Last fall marked the 40th anniversary of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” Elton John’s multiplatinum double album that propelled the singer to superstar status. Featuring some of his most enduring hits, including “Bennie and the Jets,” “Candle in the Wind” and the title track, the album is considered by many to be a cornerstone album of the 1970s.
The album was one of the most acclaimed of a particularly inventive period in pop music. Building on broad, conceptual ideas forged by the Beatles, Kinks and Beach Boys in crafting thematically linked songs to be experienced in single sittings on long-playing albums, John and others delivered big narratives featuring multi-part suites, album-side compositions and recurring musical motifs.
In the same three-year period in which John dropped “Road,” albums including the Who’s “Quadrophenia,” Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick” and “Tales From Topographic Oceans” by Yes all brought a range of furrow-browed concepts to the market.
John and lyricist Bernie Taupin’s creation was one of the biggest of the bunch, even if it presented work less ridiculously imagined than deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizards and artsy spacemen with shocking red mullets. The album’s front cover, created by British illustrator Ian Beck, opened into a glorious triple-gatefold sleeve dense with art and information, suggesting a children’s book.
The just-released deluxe anniversary reissue may be a little late (the original came out in October 1973), but what’s a few months in the life of an album that addresses the passage of time, nostalgia and loss?
Featuring a remastered version of the original album, the five-disc set also offers the requisite B-sides, a demo of “Grey Seal,” a series of covers by artists including Miguel and Ed Sheeran. Two additional discs present a 1973 concert at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, and a DVD contains the documentary “Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye to Norma Jean and Other Things.”