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September 22, 2017

‘Empty Sky’ and ‘Blue Moves’ Back Again on LP

Elton’s first and 11th albums reissued today on 180gm vinyl.

Today is the release of two new 180gm vinyl reissues from Elton’s catalogue: Empty Sky (1969) and Blue Moves (1976). Both have been re-mastered by Grammy Award winning mastering engineer Bob Ludwig and include the original album packaging.

We have been enjoying revisiting these two important records in Elton’s career: the one that started it all, and the one that capped his self-proclaimed “Five Years Of Fun”. Here are ten fun facts about the two titles.

★  Elton’s debut album, Empty Sky, was released in the UK in June 1969. However, it did not come out in America until January 1975, just two months after his first Greatest Hits and four months before Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy…both #1 albums.

★  While the album did not chart in the UK, Empty Sky peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top 200 in 1975 and spent 18 weeks on that chart. This means that, for the second time in his already young career, Elton had four albums on the US charts at one time.

★  The album’s title track remains a favourite of Elton's. He told Rolling Stone’s Cameron Crowe in 2013, “I love it to death. I remember doing the vocal in the [Dick James Studio building] stairwell to get that echo. ‘Empty Sky’ has something magical about it. It came together so brilliantly, and still sounds so good. It sounded like a Stones song. I thought, ‘I can do this.’”.

★  Both Empty Sky and Blue Moves feature hand-done art pieces as their album covers. Blue Moves has the painting "The Guardian Readers" by British artist Patrick Procktor. The UK issue of Empty Sky features a cover drawing of Elton by David Larkham from a photo he took of Elton during the album’s recording (the US release had entirely different artwork).

Alternate image from the 'Empty Sky' photo shoot. (Photo: David Larkham)

Alternate image from the 'Empty Sky' photo shoot. (Photo: David Larkham)

 Empty Sky and Blue Moves both include musicians Caleb Quaye on guitars and Roger Pope on drums. The two were members of the band Hookfoot, who backed Elton on many of his early gigs and studio sessions, and were brought back into Elton's band in 1975.

★  Blue Moves also includes a number of guest musicians who are well known in their own right. David Crosby and Graham Nash sang backing vocals on Cage The Songbird and The Wide Eyed And Laughing, the Brecker Brothers played horns on Boogie Pilgrim, Shoulder Holster and Idol, and Toni Tennille (from The Captain & Tennille) can be heard on Chameleon, Crazy Water and Someone's Final Song. Daryl Dragon (the "Captain") also arranged the intricate backing vocals on Crazy Water.

★  Blue Moves contains one of Elton's most popular songs, Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. The ballad was the album's first single and peaked at #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Elton has performed the song in the majority of his concerts over the past 40-plus years and had a UK hit with it in 2002 when he and the band Blue took it to #1.

 

Another song on that first record, 'Skyline Pigeon,' was the first good song that Bernie and I wrote.
Elton John (Rolling Stone, October 10, 2013)

★  The last track on Empty Sky gives us the first (but far from the last) 'Eltonism' of his career. The name of the middle segment of the song, an instrumental jazz break called Hay Chewed, is a play on the Beatles song title, Hey Jude.

★  In a 1993 interview, Blue Moves producer Gus Dudgeon explained that Crazy Water is one of his top ten favourite Elton tracks and that Tonight gave him chills when he first heard it. "It was written as a complete thing [with the instrumental beginning], top to bottom. The first time he played it for me I thought, 'Um...when are you going to sing?' It worried me at the time because I thought, 'Is this going to work? This is a very long piece of music.' But he knew what he was doing."

★  The song Chameleon, which closes side one of Blue Moves, was written by Elton for the Beach Boys, but the group never recorded it. However, former Beach Boy Bruce Johnston performed backing vocals on Elton's album track, adding to the distinct sound of the song.

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