It was designed to be a blockbuster and it was. Prior to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
, Elton John had hits -- his second album, Elton John
, went Top 10 in the U.S. and U.K., and he had smash singles in "Crocodile Rock" and "Daniel" -- but this 1973 album was a statement of purpose spilling over two LPs, which was all the better to showcase every element of John's spangled personality. Opening with the 11-minute melodramatic exercise "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" -- as prog as Elton ever got -- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
immediately embraces excess but also tunefulness, as John immediately switches over to "Candle in the Wind" and "Bennie & the Jets," two songs that form the core of his canon and go a long way toward explaining the over-stuffed appeal of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
. This was truly the debut of Elton John the entertainer, the pro who knows how to satisfy every segment of his audience, and this eagerness to please means the record is giddy but also overwhelming, a rush of too much muchness
. Still, taken a side at a time, or even a song a time, it is a thing of wonder, serving up such perfectly sculpted pop songs as "Grey Seal," full-bore rockers as "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock & Roll)," cinematic ballads like "I've Seen That Movie Too," throwbacks to the dusty conceptual sweep of Tumbleweed Connection
in the form of "The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-34)," and preposterous glam novelties, like "Jamaica Jerk-Off." This touched on everything John did before, and suggested ways he'd move in the near-future, and that sprawl is always messy but usually delightful, a testament to Elton's '70s power as a star and a musician.