Still Digging Elton 60 Years On

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I've been an Elton John fan since I was a little kid, so despite his artistic ups and downs I remain loyal to the man 'cause he still comes out with tasty surprises every now and again worth exploring. But I have to admit when I first heard about his engagements in Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace, I was aghast and pretty sure it was the end of the road for Sir Elton. Certainly, there was no way that Elton could bring rock and roll credibility to the same stage where the likes of Celine Dion entertained the generic masses (sorry Celine fans). 


Boy, was I wrong.


A couple years ago I came across a bargain bin Blu-ray Disc copy of Elton's storied Sin City show, The Red Piano, and was stunned how good it was. Not just the production values and surround sound and all that -- I'd expect as much from one of the richest artists in the world -- but the show was actually a lot of fun. More importantly, it rocked! The version of The Who's "Pinball Wizard" is fabulous merged brilliantly with their "I Can't Explain." These aren't just walk through version of the tunes; there is some great stuff in here! A bonus interview on the disc revealed Sir Elton's concept behind the show; it was during that interview I realized that despite all the success he has had, Elton is still the same authentic rocker we grew up loving. He was extremely humble. Later interviews I saw on Elvis Costello's HBO series Spectacle reaffirmed this, renewing my faith that Elton was indeed back for us fans for the long haul.


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The Blu-ray Disc included two CDs of the same show and I was happy to have that for listening in the car and in my office. Unfortunately the packaging on that set was such that I actually snapped the disc in half one day while pulling out a disc to take on the road. Bummer! I've considered buying a new copy of the concert on CD just to have it.  


But then a couple weeks ago, I had the good fortune to find a crazy bargain at Amoeba Records in the used bins: a three LP set of The Red Piano show... for $8.


Yes, you read the right. $8 for a pretty much pristine vinyl three-disc set. Obviously some hipster working there isn't much of an Elton fan. Hipsters be damned, I snapped up that bargain.


And it sounds great as live recordings (of probably digital origin) go! This is a fun set with solid interpretations of many of his classics. What is really great about this show is how personal Elton makes it. Even though he's playing on one of America's biggest stages to an enormous audience, it plays like he is in a small club. 


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I have no idea where this album was sold initially. Maybe it was one of those exclusives to Best Buy or something. Whatever the case its cool to know that there is a nice -- albeit oddly packaged as three unique single covers housed in a sort of slip case that holds them all together as a set -- LP version available. I have no idea how rare this may be but there are versions of it selling on eBay ranging from $25 to $199! 


You can find it on Amazon for about $29 as well.


If you haven't seen Elton's show live, you should try to catch him. After all these years, earlier this year I got tickets for Elton's new Million Dollar Piano show and it was absolutely fantastic. Now I just hope he'll put out a Blu-ray Disc documenting that run of shows. And maybe there will be another LP version but this time I won't wait to find it for $8 on discount. I'll get it right out of the gate. 


After all, I am a fan for the long haul.


Rock on Elton.



Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com.  He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written: www.dialthemusical.com. 
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