|First posted 2/1/2011; last updated 10/11/2020.|
A Retrospective: 1969-2017
A Brief History: Released in 2017, the Diamonds compilation offered a snapshot of Elton John’s career from 1969 to 2017 in two and three-disc versions. This page sums up that collection as well as seven others which, when taken together, offer a detailed retrospective of Elton John’s career.
Compilations: These are the compilations represented on this page:
The Studio Albums: Below is a list of the studio albums covered during this era. Links go to DMDB pages devoted to that album. Albums are listed on this page with the songs represented on any of the featured compilations. Appearing after song titles are the dates songs were released as singles and their peak positions on various noted charts. Click for codes to singles charts.
Empty Sky (1969):
Elton John’s debut album didn’t even chart in the UK, but it hit #6 in the U.S. – albeit it wasn’t until it was released by MCA in 1975, well after he’d become a superstar. The song Skyline Pigeon was released as a single and re-recorded in 1972 and released as a B-side to “Daniel.” The re-recorded version is featured on the Diamonds compilation.
Elton John (1970):
Elton John’s self-titled album was a top-5 hit in the UK and U.S., largely thanks to Your Song, which was Elton’s breakthrough hit and has become one of, if not, the signature song of his career.
Tumbleweed Connection (1970):
Elton’s third album was another top-5 hit in the UK and U.S. It was his first platinum album. It featured the single “Country Comfort” and “Burn Down the Mission.” None of the album’s songs are featured on any of the compilations on this page.
Madman Across the Water (1971):
This was another top-10 album in the U.S., but only peaked at #41 in the UK. Tiny Dancer wasn’t a big hit at the time, but has become an Elton John favorite.
Honky Château (1972):
This was Elton John’s first of seven consecutive #1 albums in the U.S. It peaked at #2 in the UK. In addition to the album’s two top-10 hits, it also produced the album cut “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.”
Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player (1973):
This was Elton’s first album to top the charts in both the U.S. and the UK. It also produced Crocodile Rock, his first U.S. #1. In addition to the two hit singles, the album produced the popular cut “Elderberry Wine.”
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973):
The best-selling studio album of Elton’s career is also widely considered his crowning achievement. It was a #1 hit in the U.S. and UK. It gave him his second U.S. #1 song with Bennie and the Jets and Candle in the Wind become one of the biggest hits of all time when Elton performed it with new lyrics in 1997 as a memorial to Princess Diana.
This was Elton’s third consecutive album to top the charts in both the U.S. and UK. The 1973 Christmas single Step into Christmas was not on the original album, but was featured as a bonus track on the 1995 reissue.
About Greatest Hits:
In 1974, there was no bigger music star than Elton John. His Greatest Hits collection came out at the peak of his career and not only topped the charts in the U.S. – a rarity for a compilation – but stayed there for 10 weeks. It captured many of the songs which still remain highlights today from Your Song to Rocket Man to Crocodile Rock to Bennie and the Jets. On the international version of the album, Candle in the Wind replaced “Bennie and the Jets.” The 1992 reissue on CD included both songs.
It did skip over “a couple of lesser hits from this era, most notably ‘Levon’ and ‘Tiny Dancer,’” E1 but added them to Elton’s next greatest hits collection (depending on the version). Both songs are notable omissions from The Very Best of.
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975):
Elton John made history when this album debuted atop the Billboard album chart, the first ever to do so. It reportedly sold 1.4 million copies within the first four days of release. Someone Saved My Life Tonight was the only single featured from the album.
Rock of the Westies (1975):
This was the last of Elton’s #1 U.S. albums. Like its predecessor, it debuted atop the Billboard album chart. It also gave Elton another #1 song in the U.S. with Island Girl.
Blue Moves (1976):
It peaked at #3 in both the U.S. and UK and was a platinum-seller in the U.S., but this was the first “slip” in Elton’s poularity considering it was his first studio album since 1971’s Madman Across the Water to not reach #1. Only Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word is featured on any of the compilations on this page, but “Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance!)” and “Crazy Water” were also released as singles. The former reached #28 in the U.S. and UK.
Greatest Hits Volume II
About Greatest Hits Volume II:
While it wasn’t nearly as successful as the first volume, this is as chock-full of hits, including non-album #1 singles Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Philadelphia Freedom, and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. “Also included is John’s version of Pinball Wizard, taken from the soundtrack to Tommy. In short, it’s an excellent continuation of the first collection, and taken together, they function as an ideal singles retrospective of the most successful singles artist of the early ‘70s.” E2
The track listing above is for the North American edition of the album. The original international version replaced Levon with Bennie and the Jets. The 1992 reissue bumped Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” in favor of Tiny Dancer and I Feel Like a Bullet in the Gun of Robert Ford.
A Single Man (1978):
This was Elton’s first album without lyricist Bernie Taupin. It represented a low point commercially, as it was Elton’s first album to not reach the top 10 in the U.S.
The Complete Thom Bell Sessions (1979):
Elton chose to work with songwriter and producer Thom Bell for this album. Like his other late ‘70s output, it was not well received, peaking at a mere #51. A remix of Are You Ready for Love? became a #1 hit in the UK in 2003.
Victim of Love (1979):
Once again, Elton John was flying without Bernie Taupin as lyricist – and once again, the American public replied with less enthusiasm. It failed to reach gold status in the U.S. and peaked at a lowly #35.
21 at 33 (1980):
Elton reunited with Bernie Taupin for some of the tracks on his 21st album at age 33 (hence the name of the album). The album was somewhat a return to form, giving Elton a top-20, gold-selling album propelled by a top 3 hit with Little Jeannie. The album also produced a top-40 hit with “Sartorial Eloquence (Don’t Ya Wanna Play This Game No More)?”
The Fox (1981):
The album reached #12 in the UK and #21 in the U.S. and failed to reach gold status. Three singles were released from the album – “Nobody Wins,” “Just Like Belgium,” and “Chloe” – but none are featured on any of the compilations on this page.
Jump Up! (1982):
The album reached the top 20 in the U.S. and UK and was a gold-seller, thanks to two top-20 hits in the U.S.
Too Low for Zero (1983):
This was an uptick in Elton’s commercial success, reaching platinum status in the U.S. Surprisingly, it only peaked at #25, but it reached #7 in the UK. Elton was back in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 with I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues and had two more top-40 hits from the album.
Breaking Hearts (1984):
This one met with a similar reception to its predecessor. It reached #20 in the U.S. (where it went platinum) and #2 in the UK. It gave Elton another top-5 hit with Sad Songs Say So Much.
Ice on Fire (1985):
While it gave Elton another top-10 hit in the U.S. with Nikita and a top-20 hit with Wrap Her Up, this album didn’t measure up to its two predecessors. It peaked at #48 in the U.S. and went gold.
Leather Jackets (1986):
This was the lowest charting album of Elton’s career, reaching a measly #91 in the U.S. In the UK, the single “Slow Rivers” paired Elton with England’s superstar Cliff Richard, although the song petered out at #44.
Greatest Hits Volume III
About Greatest Hits Volume III:
The third compilation picked up where Volume II left off. Elton’s hit-making days weren’t behind him, but this showed an artist who was no longer the king of the hill. He didn’t land any songs at #1 during this era, although this collection does still feature five top-10 U.S. hits Little Jeannie, I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, Sad Songs (Say So Much), and Nikita. III was deleted after MCA purchased Geffen and replaced with Greatest Hits 1976-1986.
Greatest Hits 1976-1986
About Greatest Hits 1976-1986:
Greatest Hits Volume III was deleted after MCA purchased Geffen and replaced with this collection. “Too Low for Zero” and “Heartache All Over the World” were bumped in favor of Who Wears These Shoes?, Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. The latter two were originally on Greatest Hits Volume II, but omitted from the 1992 reissue.
Reg Strikes Back (1988):
Elton was back in the top 20 of the U.S. and UK album charts with this gold-selling album. I Don’t Wanna Go on with You Like That was Elton’s biggest hit since 1976’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” “A Word in Spanish” was also a top 20 hit.
Sleeping with the Past (1989):
This took Elton to the top of the album chart in the UK. It was a platinum seller in the US., but peaked at #23. “Healing Hands” was a #13 hit, but isn’t featured on any of the compilations on this page.
The Very Best of
About The Very Best of:
The Very Best of Elton John was a double-CD anthology released in the U.K. that essentially consolidated three previous single disc compilations into one collection. Most represented is Greatest Hits. “Rarely has a greatest-hits collection been as effective,” E1 “Greatest Hits is a nearly flawless collection, offering a perfect introduction to Elton John and providing casual fans with almost all the hits they need.” E1
The One (1992):
This ws Elton’s first top-10 U.S. album since 1976’s Blue Moves. The title cut also reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was followed by two more top-30 hits with “The Last Song” and “Simple Life.”
This album paired Elton with multiple guest artists including Leonard Cohen, Don Henley, Little Richard, George Michael, Bonnie Raitt, and Tammy Wynette. It was a platinum seller in the U.S. and reached #5 in the UK.
The Lion King (soundtrack, 1994):
Elton John teamed up with Tim Rice to write the songs for Disney’s Lion King movie. It became the best-selling soundtrack to an animated film in the U.S., reaching diamond status.
Made in Engand (1995):
This was another platinum seller in the U.S., where it reached #13. It hit #3 in the UK.
The Big Picture (1997):
While not featured on the album, Elton’s reworked version of “Candle in the Wind” had much to do with his success in 1997. His tribute to Lady Diana became one of the biggest singles of all-time, which aided Something About the Way You Look Tonight since it was the flip side. The album was a top ten hit in the UK and U.S., where it went platinum.
Aida (soundtrack, 1999):
Elton teamed again with Tim Rice to write the Broadway show Aida. This album preceded the show, pairing Elton with a variety of stars, including Boyz II Men, Janet Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, Spice Girls, Sting, James Taylor, Tina Turner, and Shania Twain.
Songs from the West Coast (2002):
A gold-selling, top-20 album in the U.S. It peaked at #2 in the UK.
Greatest Hits 1970-2002
About Greatest Hits 1970-2002:
The collection was released in various reiterations. The above track listing is for the European release. Songs marked with an * were not included on the 2-disc European version of this album, which substituted those marked with **. Songs marked with *** were included on a third bonus disc, as well as “Levon” and “I Don’t Want to Go on with You Like That,” which were on the original 2-disc American version.
Peachtree Road (2004):
Three singles from the album failed to make much dent – “Answer in the Sky,” “All That I’m Allowed,” and “Turn the Lights Out When You Leave.” The latter two reached #20 and #32 in the UK respectively. The song Electricity, which Elton composed for Billy Elliot the Musical, was a #4 hit in the UK and was added as a bonus track to the UK reissue of the album.
The Captain & the Kid (2006):
This was Elton’s second autobiographical album, picking up where Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy left off. “The Bridge” was a top-20 hit on the adult contemporary chart in the U.S., but only the album cut Tinderbox is featured on any of the compilations on this page.
Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits
About Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits:
The Rocket Man collection whittled Elton’s entire career down to one disc. There were many alternate versions of this collection released throughout the world. The track listing above is for the Canon international edition. Songs featured on that collection (I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, I Want Love, I’m Still Standing, Tinderbox, Are You Ready for Love?) which did not appear on the U.S. version are marked with an asterisk (*).
In the U.S., this was actually retitled Rocket Man: Number Ones, a definite misnomer since these were not all #1’s. Songs on the U.S. version (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Island Girl, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, the live duet with George Michael of Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Can You Feel the Love Tonight?) which are not on the international edition are noted with a double asterisk (**).
Good Morning to the Night (2012):
This was Elton’s first remix album, featuring Pnau. Samples of early Elton John songs were mixed to form completely new songs. It debuted at #1 in the UK and produced two singles, the title cut and “Sad,” which peaked at #48.
The Diving Board (2013):
This was a top-5 album in the U.S. and UK, despite only featuring the minor hit Home Again, the non-charting “Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight),” and “Can’t Stay Alone Tonight” (#18 AC).
Wonderful Crazy Night (2016):
Four singles were released, but none charted. Nonetheless, the album reached the top 10 in the U.S. and UK.
This was released in 2 and 3-disc versions. Maddeningly, the collection is chronological well into the second disc and then it inexplicably abandons that. The album marked the first appearances on Elton John compilations for major hits like the 2003 remix of Are You Ready for Love? (#1 UK) and That’s What Friends Are For, the U.S. song of the year in 1986.
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