Elton John seems to be getting a lot of press attention in the last few months that’s for sure.
What with his biopic movie “Rocketman”, with its Oscar nomination for the song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”, and his autobiography “Me” popping up in news feeds constantly it seems like Elton John is on a roll. One could certainly call 2019 a good year for Elton John.
But, did you know that it was also a really good year for CD reissues of his classic albums as well?
A good chunk of Elton John’s earlier work has just been recently reissued in Japan on SHM-CD, again, and the results are fantastic. You see these albums have been reissued just a few times even on SHM-CD but this time the results are truly something special.
I have been reading about these new 2019 SHM-CD reissues for a few months online and decided to take a dip into the Elton SHM-CD pool recently and came up with three of my favorite Elton John albums: “Madman Across the Water”, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” and “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”.
I had read that these new SHM-CD versions were some of the best sounding Elton John transfers in the digital age and I am happy to report that I find that to be true as well – at least for the three discs that I bought.
Not only do they sound great but the mini-Lp CD packaging is superb, as usual, and contains all the booklets and posters that came with the original vinyl issues which makes these SHM-CD packages something truly wonderful to behold.
Let me start with the first SHM-CD I played of the three I bought: “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”
After placing the shiny disc in the CD player tray I was shocked to find that as I stepped away from my CD player I actually had to go back not once but TWICE to turn the sound up! Dynamics, full dynamics. I’ll be damned.
Needless to say I was thrilled by the sound. Nice and clean, lovely smooth acoustic guitar, great bass and crisp bass drum sound all sounding, dare I say it, analog. There was absolutely no fatigue at all listening to this disc.
This is by far my best digital representation of this album that I own and I own a couple of copies including the first USA MCA CD pressing as well as the first UK CD pressing on the DJM label . This new disc really sounds a lot like that original DJM but with improved clarity and a better sound stage.
“Tell Me When the Whistle Blows” sounded particularly good as the horns and orchestration stood out to me as never before. It sounded so much clearer that it could almost be a remix but it didn’t have that digital sound that it most likely would have had it been newly remixed.
The sound was so good and so enjoyable in fact that I was anxious to give one of my favorite early Elton albums, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player”, a tryout. After just a few bars into the first song and I could tell this disc sounded superb as well, just right in fact.
The first song I played was “Blues for Baby and Me” which has always been one of my favorite Elton tracks and it didn’t disappoint. This SHM-CD is loaded with dynamics just like the previous disc.
I’ve always been partial to the original USA CD pressing of this album on MCA that was pressed in Japan. It has great dynamics too but this song in particular has a clarity and better bass than that version which leads me to pick this version as the best sounding digital version that I’ve personally heard.
Even “Crocodile Rock” which is one of my least favorite Elton songs due to its being overplayed to death sounded more fresh then I’ve ever heard it. It was so clear that it almost sounded remixed. It sounded so good I might even play it again which is saying something for this song.
Playing through the “Madman Across the Water” album (the title song is perfect for the current political climate we’re living in) was pretty much the same experience as both of the previous albums – superb sound with full dynamics and great mastering. The mastering on these discs is what really makes a difference.
(Note: I believe these new SHM-CDs are the only CDs in the world to feature this new mastering and because its uniformly excellent it’s well worth tracking down a CD or two if you’re a major Elton John fan and still like to collect physical media.)
I was surprised at just how good these new SHM-CDs sound compared with other more recent Elton John remasters. It’s no contest they smoke most other previous CD versions that have been available!
It’s so great to hear this material without feeling like your ears are bleeding from the loudness and or hardness like the mastering of prior Elton John CD reissues especially the ones from the mid 1990s.
I’m tempted to buy more which is really saying something as I pretty much felt I had the best CD versions out there of Elton John’s classic album period … and I did, until now.
So there you have it Elton fans. If you need an Elton fix these new SHM-CDs are the way to go for sure. And if you want to gaze above at some photos of the three Elton John SHM-CDs I purchased please do. They are really fantastic to look at as well as play.
As usual, be well and see you next time around!