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Albums Of The Week: Elton John | Madman Across The Water 50th Anniversary Edition

The flamboyant singer-pianist's underappreciated fourth studio release gets the deluxe treatment with the inclusion of solo piano demos, live recordings and more.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Spawning the hits Tiny Dancer and Levon, Madman Across The Water was Elton John’s fourth studio album, released only two years after his debut. Recorded in 1971, it was a foundation stone of what was to become a dazzlingly prolific decade for the global-icon-in-waiting.

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 (bassist Dee Murray, drummer Nigel Olsson, guitarist Davey Johnstone and percussionist Ray Cooper) were featured. The album also featured Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who plays Hammond organ on three songs.

While the U.K.’s love affair with Elton was still bubbling under upon Madman’s release at the start of the ’70s, these nine tracks immediately struck a chord with U.S. audiences, reaching the Top 10 of the Billboard album charts. Levon (named for The Band’s singing drummer) and Tiny Dancer both reached the U.S. Top 50. After years as a best-kept secret to Elton’s fans, Tiny Dancer has gone on to become one of John’s most-loved songs with his worldwide fanbase, third only to Rocket Man and Your Song in global streaming numbers. Capturing the headiness of California at the time of Elton’s first U.S. concerts, the song was used to phenomenal effect in Cameron Crowe’s nostalgic rock ’n’ roll film Almost Famous in 2000. Both Levon and Tiny Dancer remain firm live favourites to this day, taking pride of place in the setlist for Elton’s record-breaking Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour.

The celebration of Madman Across The Water comes in four different formats. All formats contain Bob Ludwig’s 2016 remaster of the main album. There are 18 previously unreleased tracks across the Super Deluxe box set, which also contains rare restored material from the era, piano demos of the album, and the audio of the BBC Sounds For Saturday concert broadcast in 1972. A Blu Ray disc contains a 5.1 mix by Greg Penny, plus the Sounds For Saturday set and his 1971 Old Grey Whistle Test performance. The box set includes photos, an essay featuring interviews with those who helped make the album, and memorabilia and artwork taken from the Rocket Archive.”