Friday, February 26, 2021

Elton John 16: Greatest Hits Volume II

Maybe Elton (or his record company) knew his streak was over, as another “hits” package was pushed out to maximize any sales. Unlike the first installment, Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume II ran all over the place, even including songs that predated that previous mop-up—never a good sign. It did have a nice booklet with lyrics and photos, which was nice.
After establishing the thesis yet again with “The Bitch Is Back”, his cover of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” graduates from single to album track, and yes, that would be John Lennon himself playing “reggae guitars” on the break. “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” is still heartbreaking, but “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” his single duet with protégée Kiki Dee is all but irresistible. “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” brings the seesaw back to close the side.
Another non-album single, “Philadelphia Freedom” was all over the radio as America geared up for its bicentennial, and we still can’t figure out what it has to do with Billie Jean King’s tennis team outside the title. “Island Girl” and “Grow Some Funk Of Your Own” are good and bad choices, respectively, from Rock Of The Westies, and then we go all the way back to 1971 for “Levon”. Finally, “Pinball Wizard” reminded folks of one of the cooler sequences in the Tommy film, and showcases the Elton John Band at their best.
There’s no question that Greatest Hits Volume II delivers the goods. Back then, it did offer value for money by collecting songs from various sources, and there’s no denying how much he had dominated the charts, the jukeboxes, and the airwaves in those days.
Nothing is simple with Elton, of course; outside the U.S., “Bennie And The Jets” replaced “Levon” in the lineup. Then, when his catalog was standardized worldwide in the ‘90s, the remaster swapped out “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” for “Tiny Dancer” and “I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford)”—not exactly an even swap—though it kept “Levon”. Future hits collections would be more comprehensive in including the necessary hits, just as upgraded and expanded albums have collected various of the standalone singles.

Elton John Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume II (1977)—
1992 CD reissue: same as 1977, plus 2 extra track (and minus 2 tracks)

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