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Greatest Hits
Elton John

MCA 2128
Released: November 1974
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 104
Certified Gold: 11/8/74

Elton JohnOne of the truly universal superstars, a man able to appeal to everyone from the youngest AM listener to the MOR adult crowd to more "serious" rock fans comes up with his first greatest hits package and a remarkable set it is. With each of the ten cuts truly a major hit, this grouping makes one realize just how impressive a track record this man has amassed over the past several years and just how good he has consistently been over his eight LP career. From the most frenetic rockers to superb ballads, from material filled with humor to far more serious things, John's amazing ability to capture each type of audience every time out is captured here perfectly. The ideal LP is supposed to be one full of potential hit singles. This one is full of proven hit singles. Coming from one of the real members of rock royalty, who could ask for more? Best cuts: All, of course, but highlights include "Your Song," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting," "Rocket Man," "Bennie And The Jets," "Crocodile Rock."

- Billboard, 1974.

Bonus Reviews!

I don't agree that singles are Elton's metier -- his method is too hit-or-miss to permit such a surefire formula, and some of his best stuff ("Your Sister Can't Twist," "Solar Prestige a Gammon") has proven too wild or weird for a&r/p.d. consciousness. There are no clinkers here, and I suppose if you only want one of his albums this is it. But it's stylistically ragged, two of its four great cuts are also on Honky Chateau, and I'd just as soon hear the first side of Caribou. B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Elton John - Greatest Hits
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A virtual time capsule of the pop music of the first half of the '70s. * * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Greatest Hits Vol. 1 is an essential collection of Elton's early hits. * * * 1/2

- Simon Glickman, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

With nine top 10 hits in a mere five years, Elton John was at the height of his popularity when MCA Records suggested he take a break from his hectic recording schedule while the company issued his first Greatest Hits collection, just in time for the holiday buying season.

Greatest Hits was compiled by John's longtime producer Gus Dudgeon. As its title suggests, Greatest Hits features the highest-charting singles from John's four Number One albums -- Honky Chateau, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and Caribou. "The Bitch Is Back" from Caribou, which was climbing the Billboard Hot 100 while Greatest Hits was being assembled, didn't make John's first best-of collection, but would surface on Greatest Hits Vol. II.

Also included is "Your Song," John's first top 10 hit, and "Border Song," the only track on the collection that wasn't a hit. "Border Song," John's first charting single, stalled at number 92 in August 1970. Both songs were originally featured on John's 1970 self-titled album, which reached number four.

"Your Song" marked a turning point in John's early career. "That was the song that Steve Brown brought to me when he introduced me to Elton," says Dudgeon. Brown produced John's first album, 1969's Empty Sky, which reached number six when it was released in America for the first time in early 1975. "Steve didn't feel he was up for the job," Dudgeon adds. "And I admire him for doing that, for having the guts to admit that maybe he wasn't a good enough producer for Elton." While Dudgeon was incredibly impressed with the song, he wasn't sure it would be a hit. "I was concerned, because compared to what was on the charts at the time, it was very sophisticated. So we cheated a bit. We decided we would open the door slowly."

In England, John's 1969 single "Lady Samantha" had received substantial airplay, although it failed to become a hit. "The door was a bit open, but we felt we might blow it with 'Your Song' if it came too early." So, "Border Song" was released as a single first, serving as a primer for "Your Song." John's career received a boost when legendary soul diva Aretha Franklin covered "Border Song." Says Dudgeon, "That immediately gave Elton tremendous credibility in America as a writer."

In January 1971, "Your Song" became a belated hit, reaching number eight. Nearly four years later, John's Greatest Hits accomplished one of his greatest album triumphs, as it stayed at the summit for 10 weeks, a feat none of his previous or future releases would match.

- Craig Rosen, The Billboard Book of Number One Albums, 1996.

A fantastic starter CD for fans and those who just want the basics of EJ 101, this gorgeously done collection showcases the man-diva's auspicious beginnings with lyricist Bernie Taupin. Chock-full of likable songs and incredible memories like "Daniel" and "Candle in the Wind" -- everyone knows at least one -- it feels like the soundtrack to our lives. Timeless, ageless and indefatigable, the troubadour for the 20th century ain't a Sir for nothin'! * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

John has put out numerous greatest-hits packages over the years, but none as important as this single-disc collection released by MCA during the piano man's creative and commercial peak. It includes every one of his Top Ten singles of the period, from "Your Song" (1970) to "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (1974). A second, equally strong volume came out in 1977, filling in some blanks -- "Levon," "Tiny Dancer," "Philadelphia Freedom" -- just as John prematurely announced his retirement. But for one easy-to-digest disc, this set documents why Elton John was one of the biggest-selling pop stars of the Seventies.

Greatest Hits was chosen as the 135th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

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