of side 1, and “Over and Over” and “Into The Groove” at the end of side 2. On the CD, the two continuous mixes came first, followed then by the dub mixes of “Holiday”, “Into The Groove” and “Where’s The Party”.
“You Can Dance” did quite well for what was not really a proper Madonna LP, hitting the top 5 in the UK. As has been mentioned on this site before, a 4 track White Label 12” was issued as a promo to coincide, which played the four dub mixes that were on the Cassette version of the album. “Spotlight” was issued as the sole single in Japan early the following year, but that was pretty much it. Once out, promotion for the album pretty much ended, and 1988 became the year when Madonna mostly focused on things other than music - doing “Speed The Plow” on Broadway, filming the little seen “Bloodhounds Of Broadway” - only the VHS release of “Ciao Italia”, documenting the “Who’s That Girl” tour, provided Madonna fans with “new” music in 1988.
As has also been mentioned on this site, the album was briefly revisited by the UK arm of Sire in 1991, when the album was used to source B-sides for some of the singles released from “The Immaculate Collection” - the remix of “Into The Groove” turned up on extended play editions of “Crazy For You”, and “Spotlight” was on the 7”, Cassette and CD versions of “Rescue Me”, and in both instances, the mixes were altered for these singles by simply fading out as they came to an end. It would have made more sense to use the unedited mixes from the original US promos, but it is really no surprise to see the record company not bothering to do this, and these edited remixes therefore remain exclusive to these single releases.
Being a remix album, “You Can Dance” has generally been left to fend for its self these past 25 years. The EU wide vinyl releases of Madonna’s earlier LP releases this year ignored the record, whilst the “Complete Studio” albums boxset concentrated purely on ‘proper’ albums. It is still possible to get CD copies of the record, which are technically the same edition as that which came out in 1987. “You Can Dance” did get a bit of a second lease of life in 2001, when - alongside the expanded reissues of Madonna’s first three long players - some countries reissued the album with a “Drowned World” sticker, as featured on the expanded reissues, but apart from that, that’s just about it.
As this blog forms the next part of our long winded, drawn out look at Madonna’s UK LP’s, I have initially listed below the three versions of the LP made available in the UK at the end of 1987. I have also listed the most important of the promo and commercially released related singles from the UK, US and Japan. Aside from the 4 track “Spotlight” white label 12”, the most famous other release related to this record is the “promo only” picture disc issued in some countries with a “PRO-MAD-1” catalogue number. Long rumoured to be a bootleg, various German journalists have since claimed that they received copies from Sire in the run up to the original release of the album.
UK ALBUM VERSIONS
You Can Dance (LP, Sire WX 76, initial copies with free poster in stickered p/s, all with obi)
You Can Dance (Cassette, Sire WX 76 C, with four bonus tracks)
You Can Dance (CD, Sire 7599 25535 2, with three bonus tracks, including “Where‘s The Party (Dub)”)
Where’s The Party (Unedited Remix)/(Dub)/Spotlight (Unedited Remix)/(Dub) (12”, Sire PRO-A-2905)
Into The Groove (Unedited Remix)/(Dub)/Everybody (Unedited Remix) (12”, Sire PRO-A-2906)
Holiday (Unedited Remix)/(Dub)/Over And Over (Unedited Remix)/(Dub) (12”, Sire PRO-A-2907)
You Can Dance - Single Edits (LP, Sire PRO-A-2892)
You Can Dance - Single Edits (CD, Sire PRO-CD-2892, diff p/s)
IMPORTANT RELATED SINGLES
Spotlight (Single Edit)/Where’s The Party (Single Edit) (Japanese 7”, Sire P-2348)
Spotlight (Single Edit)/Where’s The Party (Single Edit) (Japanese 3” CD, Sire 10SW-21)
Crazy For You (Remix)/Keep It Together (12” Remix)/Into The Groove (Shep Pettibone Remix Edit) (12”, Sire W 0008 T)
Crazy For You (Remix)/Keep It Together (12” Remix)/Into The Groove (Shep Pettibone Remix Edit) (CD, Sire W 0008 CD)
Rescue Me (7” Mix)/Spotlight (Fade) (7”, Sire W 00024)
Rescue Me (7” Mix)/Spotlight (Fade) (Cassette, Sire W 00024 C)
Rescue Me (LP Version)/(Titanic Mix)/Spotlight (Fade) (CD, Sire W 00024 CD)
Saturday, 17 November 2012
With 1988’s “Reg Strikes Back”, it was (roughly) around this period that Elton, amongst other acts, began releasing singles on the now defunct CDV (Video CD) format. The main selling point of these singles was the inclusion of the video, usually of the a-side, on the disc, but are now quite hard to track down. Given that some of these feature videos that are still commercially unavailable elsewhere, I have decided to list the important CDV’s released during this period. It is also worth noting that, some three years after it’s original release on vinyl, “Nikita” appeared as a CDV in 1988, although with no rare B-sides on the audio part of the disc (Rocket 080272-2). The trouble with CDV’s, was that the video was designed to be played on a laserdisc machine, and how many people have still got a functioning one of those?
As ever, the discography shown is selective. Essential formats are shown, and where other formats exist with identical/near-to-identical track listings, these will be shown in edited form. Any formats that exist with only non-exclusive material will be referred to in the text, but NOT in the discographies. For the actual albums, the most recent edition is (likely to be) detailed. Confused? I hope not…and as I always say, it makes sense when you read it.
Reg Strikes Back (Mercury 558 478-2)
Although some critics have failed to see anything extra special with the album, it did spawn some memorable singles in the form of “A Word In Spanish”, a pleasant, genteel ballad, not hampered by the eighties-production sound that could have marred such an effort earlier the same decade, and the upbeat romp that was “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That”, deemed funky enough to warrant a number of remixes. The album also featured a “follow up” to an earlier Elton composition, “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters”, titled - yep - “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Part 2)”. In the tour that followed, Elton would play the original version, and immediately follow it with the “Part 2” version.
The album was reissued in the late 90’s, with some of the single rarities being used to pad out the set. These included the b-side “Rope Around A Fool”, and remixes of “Mona Lisas” and “I Don’t Wanna…” - including mixes not commercially released in the UK. Elton would not record too many more songs that were deemed particularly “remix-able”, and so the expanded “Reg” is more or less the only Elton album which is expanded with “dance floor” material.
I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That/Rope Around A Fool/I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That (Shep Pettibone Mix)/(Video) (1988, CDV, Rocket 080524-2, standard CD copies/12” play same audio tracks, Video later included on “The Very Best Of Elton John“ DVD)
Town Of Plenty/Whipping Boy (1988, 7”, Rocket EJS 17, other formats exist with extra “non rare” tracks)
A Word In Spanish/Heavy Traffic/Song For Guy (Live In Australia)/Blue Eyes (Live In Australia)/I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (Live In Australia)/Daniel (Live In Australia)/A Word In Spanish (Video) (1988, CDV, Rocket 080624-2)
Nikita/I’m Still Standing (1988, 7”, Old Gold OG9776)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart +1 (1988, 7”, Old Gold OG 9789)
Song For Guy/Blue Eyes (1988, 7”, Old Gold OG 9791)
Through The Storm +1 (1989, 7”, Arista 112 185, duet with Aretha Franklin, also on other formats but with no extra Elton tracks)
Sleeping With The Past (Mercury 558 479-2)
Strangely, although Elton’s stock was quite high - I saw him during 1989 at the not-very-small Wembley Arena - he failed to do much chart wise with the singles that were lifted from the LP. By the start of 1990, two singles had been released to promote the record, but neither had done much in terms of sales. A planned third single, “Club At The End Of The Street”, was withdrawn from sale, although strangely, some copies seemed to have escaped and got released in Europe, meaning that copies of this single are not as hard to find as you might think. They are worth hunting down, as CD editions include what seems to be an exclusive, if not quite rare, live version of “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That”.
As legend would have it, it was Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright who, some months after the song had flopped in the singles charts, became obsessed with “Sacrifice” and began to play it on his show. The label decided to reissue the single, but possibly fearing that such a re-release might be seen as a blatant cash in, the decision was taken to issue the single with no rare material as extra tracks, whilst all the proceeds would be donated to charity. Issued as a AA with the other ’flop’ 45, “Healing Hands” (in the same basic sleeve as the original “Healing Hands” release), “Sacrifice” gave Elton his first number 1 single.
“Club At The End Of The Street” was then issued as a single (again), although it’s choice of B-side had changed by this time. The two main b-sides issued during this period, “Dancing In The End Zone” and “Love Is A Cannibal”, appear on the most recent (1998) reissue of the album, which also includes a different mix of “Durban Deep” when compared to the 1989 original.
Healing Hands (Shep Pettibone Remix)/(LP Version)/Dancing In The End Zone (1989, 12”, Rocket EJS 1912)
Healing Hands (Video)/Sad Songs (Live Verona 26.4.1989)/Dancing In The End Zone/Healing Hands (1989, CDV, Rocket 081400-2)
Sacrifice/Love Is A Cannibal (1989, 7”, Rocket EJS 20, CD and 12“ copies add “Durban Deep“)
Sacrifice/Healing Hands (1990, 7”, Rocket EJS 21, CD and 12“ copies add “Durban Deep“)
Club At The End Of The Street/Whispers (1990, 7”, Rocket EJS 22, CD and 12“ copies add “I Don‘t Wanna Go On With You Like That“)
The Collection (Pickwick PWKS 551)
To be honest, there is nothing rare on here, so it is probably only of interest to the completist. It appeared at a time when vinyl was still King, and the CD format was still only starting to make waves, and so it’s quite possible a lot of people bought this CD on the basis it was full of songs they only had on an LP record.
The track listing veers from well chosen (it opens with the first song off “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, the “Funeral For A Friend”/”Love Lies Bleeding” double header), to impressive (“Come Down In Time”, “The Greatest Discovery”, both live favourites on and off over the years), to downright obscure (“Blues For My Baby And Me”, “Teacher I Need You”). Apart from the odd “Crocodile Rock” here and there, there’s not much in the way of actual hits - a common feature of UK budget releases.
There are plenty of other equally bizarre “best of” sets in existence, but for the rest of this article, we shall keep on the straight and narrow. Starting with…
The Very Best Of Elton John (Rocket 846 947-2)
To Be Continued (Rocket 848 236-2)
Elton included a very brief sleeve note, which seemed to suggest the album was a “signing off” of what came before - maybe a reference to the libel case, etc - and even seemed to suggest he had discovered God at the same time. Whatever the reason for it’s release, it did a very good job of documenting Elton on 45, down to the point that the 1973 recorded but 1976 single release of “Bennie And The Jets” appeared after “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, thus maintaining the chronological order of the set.
Along with a few stand alone singles from the past, the set concluded with two new recordings, “Easier To Walk Away” and “You Gotta Love Someone”, both of which were issued as singles to coincide, although the latter was edited when issued on 45 (the original mix was also on the “Days Of Thunder“ soundtrack). Also issued in 1991, slightly randomly, was “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”, followed by a live duet of the same song with George Michael, on Michael’s label, which became a huge hit. The duet version became a bit of a rarity for a while, until getting a home on the 1993 “Duets” collection.
“To Be Continued” was a sort of “bigger” version of the hits collection, a 4-CD trawl through the archives, throwing in rarities left right and centre, including “Easier To Walk Away“. Too many others to mention here. It was issued initially in the US, with the UK one appearing at a later date in a new sleeve, and with a slightly altered track listing. A select number were hand signed by Elton, and sold exclusively - I think - through the Harrods shop in London. Suffice to say, you will have to pay a small fortune for this version of the box.
You Gotta Love Someone (Edit)/Medicine Man/Medicine Man With Adamski (1990, 12”, Rocket EJS 2412, also on CD)
Christmas EP: Step Into Christmas/Cold As Christmas/Easier To Walk Away/I Swear I Heard The Night Talking (1990, 7”, Rocket EJSX 25)
Easier To Walk Away/I Swear I Heard The Night Talking/Made For Me (1990, 12”, Rocket EJS 2512, also on CD)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me/Song For Guy (1991, 7”, Rocket EJS 26, 12“/CD copies add “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word“)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live With George Michael) +1 (1991, 7”, Epic 657646-7, other formats exist with more Elton-less tracks)
Nikita/I’m Still Standing/I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (1992, CD, Old Gold OG 6161)
The One (Mercury 558 480-2)
By now, it had become almost law for any act releasing a single to issue it on two CD formats, and Elton duly obliged. Trouble was, there wasn’t usually much extra material around to help pad the formats out. “The One”, issued as the first single, appeared in both a nifty looking digipack sleeve with two new B-sides, “Suit Of Wolves” and “Fat Boys And Ugly Girls”, and a second “hits” CD with an image of Elton on the cover, and a load of old singles as B-sides. In some overseas territories, the single was issued in the “Elton” sleeve but with the new B-sides on the single instead.
The third single from the LP, “The Last Song”, included remixes of “The Man Who Never Died” and “Song For Guy” as b-sides on CD1, whilst CD2 - in a slightly altered sleeve - added all three songs from the 1979 “Thom Bell” EP. A nice touch, but to a certain extent, slightly pointless yet again. By the time “Simple Life” was issued as a single, there was simply nothing left in the vaults, and the only selling point of this single was the fact that the A-side appeared in a newly edited mix. Suffice to say, it was a bit of a flop, stalling outside the top 40 if my memory serves me correctly.
“The One” was the ‘last’ Elton LP to get a reissue during the 1998 “Classic Years” reissue campaign, and thus now includes the two b-sides from “The One” CD Single as bonus tracks. All subsequent Elton albums are, usually, only available with the same track listing they had from day one, as the 2003 “Remasters” campaign only dealt with selected albums from the 1977-1988 period of his career.
The One/Suit Of Wolves/Fat Boys And Ugly Girls (1992, CD, Rocket EJSCB 28)
Runaway Train/Understanding Women (Extended Remix)/Made For Me (1992, CD, Rocket EJSCD 29)
The Last Song/The Man Who Never Died (Remix)/Song For Guy (Remix) (1992, CD, Rocket EJSCD 30)
Simple Life (Edit)/The Last Song/The North (1993, CD, Rocket EJSCD 31)
Rare Masters (DJM 514 305-2)
Duets (Rocket 518 478-2)
1993’s “Duets” album, seemed to be a bit of a mis-step. Whether it was Elton opting to duet with artists quite simply beneath him (PM Dawn), or Elton agreeing to sing songs written by his duet partner (Nik Kershaw’s “Old Friend”), it veers a bit too near the middle of the road at times. It feels, for the first half an hour or so, that Elton is just in the middle of a back slapping exercise, happy to tread water as he hangs out with Little Richard and co.
It’s not all bad. The opening kd Lang duet, a cover of Womack & Womack‘s “Teardrops”, is a sprightly little romp, whilst the waltz like cover of “True Love”, with Kiki Dee, is a not too schmaltzy, feel good bit of fun. Getting back with his old sparring partner seems to work well on this one. And once it’s past the halfway stage, it starts to improve - the magnificent RuPaul assisted hi-energy remake of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, the country twang of “Love Letters”, even having George Michael on that live version of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” fails to destroy the simplistic brilliance of the song.
Both “True Love” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” were released as singles. The latter was issued on two CD’s, one of which included the one time rarity “Donner Pour Donner” - a 1980’s French only B-side, but which was rescued from obscurity by being included on “To Be Continued”. “True Love” went down the ’duet’ route, by coming backed with songs of Elton performing with other artists. CD1 included Elton’s live performance of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” at the 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute gig, backed by the rest of Queen themselves, plus the Eric Clapton duet “Runaway Train” from “The One”. CD2 included older duets from Elton’s past (“Wrap Her Up”, “That’s What Friends Are For” and ’Part 1’ of “Act Of War”), but other than the latter two getting a second lease of life on CD, again, it’s an academic release.
A third single from “Duets”, “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”, was actually issued by the label of it’s duet partner, Marcella Detroit. Suffice to say, of the two CD’s issued, one was backed with Detroit only extras, but CD2 included a couple of remixes of the A-side. Both were issued in slightly different picture sleeves.
True Love/The Show Must Go On (Live, Wembley Stadium 20.4.1992)/Runaway Train (1993, CD, Rocket EJSCD 32, Cassette copies exist which omit “Runaway Train“)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Moroder 7” Mix)/(Moroder 12” Mix)/(Serious Rope 7” Mix)/(Serious Rope 12” Mix)/(Serious Rope Instrumental)/(Serious Rope Dirty Dub) (1994, CD, Rocket EJRMX 33)
Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing (Kenny Dope Extended Mix)/(Troopa Mood Mix) +2 (1994, CD, London LOCDP 350)
Chartbusters Go Pop (RPM Records RPM142)
With Elton struggling to do much in the late 60’s and early 70’s, he recorded a number of songs for these albums, but it was not until the early 1990’s that his involvement became public knowledge, and thus it was the RPM label who lovingly compiled “Chartbusters Go Pop”, pulling together Elton’s anonymous outings on these albums, in a sleeve that was a homage to the old records. A number of alternate versions of this same album, including some with several songs missing, have since cropped up in recent years.
Back in the real world, Elton was heavily involved in the soundtrack to the “Lion King”. He contributed three new songs to the album, and two of these were issued as singles in 1994, with the first such release, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, coming backed with an exclusive instrumental mix. CD editions of the single added Elton-less bonus tracks, whilst not one of the formats of “Circle Of Life” included any Elton material as an extra track at all. Both these singles later made it onto 1995’s “Love Songs”, but the third Elton song - “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” - remains exclusive to the original soundtrack album.
Can You Feel The Love Tonight (LP Version)/(Instrumental) (1994, 7”, Mercury EJS 34, other formats play same songs, some with Elton-less bonus tracks)
Circle Of Life +3 (1994, CD, Mercury EJSCD 35, other formats include same/less number of bonus tracks, but Elton does not feature on any)
Made in England (Rocket 526 185-2)
“Made In England” seemed to have an air of seriousness about it. Most of the songs had one word titles (“Belfast”, “Latitude”, “Lies”, and so on), whilst the lead single, “Believe”, was a thrilling, near bombastic roar of a single, complete with black and white video. And whilst the title track seemed like a knockabout, upbeat feeling piece of bouncy pop, it was actually rather bleak, and nearly very anti-English.
Again, B-sides were running out quite quickly into the promo campaign. Although the different CD editions of “Believe” came with previously unissued live material from the 1994 “Solo” tour, “Made In England” only included three rarities, despite being issued on three different editions. A second limited edition CD, housed in a slightly different sleeve, included the three tracks from the 1980 “Live With John Lennon” EP. Again, a nice touch, but all three tracks were available on the reissued “Here And There” by 1996, so this is another CD Single only of interest to the “hardcore”.
The promo campaign was not quite over, but the next single from “Made In England” was actually issued as a trailer for Elton’s next LP, “Love Songs”.
Believe/The One (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994)/The Last Song (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994) (1995, CD1, Rocket EJSCD 36)
Believe (Album Mix)/(Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994)/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994) (1995, CD2, Rocket EJSDD 36)
Made In England/Can You Feel The Love Tonight/Daniel (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994) (1995, Cassette, Rocket EJSMC 37)
Made In England/Can You Feel The Love Tonight/Your Song (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994)/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994) (1995, CD, Rocket EJSCD 37)
Love Songs (Rocket 528 788-2)
Basically, this was a 17 song trawl through the archives, with most of the songs being, if not love songs per se, of the ballad variety. “Your Sister Can’t Twist But She Can Rock And Roll” isn’t on here, for example. The two singles from the “Lion King” soundtrack made it onto here, as did some material from “Made in England”.
Initially, one such song, “Blessed”, was planned to be issued as a single to plug both this and the “Made In England” album, and promo copies were sent to radio, with stock copies of both planned CD Single editions being produced. But for some reason, the release was pulled, and a replacement, “Please”, was issued as the next single instead. The same sleeves were used, and with the two titles being of a similar length, it probably didn’t take too much effort to alter the cover artwork. The planned B-sides, meanwhile, remained identical. Only the catalogue numbers changed.
The b-sides on CD1 were a couple of remixes of "Made In England”, whilst CD2 included some live recordings from the same gigs that were used for the “Here And There” LP. However, all three live tracks were also included on the expanded reissue of the LP that was re-released at more or less the same time, so is only of interest to completists thanks to it’s slightly altered sleeve design.
Please/Made In England (Junior’s Sound Factory Mix)/(Junior’s Joyous Mix) (1996, CD, Rocket EJSCD 40)
The Big Picture (Rocket 536 266-2)
Take the lead single, “Live Like Horses”. A duet with Pavarotti at his 1996 “War Child” charity concert, it sounds exactly like you think it would. Big sounding, over-wrought, and trying a bit too hard to be over-earnest, and if you don’t like Opera, well, then you won’t like the Pavarotti bits either. “If The River Can Bend” sounds far too worryingly like the theme from “Wild At Heart” for comfort, and whilst I do have a bit of a soft spot for “Recover You Soul”, it does sound almost woefully under produced - think of it as minimalist AOR. Indeed, it was the production of “The Big Picture” that wrankled Taupin.
From a collectors point of view, however, the singles produced quite a few items of interest. “Horses” was issued on two CD’s, with each of the two editions including two versions of the track with Pavarotti - one from the gig, and a studio mix. CD1 added a “solo” version, the same as the one that would eventually appear on the LP, whilst CD2 - housed in a different sleeve - added “Step Into Christmas” and an edited mix of the single that never was, “Blessed”.
“Something About The Way You Look Tonight”, a sweeping roar of a single, was up next. Complete with a promo video full of supermodels (including my own personal favourite, Sophie Dahl - here’s where I get my plug in for my website...google “Sophie Dahl Rocks“), it was lined up to be released just prior to the album, and once again, promo and stock copies were produced. However, the death of the Princess Of Wales just prior to it’s release caused a rethink. Elton was friends with Diana, and decided he should do something as a tribute. So he and Taupin wrote and recorded a new version of “Candle In The Wind”, and decided to release it as a double A-side with “Something”. The idea behind this, was that if the single charted, radio stations would have a “non gloomy” song to play, and TV stations could play the video for “Something” instead. Of course, the plan backfired. As the single hit the top of the charts, outselling every single ever released, TV stations made their own video for “Candle In The Wind”, on the basis that this was the reason the single was in the charts in the first place. And Elton came in for a bit of stick by supposedly using the tragedy as what seemed to be an excuse to plug his new LP. Of course, that wasn’t the plan - one track CD Singles just weren’t the done thing back then - and in any case, it’s doubtful that many of the “casual” fans who bought the single even knew, or cared, about the LP.
B-sides from the cancelled version of the single crept out on both the “Diana” version of the single, and “Recover Your Soul”. In a throwback to the olden days, CD1 of the “If The River Can Bend” release was nothing more than a “greatest hits” EP, but CD2 offered up three previously unissued tracks from a 1998 Paris gig.
Live Like Horses (With Pavarotti)/(Live, War Child Concert 1996)/I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (Live, War Child Concert 1996)/Live Like Horses (1996, CD1, Rocket LLHCD1)
Live Like Horses (With Pavarotti)/(Live, War Child Concert 1996)/Step Into Christmas/Blessed (Edit) (1996, CD2, Rocket LLHDD1, different p/s)
Something About The Way You Look Tonight (Edit)/Candle In The Wind 1997/You Can Make History (Young Again) (1997, CD, Rocket PTCD1)
Recover Your Soul (Single Remix)/Big Man In A Little Suit/I Know Why I’m In Love/Recover Your Soul (1998, CD1, Rocket EJSCD 42)
Recover Your Soul (Single Remix)/No Valentines/Recover Your Soul (LP Mix)/(Video) (1998, CD2, Rocket EJSCX 42, different p/s)
If The River Can Bend/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live, Paris The Ritz 1998)/I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (Live, Paris The Ritz 1998)/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live, Paris The Ritz 1998) (1998, CD, Rocket EJSDD 43)
One Night Only (Mercury 548 333-2)
Live At Madison Square Garden (Rocket EJC 0001)
Elton later admitted to hating the release, “cringing” when it was released, as I understand he did a “hits” show against his wishes, although some fans claim it was due to the poor vocals on the album. Whatever the reason, it is a slightly odd album - made even more confusing by the fact that the songs seem to appear in a different order to which they were played onstage on the night.
Interestingly, when Elton released his “1970-2002” hits set a few years later, an accompanying DVD entitled “Greatest Hits Live 1970-2002” was issued in a similar sleeve to the “1970-2002” album, but was actually the full blown concert that had been used to compile “One Night Only”. This DVD can also now be found as part of the 4xDVD Box Set “Dream Ticket”.
Arguably more interesting is the fan club only “Live At Madison Square Garden”, taped a year earlier, and issued by Elton’s “Rocket Club”. There’s a few hits on here, but elsewhere, the choice of material is fascinating (“Ticking”, “Sweet Painted Lady”, etc). I understand that anybody joining the fan club got this as their free gift, and if they re-subscribed at later dates, got other live CD’s or DVD’s as their thank you present. From what I can gather, two more fan club only CD’s exist - “Live At Madison Square Garden Vol 2” and “Elton John Live”.
Prior to all of this, Elton had worked with Tim Rice on a musical called “Aida”, and in 1999, helped put together an album of songs that were to be featured in the musical. Various celebrity friends helped out, whilst Elton sang/duetted on four songs, one of which, “Written In The Stars”, was issued as a single to coincide. Since then, Elton has worked on a number of other musical and soundtrack albums, although in each case, a number of songs were Elton-less. For the record, these releases - many containing what are exclusive material - are 1999’s “The Muse”, 2000’s “The Road To El Dorado” and 2011’s “Gnomeo And Juliet”.
Written In The Stars (Album Version)/(Alternate Version)/Recover Your Soul (Live, Paris The Ritz 1998) (1999, CD1, Rocket EJSCD 45)
Written In The Stars/Aida Album Sampler/Your Song (Live) (1999, CD2, Rocket EJSDD 45, different p/s)
One Night Only EP: Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Live In New York City 2000)/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live In New York City 2000)/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live In New York City 2000)/Someone Saved My Life Tonight (Live In New York City 2000) (2001, CD, Mercury INDEPENDENT 402, UK only newspaper freebie)
Songs From The West Coast (Mercury 063 087-0)
Greatest Hits 1970-2002 (063 449-2)
A huge chunk of B-sides were issued across these singles, no “greatest hits” EP’s this time, although many of the tracks were actually live recordings from Elton’s September 9th BBC Radio Theatre gig. The three videos were also included on enhanced sections across the CD Singles. After the release of “Original Sin”, a re-recorded “Your Song”, with Alessandro Safina, for the Sport Relief charity, was issued as a single in the summer of 2002. A reissued version of “Songs For The West Coast” appeared thereafter, in slightly revamped artwork, and with a bonus CD. The CD included, amongst other things, the re-recorded “Your Song” plus some slightly superfluous dance mixes of both this and “Original Sin”. The three videos, again, were all included as well.
Although 1990’s “Very Best Of” was a near faultless attempt on filling up two CD’s worth of hits, the “1970-2002” release did equally well, managing to squeeze in a few newer songs without disrupting the oldies too much, as well as throwing in some rarites (the radio edit of “Something About The Way You Look Tonight”, the non-album “Philadlephia Freedom”, and so on). Some copies were issued as a 3-disc set, with CD3 throwing in more album tracks and oddities, and after the re-issued “Are You Ready For Love” hit the top spot, later pressings included this song as well. For clarity’s sake, the catalogue numbers shown above related to the 2-CD edition of “Songs”, and the original first 2-CD pressing of “1970”.
I Want Love/The North Star/Tiny Dancer (Live New York Madison Square Gardens, October 2000)/I Want Love (Video) (2001, CD1, Rocket 588 706-2)
I Want Love/God Never Came There/The One (Live New York Madison Square Gardens, October 2000) (2001, CD2, Rocket 588 707-2, different p/s)
West Coast Songs EP: Ballad Of The Boy In The Red Shoes/Album Snippets/Tiny Dancer (Live New York Madison Square Gardens, October 2000)/I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That (Live) (2001, CD, Rocket EJSE1, newspaper freebie, originally issued with free magazine featuring Elton on cover)
This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore/Did Anybody Sleep With Joan Of Arc?/I Want Love (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001) (2002, CD1, Rocket 588 896-2, with insert)
This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore/American Triangle (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001)/Philadelphia Freedom (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001) (2002, CD2, Rocket 588 897-2, different p/s)
Original Sin/I’m Still Standing (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001)/This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001)/(Video) (2002, CD1, Rocket 588 999-2, with insert)
Original Sin (LP Version)/(Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001)/All The Girls Love Alice (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001)/Original Sin (Video) (2002, CD2, Rocket 582 850-2, different p/s)
Your Song (2002)/(Instrumental)/(2002 Video) (2002, CD, Mercury 063 9972)
Are You Ready For Love (Radio Edit)/(Original)/Three Way Love Affair/Are You Ready For Love (Video) (2003, CD, Southern Fried ECB 50 CDS)
Are You Ready For Love (Original)/(Ashley Beedle Love And Protection Mono Edit) (2003, Pink Vinyl 12”, Southern Fried ECB 50)
Are You Ready For Love (Original)/(Freeform Five Remix) (2003, 12”, Southern Fried ECB 50 LOVE)
Are You Ready For Love (Radio Slave Remix)/(Serge Santiago Re-edit) (2003, 2nd 12”, Southern Fried ECB 50 LOVER1)
Peachtree Road (Mercury 987 2303)
The first single from the album, “All That I’m Allowed”, was issued on a limited edition, numbered 7”, housed in the old “Rocket Record Company” die cut sleeve, with a track from the Thom Bell sessions, “Nice And Slow”, on the b-side - the first time it had been officially available, non-import wise, in the UK.
By 2005, Elton had been involved in the “Billy Elliot” musical, and wrote a number of songs for the production. “Peachtree Road” was reissued with three tracks from the show, including the brilliantly titled “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher”, and “Electricity”, which was issued as a single to coincide. The 7”, pressed on blue vinyl, featured a live version of “Bite Your Lip” on the flipside, taped at a show at the Atlanta Tabernacle in November 2004. Another live song from the show, “Your Song”, appeared in both audio and video form on one of the two CD single editions. The b-side of CD1 was “Indian Sunset” from “Madman Across The Water” (albeit in edited form), picked because it had recently been sampled on a single by Tupac, “Ghetto Gospel”, which had been a huge UK hit. Some copies of the single were pressed incorrectly, and skipped halfway through, making it even more edited than planned!
The reissued version of the album came in a new sleeve, featuring a drawing of Elton, similar to that used on the sleeve of the “Turn The Lights Out When You Leave” single, whilst limited edition copies of the re-pressing came with a free DVD, featuring the nine songs used to open the aforementioned Atlanta show. This version of the album came in a different colour sleeve to the “standard” reissue, and the catalogue number above relates to this pressing.
All That I’m Allowed/Nice And Slow (2004, 7”, Rocket 9868689, numbered die cut sleeve)
All That I’m Allowed/Keep It A Mystery (2004, CD1, Rocket 9868258)
All That I’m Allowed/So Sad The Renegade/A Little Peace (2004, CD2, Rocket 9868257, different p/s)
Turn The Lights Out When You Leave (Edit)/Things Only Get Better With Love (2005, CD1, Rocket 9870664)
Turn The Lights Out When You Leave/How’s Tomorrow/Peter’s Song (2005, CD2, Rocket 9870663)
Electricity/Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance!) (Live, Atlanta The Tabernacle, November 2004) (2005, Blue Vinyl 7”, Mercury 9872343, with poster)
Electricity/Indian Sunset (Edit) (2005, CD1, Mercury 9872164, red p/s)
Electricity (LP Version)/(Orchestral)/Your Song (Live, Atlanta The Tabernacle, November 2004)/(Live, Atlanta The Tabernacle, November 2004 - Video) (2005, CD2, Mercury 9872183)
The Captain And The Kid (Mercury 1707366)
Rocket Man (Mercury 1724430)
Live 2009 (Concert Live no cat. No)
The Red Piano 2009 (Concert Live no cat. No)
Ray Cooper 2009 (Concert Live no cat. No)
The Union (Mercury 2750157)
Good Morning To The Night (Mercury 37110858)
“Rocket Man”, issued in 2007, coincided with Elton’s 60th birthday. It was dubbed “The Definitive Hits”, but by restricting itself to a single CD, and by ignoring any sort of chronological order, seems a pointless release when compared to 1990’s “Very Best Of” or 2002’s “Greatest Hits”. It was sold on the basis that it provided an “introduction” to new fans. A fancy hardback book edition was released, with a free DVD featuring five songs from the ongoing “Red Piano” tour (a triple disc DVD release from the tour appeared in 2008) and five selected promo videos, including one for “Tinderbox”. Again, the catalogue number shown above relates to this edition.
The “2009” albums were part of the now commonplace world of the mail order only “Official Bootleg” CD’s, through websites like Concert Live. A number of shows were selected for release. The “Live 2009” ones are from Elton’s summer concerts, whilst the “Red Piano” and “Ray Cooper” ones are from the fall. The Cooper ones featured Elton and Cooper alone on stage, the two having played shows such as these on and off since the late 70’s.
In recent years, critics have continued to fall over themselves to praise our Reg, with “The Union”, a collaboration with one of Elton’s heroes, Leon Russell, gaining much love from the critics in 2010, whilst this year saw Elton hit the top of the UK album charts for the first time in years - “Good Morning To The Night” was another collaboration, this time with Aussie dance types Pnau, and consists of songs pieced together using samples of pre-1988 Elton recordings. It was initially issued as a half hour long mini album, before re-appearing days later as a longer LP, with bonus remixes. The catalogue number above relates to this second pressing.
If It Wasn’t For Bad/A Dream Come True (2010, 7”, Mercury 2751635)