A MASTERPIECE is sometimes created when one least expects it - Elton John's seminal 1973 album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, is an example. Originally meant to be recorded in Jamaica until political unrest forced the session to be moved to France where it was made in just two weeks, it has become a milestone record for the pop singer and his most commercially successful ever, with over 30 million copies sold worldwide.
Boasting a handful of John's classics including the title track, Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting, Candle in the Wind and Bennie and the Jets, the 17-track double-album has recently been reissued in various editions including a multi-disc deluxe box set to mark its 40th anniversary.
Overseeing it all is Peter Asher, himself a huge pop-star in the sixties and one-half of the folk group Peter and Gordon, before moving to work behind-the-scenes in the music industry as a label head and record producer.
Over the phone from Los Angeles, he states that the intention of the re-release was not to make a classic album sound better.
"Instead I saw it as an opportunity to re-approach the songs everybody already knew and love," clarifies Asher. "But at the same time it was also very intimidating. I said to Elton: 'I don't want anyone to think that I could improve upon anything you, Bernie (Taupin, the lyricist who is John's regular songwriting partner) and Gus Dudgeon (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road's original producer) have created all those years ago.'"
He adds that even with modern recording and remixing technology, there was no way to catch a better drum sound than what Dudgeon had already captured on tape four decades ago - "I used all the brilliant new stuff but that doesn't necessarily make things better because there were amazingly good records made back then by completely different methods."
The goal of the anniversary edition, instead, was to present the songs again in such a way that it reminds the listeners of the pure songwriting genius beneath the critically acclaimed album with rarities like unreleased demos and alternate mixes - including an acoustic version of Candle in the Wind - giving fans the opportunity to listen to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road like it was new.
A bonus disc features nine contemporary music acts like Ed Sheeran, Imelda May and Fall Out Boy covering classic tracks like Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting and Bennie and the Jets. It's likely to draw a new generation of fans to discover for themselves the influence Goodbye Yellow Brick Road had on the history of pop music.
Asher reveals glam rockers Muse was one of the acts he would have liked to cover the album's epic 11-minute-plus opener, Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, if not for a conflict in their touring schedule. But he thinks nothing of the missed opportunity because he is already looking ahead to the record's golden jubilee in a decade's time. "There are still eight songs remaining and a lot of great people left to do them!" he laughs.