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Product: Audio CD
Title: Elton John - Greatest Hits 1970-2002
Label: Utv Records
Artist: Elton John
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
This review dedicated to The Songs That Missed The Cut

Every time I hear a new EJ hits collection is about to hit stores (in other words, about 2 or 3 times a year), I hope against hope that the compilers will see fit to make room for certain songs that...aren't here either.
I'm pretty sure I have EVERYTHING our pop-god has ever issued, so please don't think I'm dissing any/many of the 34 hits here (or the 4 on the limited-edition bonus disc).
Here's where many Elton John fans and I reach a fork in the road and part ways. The typical review of EJ's career goes something like this: on top of the world until 1976 or so, when Elton "burned out," "retired" from touring for a couple of years, told Rolling Stone he was bisexual, and experimented with drugs (really shocking for a rock superstar in the late Seventies). Because of all that, the ensuing 28-and-counting years are barely tolerable but for the occasional single that "reminds us" that Elton can still amaze us when he "finds his muse" or whatever. To me, Elton's nearly 40 Top 40 hits AFTER 1976's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" include plenty of overlooked gems that keep slipping through the cracks, and that the quality of the bespectacled icon's (Look. I can't keep saying "Elton" all the time) music has remained much higher than he gets props for.
By skipping 1977-1979 completely, fans don't get to hear:
The remarkable "Ego," which remains available on CD only via the "To Be Continued..." box set. Although it only reached #34, it rocks. More specifically it glam-rocks, the way only Elton, David Bowie, and Queen (OK, and the Sweet) can. Great melody and lyrics.
"Mama Can't Buy You Love." Produced by Thom Bell (Spinners, O'Jays, many others), this soaring, midtempo record reached #9 pop and even crossed over to the R&B Top 40. Which pleased EJ very much, as I recall. From the same sessions came "Are You Ready For Love," which caught on in British dance clubs last year and recently reached #1 on the U.K. pop chart. Here, as with the releases from "Songs From the West Coast," U.S. radio did nothing and the single died quietly. AARGH.
"Part Time Love," from the 1978 album "A Single Man." Proving that you can't go wrong with blistering, uptempo songs about mutually-cheating couples.
1979's "Victim Of Love," unavailable on CD in its single edit form, is the title track, and only song worth salvaging, from what is universally considered Elton's worst album ever. That Elton did a disco album wasn't the problem; that it was boring, unfun, and at times just stupid was. This song, however, kicks down the barn door as Elton mocks himself for having trusted someone who obviously screwed him over. And not in a good way. This would have sounded fine following "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." Sigh.
Although I'm not sure there would be room for it, another rock-disco hit worth hearing is "Bite Your Lip." The long version is on "Blue Moves," which you know you're never going to get around to buying anyway. You haven't even sprung for "Tumbleweed Connection" yet, have you? Just as I suspected.
Moving into the '80's, how could the compilers leave off the John Lennon tribute "Empty Garden"? Elton (through lyricist Bernie Taupin) pulls the nifty trick of insulting Lennon's murderer without even using the bastard's name: "It's funny how one insect can damage so much grain." The other big hit from 1982's "Jump Up!", the classic ballad "Blue Eyes," is also excluded (though not in the British version).
The U.K. also found room for one of my favorite of EJ's harder-rocking songs from the '80's: "Kiss the Bride," from 1983, the year when Elton actually did just that. Elton told David Frost that friends reacted to news of his marriage by saying, "we're glad you're still standing, dear; we're on the floor!"
Although "Sacrifice" is included from 1989's "Sleeping With the Past," "Healing Hands" is not. I much preferred the latter, an inspirational and unique record free of the Adult Contemporary production gloss of so many of the 1990's hits.
The Princess Di version of "Candle in the Wind" deserves to be here more than the "Yellow Brick Road" version actually included, as it is the biggest-selling single of all-time, by anyone.
Of all Elton's many fine songs in the '90's, my favorite is probably "Believe." When that came over the radio with the guitar riffs, tense vocals, and the dramatic baDUM baDUM baa..I know a pop home run when I hear one. "Love is simple, hate breeds--those who think difference is the child of disease." Fine lyrical return to form for Mr. Taupin, who not that long before subjected the pop world to Starship's "We Built This City."
I was surprised to see these 3 omissions from the critically-approved "peak period" as well: "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds"!--the first remake of a Beatles song to hit #1 and Elton's 3rd chart topper! The awesome "Border Song," which made the first Greatest Hits album waaay back when--holy Moses! And EJ's (Captain?) fantastic version of The Who's "Pinball Wizard", which for many was the only worthwhile part of the movie version of "Tommy." (I wonder if "Tiny Dancer" would have made the cut if not for the great tour bus scene in "Almost Famous"?)
You might think, OK Sophie, which of these babies could you leave behind? As stated earlier, I'd have taken off the '73 version of "Candle" because the '97 version was such an ubersmash, and everyone needs to own the GYBR disc anyway. On the other hand, I'd consider dropping...maybe...the #1 hit "Island Girl." It's great musically but I've always found the lyrics racist. (The titular black girl is questioned about "what she wantin' wit de white man's world," which apparently is not the same world as hers. Then, her sexual proclivities are compared to a "well-worn" tyre. How do tyres wrap themselves around you, how is the phenomenon more enjoyable when said tyre is "well-worn", and who the hell spells "tire" with a y?) Easier to part with are "Blessed" and the LeAnn Rimes duet from "Aida", both nearly embalmed by the aforementioned Adult Contemporary production gloss. Finally, I would not have gone two-deep on either "The Lion King" or the recent "Songs From the West Coast." As for "Circle of Death", er, life, I've never been able to reconcile pop music with Darwinist theory. This ditty makes me think of a bug eaten by a frog killed by a snake subsequently snatched up in a hawk's talons...feh. And don't tell me that's life. We're talking about can I hum this in the car; no, I can't feel the love tonight thanks much. As for "West Coast," I'd keep "I Want Love" in a close call over "This Train...". Of course, putting more than 4 tracks on the bonus disc would have helped, too. (By the way, the four were the George Michael duet version of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," the Live In Australia version of...yes, again..."Candle," a duet with Luciano Pavarotti originally on the "Big Picture" CD, and a 2002 version of "Your Song" with Alessandro Safina.)
As it is, the choices are well-made and will satisfy the casual fan who wants the early stuff and a decent sampling of the "later" (post-1976) songs most critics feel hold up best against the classics. Extra perks are the booklet's essay by Paul Gambaccini and the many entertaining photos of Elton and various musical collaborators over the years.
I know, enough already. But imagine; what if I'd mentioned "Friends", "Grow Some Funk of Your Own", "Chloe", "Who Wears These Shoes", "In Neon", "Wrap Her Up", "Act of War" (fast, loud, and out of control; Millie Jackson and Elton blast away at each other like two human blow torches. (Fierce!), "Flames of Paradise", "A Word In Spanish", "Club At the End of the Street", "The Last Song", "Simple Life", "You Gotta Love Someone", or "Teardrops" (either the k.d. lang or Lulu versions)! Whew!

Product: Audio CD
Title: Family Garden
Label: Rounder Select
Artist: John McCutcheon
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
A "desert island" favorite

I just took delivery of my third copy of "Family Garden," having lost the previous two to car vandals. The break-ins were December 1999 and May 2002. The point of this post is to inform you that I've carried this CD with me for years; that's how I lost it twice.
It's one of my favorite albums, period. I have a significant John McCutcheon collection, but "Family Garden" touches me above all others. Here's the punch line: I am single, no kids. I'm also a huge fan of "What It's Like" so believe me, I get John McCutcheon on all fronts.
So...for what it's worth, I had this CD with me, and lost it, in 1999 and in 2002. But I have it again, with good reason. My favorite cuts are the title cut, "Baseball On The Block," "Happy Adoption Day," "Dad's Got That Look," "Is My Family," and well, it's all good. I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as I do.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Kind of Blue
Label: Sony
Artist: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Just plain cool

Miles Davis delivers some of the sweetest sounds ever produced by a trumpet in Kind of Blue. Sax fans won't be disappointed either as John Coltrane is featured in many of the tracks.
A great introduction to Jazz in general and these two legends in particular. I'd recommend this album to anyone, jazz fan or not.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Blood On The Dance Floor: HIStory In The Mix
Label: Sony
Artist: Michael Jackson
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
I'm not a fan of remixes but...

I really enjoyed this album. Granted part of me put 4 stars because of "Is It Scary" but overall the album is nice to have. It starts of with "Blood on the Dance Floor", as what was released to go along with the cd. BOTDF, to me, is about AIDS. Woman using men to get sex and "blood is on the knife" tells me, she's got something and she's giving it away.
Next is "Morphine"-strange and different. Very hard song. Hard as in the music that is used.
Than comes "Superfly Sister". Is it just me or is this part 1 of BOTDF saga? Same concept, different gender. Susie is used in this song as well. Susie is hesitant to give herself up to the guy she loves. However, the way I take it is that her guy is messing around with others "Got his Jimmy on the run" (unless those are not the right lyrics). Susie eventually gives it up to him and perhaps by doing so, is used, played and recieved something such as AIDS. And therefore she goes out and plays around because she got hurt and there you have BOTDF. Or perhaps I'm just putting way to much thought in this. :-)
"Ghosts" and "Is It Scary"-I'm curious to know which song was produced first, as Mr. Jackson does have the same set of lyrics in both of them. Both are good and entertaining, and like the majority of other Michael Jackson's songs, tells a story. "Ghosts" is about a haunted place...which goes well with his short film "Ghosts".
"Is It Scary" on the other hand is about himself (or anyone else for that matter) and how different he is to others, how he is played as a moreorless side show act (also goes along with his short film Ghosts).
As far as the remixes themselves go. I enjoy them, again I'm not one for remixes but they're fun. My favorite remix is the Refugee Camp Mix of "2 Bad" along with "Scream Louder".
I think if you're a fan of Michael Jackson's and/or a remix lover, you'll enjoy this album and I recommend it!