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Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Classic Albums
Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 49 mins . M15+ . PAL


Thereís one thing that seems to be more often than not forgotten nowadays when people think of Elton John. Whilst visions of outfits that would make Liberace blush, outrageous pairs of spectacles that make Dame Ednaís look like NHS standard issue and all manner of personal things to do with anything but his music seem to have no trouble dancing through minds, it is often the manís simply phenomenal melodic and performing talent that gets overlooked. The Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album is possibly the greatest showcase of his remarkable abilities, a truly classic release from the Ď70s. Just think of some of his all-time most popular songs Ė the title track, Bennie and the Jets, Saturday Nightís Alright For Fighting, and, of course, the seminal Candle in the Wind - and guess what they all have in common. Yes, they all hark from this one phenomenal release.

While this episode in the Classic Albums series does base itself around the recording of this particular album, it also delves deeper into the history of Elton, and never let it be forgotten his remarkable musical partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin and indeed his incredible musical cohorts guitarist Davey Johnstone, bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson. Naturally a selection of the more popular songs are concentrated on, with much time spent on the four songs mentioned above, however forays are also made into album tracks such as Ballad of Danny Bailey, Roy Rogers, Harmony and the delightfully titled Jamaica Jerk Off.

When these guys make a documentary, they certainly do it in style. As well as the usual types we get in such shows as journalists and super-fans, much interview time is spent with Elton and Bernie themselves, surviving band members Davey and Nigel, orchestral arranger Del Newman and possibly most importantly, producer Gus Dudgeon (the man also responsible for David Bowieís still awe-inspiring Space Oddity). The latter spends much time with engineer David Hentschel playing about with the original master tapes, picking out certain parts, mixing them up and in all cooking up a fabulous cocktail that any music buff should be fascinated by.

Add to all this looks at Eltonís first sortie to the USA, behind the scenes footage from the time of recording and all manner of performance clips from the studio, television and the live arena at various stages through his career, and you have a documentary that will delight fans, and indeed anybody interested in how a classic record comes into existence.

"You cannot be a sex symbol sitting at a piano."


As most anybody should expect with a release combining everything from 2001 vintage interview footage to film dating back to the very early Ď70s, visual quality varies markedly throughout. Itís all presented in a 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 ratio, and it seems rather churlish to say much more. Specks and other blots on the landscape abound in some footage, whilst other portions of the programme present us with absolutely pristine vision. Itís never tragic, and still better than many similar documentaries that weíve seen around these parts on DVD.

Being of televisual origin, unfortunately the sound is a little disappointing, being only in Dolby Digital stereo. Whatís here is always clear and easy to understand, with no synching dramas to speak of, however the musical snippets never get a chance to leap forth as many would most likely hope. Itís certainly no tragedy; itís just no jaw-dropping thrill, either.

Whilst thereís only one extra as such, it is a mighty entertaining one. A series of further interviews are included, totalling around 35 minutes and all in the same format as the main feature, expanding upon themes often just touched on in the programme proper. Thereís plenty more twiddling at the desk from Gudgeon, lots of Daveyís solo riffs to gape at and the remarkable album opening couplet of Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding gets more of the attention it deserves. This often throws up footage thatís more interesting than that featured in the main show, and should not be missed.

Before all the tanties and tiaras, the scuttlebutt about his private life and Candle in the Wind becoming a hymn to poor Princess Diana, there was a quite amazing epic double album entitled Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This documentary manages to pay it some of the respect it truly deserves, and does it in a style that is always entertaining. Even with the bonus footage, basically the only problem with this fascinating release is that itís too short. Now THAT is something worth chucking a tantrum over!

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  •   And I quote...
    "Basically the only problem with this fascinating release about a quite amazing epic double album is that itís too short..."
    - Amy Flower
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