Elton John "Madman Across The Water", UK DJM records 1971. This copy of Elton's 4th studio (non-soundtrack) album goes all the way back with me to the beginning of my record collecting days, when I was discovering the basic catalogues of essential giants like David Bowie, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Roxy Music, Joni Mitchell, etc. Before that, I had my parent's Beatles albums and a slew of cassettes, including the complete catalogues of Deep Purple and Bruce Springsteen: the first artists I really got into. But, by the time I was 15 and venturing out to my London shopping haunts in Notting Hill Gate, Soho and Camden Lock, I was on a mission of discovery. The quest had begun and it wasn't long before I had many albums by Gong, Hawkwind, Jimi Hendrix, Kate Bush, King Crimson, Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart and loads of weird classical music. But yeah, Elton was a big thing for me in those days (late-80s), and I managed to snag all his early albums for about a pound or two a piece. Sweet. And oh boy, did I digest them wholeheartedly! "Madman" was never my favourite, though. It is in my estimation inferior in every way to his previous album (his masterpiece), "Tumbleweed Connection", but still, it's pretty great. Bernie and Reg's muse is in full swing and it's nothing but gold from top to bottom. The problem lies in the production which is simply the muddiest, least cohesive mix ever on a major artist's album. Where murkiness works on an disc like Dr. John's "Gris Gris", on "Madman", it's hopelessly lacklustre, the songs are just swamped in massive doomy reverb. But, if you turn up the treble all the way (as subsequent CD remasters have done), it begins to sound like a normal record and the brilliant material shines through. Obviously, "Levon" and "Tiny Dancer" find Elton at the top of his writing and singing game, and there are other wonderful highlights as well, like "Razor Face", "All The Nasties" and best of all, the epic title cut, a work of genius. With the perfect early-70s textures denim album cover and opulent packaging, this really is the archetypal singer-songwriter album, a California-by-way-of-Pinner gem for the ages.