ELTON JOHN – ” Madman Across The Water ” 50th Anniversary Edition

Posted: April 21, 2022 in MUSIC

Elton John’s fourth studio album release in little over two years, “Madman Across The Water” has been a long held dear favourite of artist and fans alike.

“Madman Across The Water” was largely written after Elton had made his initial foray to America; offering the opportunity for lyricist Bernie Taupin to witness first-hand the landscapes and people he’d only seen on a screen or on the page. Recorded at Trident Studios in central London in February and August 1971, it was the first album where all five players of Elton’s fabled band line up – Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson, Davey Johnstone and Ray Cooper – were featured, albeit not on the same tracks.

The album’s first single, released on November 29th, 1971, was “Levon,” and though it peaked in the U.S. at “just” #24, it was his second-highest at the time, and fared better than the album’s now-better known single, “Tiny Dancer,” which only reached #41. (None of the songs were released as singles in the U.K. at the time.)

After John’s brief piano intro, the first verse is fairly straightforward, beginning with:

Levon wears his war wound like a crown
He calls his child Jesus (As the new edition’s liner notes reveal, “Madman mentions Jesus several times. Jesus was everywhere in the early 70s – Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, “Spirit in the Sky.” “Tiny Dancer” contains the lyric “Jesus freaks, out in the streets.”)

The second verse, with the brilliant orchestral arrangements written and conducted by Paul Buckmaster, includes the line:

In a garage by the motorway (pronouncing “garage” as “carriage,” and then using the word for what Americans call “highway”) As John writes in the 50th anniversary liner notes, “Buckmaster’s arrangements soar above the songs that Bernie and I wrote after our first trip to America.”

The song continues with John’s stunning vocal:

He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day
When The New York Times said, “God is dead
And the war’s begun”
Oh, Alvin Tostig has a son today (Who? What? Taupin has said the name is fictional. “He seemed an American everyman,” he says.)

And as the band kicks in…

And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon
In tradition with the family plan (At the time, John’s accent and pronunciations – in this case, for the word “tradition” – still took getting used to by American audiences)

As John himself explained cryptically, the song “is about a little boy, who gets fed up with what he’s doing, and wishes he could get away from it, but he really can’t.” Taupin says he doesn’t “remember where I wrote it and what was in my mind.” He calls it “one of our finest moments lyrically and melodically. I’m immensely proud of this song, incredibly dynamic and soulful.”

The reissue, due out June 10th, features 18 unreleased tracks, mostly in the form of John’s piano demos of all of “Madman’s” album tracks, including his classics “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon,” as well as three different takes on the title song: Piano demos from 1970 and 1971, plus the original version that featured guitarist Mick Ronson. The deluxe edition’s third disc includes John’s eight performances from a 1971 taping of BBC Sounds for Saturday; video of that concert, as well as John’s December 1971 gig on the Old Grey Whistle Test, is featured on the Blu-ray component of the deluxe reissue.

While the UK were still deciding about Elton, these nine tracks struck a chord with Elton’s American audiences, reaching the top 10 and its singles, ‘Levon’ and ‘Tiny Dancer’ both hit the USA top 50.

After years as a ‘best kept secret’ to Elton’s fans, ‘Tiny Dancer’ has gone on to become one of his most loved songs, third only to “Rocket Man” and “Your Song” in global streaming lists.

Capturing the headiness of California at the time of Elton’s first us concerts, the song was used to phenomenal effect in Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film “Almost Famous”. This celebration of the album to mark its 50th anniversary comes in three different formats. all formats contain Bob Ludwig’s definitive 2016 remaster of the main album. there are 18 previously unreleased tracks across the super deluxe 3cd/1br version, which also tidies up stray rare material from the era, piano demos of the album, and the audio of the BBC Sounds for Saturday concert, broadcast in 1972. the blu-ray contains a 5.1 mix by Greg Penny, plus the BBC Sounds for Saturday and his 1971 Old Grey Whistle Test performance. the audio of the super deluxe cd/br set will be available on a 4lp set. The box set includes a full historical essay with interviews with many who helped make the album, as well as memorabilia and artwork from the rocket archive.

Deluxe edition of 1971 LP features 18 unreleased tracks, from piano demos of entire album, including “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon,” to BBC recordings

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