Most box sets supplement a few scattered hits with album-side tracks and rarities. When it comes to cataloguing the second bestselling solo artist in the history of recorded music (behind Garth Brooks
), however, questions about what to include and what to leave out become pretty tricky. Which brings us to the masterfully assembled four-CD compendium of Elton John's songs, To Be Continued...,
an elegant collection that sacrifices a few of the tunemith's hits to capture the amazing depth and breadth of his genius. First released in 1990 and finally restored to print in 2000, To Be Continued...
is the definitive collection of Elton's and lyricist Bernie Taupin
's work. The arsenal of hits, primarily wistful, elegant ballads ("Daniel," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word") and feel-good rockers ("Bennie and the Jets," "Crocodile Rock," "I'm Still Standing") is nothing short of staggering, but album-siders such as "Country Comfort," "Harmony," "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," and "Tiny Dancer" (recently resurrected by the movie Almost Famous
) make it clear that Sir Elton has recorded a warehouse full of Top 40-worthy rock classics that never got their chance to shine. As for the rarities, the lyrically challenged "Come Back Baby" (written by Elton alone when he was a member of the band Bluesology in 1965), the charmingly bashful demo of "Your Song," and the whimsical take of John Lennon
's "One Day at a Time" (with Lennon on backing vocals) reveal the human side of Captain Fantastic. Lennon's figure looms throughout To Be Continued...
; the set includes Elton's versions of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Give Peace a Chance," as well as Lennon's final live performance when he joined Elton at New York's Madison Square Garden to play the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There." Disc four's moving "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)" is Elton's Lennon eulogy. But Lennon is not the only friend paying a visit here. Stevie Wonder
blows harmonica on "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," Dusty Springfield
lends her pipes to "The Bitch Is Back," and don't go forgetting a certain duet with Ms. Kiki Dee
. The booklet includes color photographs of Elton (in all his outrageous glory) and Bernie and an extensive interview in which they reveal the stories behind the songs. (Did you know "Philadelphia Freedom" was inspired by Billie Jean King's professional tennis team?) If its title is any indication, To Be Continued...
will be followed by another box, though it's hard to imagine them surpassing what's on these four discs.