Color me skeptical.
You see, I’m a huge Elton John fan and I own a goodly portion of his albums on compact disc dating back to his first album release entitled “Empty Sky” from 1969.
I also own quite a few collections of his greatest hits on CD ranging from the sublime mastering of Elton’s 1974 “Greatest Hits” from the DCC specialty label to the not so great mastering of “Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits” which was released on Mercury Records in 2007.
Does the world really need another Elton John hits collection? Do I? Apparently the answer to both those questions is yes.
“Elton John – Diamonds” was released this past November and when I first read about it I shrugged. Looks nice but there’s a million Elton John hits CDs out there I thought to myself.
Besides the trend for Elton John reissues in the past decade and a half or so that highlight his peak hit-making years have tended to be mastered very loud or as audiophiles call them “brickwalled”.
Brickwalled CDs sound very loud at low volumes and lack the dynamics and warmth of the vinyl versions as well as early CD versions of an artist’s material.
I’ve not been impressed with the louder and more recent Elton John collections so this new set seemed pretty uneventful at first glance.
Anyway, “Diamonds” comes in four different versions – a single CD disc, a double CD set, a 3 CD box set and a 2 Lp vinyl set.
The 3 CD set comes in a nifty box with a small hardback book and some small prints and contains a nice 3rd disc of fairly interesting and somewhat obscure Elton John songs that Elton himself selected.
Of course the more expensive box set is the only one of the four that really peaked my interest!
I must say the song selection on all three versions of Elton John “Diamonds” is okay but in general, while a nice overview of the hits, I didn’t really have any need to buy another Elton John hits collection.
So, I avoided this particular set. Until now.
As usual, Amazon (will I ever learn to avoid that Website!) had a very decent price on the 3 CD box set version so I threw caution (or candles lol) to the wind last week and ordered one.
The other main reason I was also tempted to buy “Diamonds” is that I read online that it was mastered by renowned audio engineer Bob Ludwig. Ludwig has recently remastered several of John’s albums for vinyl reissues and the two of those that I’ve heard sound fantastic!
Ludwig’s involvement was all I really needed to peek my curiosity into overdrive and into purchase mode. Thus here we are!
So, today this tiny blue box of Elton goodness appeared at my snow-covered door.
I plopped the first CD into my player as I looked through the book that came with it I thought “mmm, not too bad.”
I skimmed through a few of the selections on all three discs and I must say that I was relieved to find that this set does indeed sound pretty good.
Some songs are a bit louder than others but there is a clarity and presence on these tracks that makes them sound quite fresh and alive.
There are some instances where the clarity is so different I wonder if there has been some remixing going on on a few of the tracks.
“Philadelphia Freedom” for example stands out as sounding different enough in the level of certain instruments in the mix that it just sounds like a remix to me.
I’d say that while the tracks are a bit hotter than I’d prefer, in general I think the clarity and presence on this set is pretty impressive. It could have been mastered a tad bit quieter but overall is pretty nice.
A song like “Little Jeannie” has never sounded as good as it does on this new set.
So after all the back and forth in my mind on purchasing this new collection, I’m glad I did. I think I’ll return to it quite often as I really enjoy how fresh these well played songs now sound.
I’m pretty certain this will be my last Elton John hits collection, at least I think so, and if so it’s a nice place to stop.
Above as always are a few photos of the 3 CD box set I just received.
I see that Amazon has raised the price on the box and it seems to becoming harder to find. So if you can find the box at a good price, it’s really a pretty nice collection.
This may not be the end all best Elton John hits collection ever released but it is better than I expected and for a novice or casual fan I’d say it’s an exceptional purchase.
For true blue Elton fans it’s certainly not essential but for the right price you could do worse and it certainly sounds better than the last few hits collections of Elton’s music that have been released.
Until next time, enjoy a nice serving of Elton John and as always be well and spin some more music!