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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Madman Across The Water

Elton John

1971

Buy At Rough Trade
Madman Across The Water
Album Summary

Madman Across the Water is the fourth studio album by English musician Elton John, released in 1971 through DJM and Uni Records. The album was his third album to be released in 1971, at which point John had been rising to prominence as a popular music artist. The album contains nine tracks, each composed and performed by John and with lyrics written by songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. Yes band keyboardist Rick Wakeman plays Hammond organ on 3 songs. There were two singles released from Madman Across the Water, "Levon" and "Tiny Dancer". The album was certified gold in February 1972, followed by platinum in March 1993, and 2× platinum in August 1998 by the RIAA. The album was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. On 10 June 2022, the album was reissued as a deluxe edition for its 50th anniversary, featuring 18 unreleased tracks including demos, outtakes and alternate takes, as well as a 40-page book detailing the album's creation with notes from John and Taupin.

Wikipedia

Rating

3.6

Votes

13046
Genres
Rock
Pop

Reviews

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Sat Feb 06 2021
2

Dammit Elton John, why don't I like you? Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of glam, even gaudy, music. But for some reason I'm just not connecting. Maybe it's your ballad structure, piano forwardness, love of california? Maybe you're too bombastic? Maybe your music feels both too sincere and not sincere enough? Maybe it's the thinness of your drum in the mix or that so many sound like You. Maybe your songs go on far too long, loitering far past their welcome? I don't know. Maybe one day I will. But not today.

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Sat Mar 27 2021
4

“Madman across the Water” by Elton John (1971) Long familiarity with this album, which I owned on cassette tape and listened to endlessly on a mono portable deck. Bernie Taupin wrote the excellent lyrics, Elton John composed brilliant melodies and performed the songs with passion, while producer, arrangers, studio musicians, choir, orchestra, and engineers put together one fine collaborative audio production. This one of the earliest albums where the mixing board becomes a musical instrument on its own (the producer, Gus Dudgeon, knew exactly when to ‘tell’ the piano to sit back and let the backing musicians take over). If it weren’t for a couple of clunkers (“Razor Face” and “Rotten Peaches”), this album could’ve been a classic. Elton John has characterized himself as a pianist: “I’m a pounder.” He’s right. He never developed his left hand, and his right hand is chord-heavy. But his piano/vocal composition, dynamic synchronization, and blend are magical. His vocal melodies are enthralling. As an experiment, try to listen to just the melody, while filtering out the vocal trills, runs, and stylings. Then also filter out the chords and background musicians, and you should touch greatness. Sequences of cascading and unanticipated intervals, always leading home to the anxiously expected tonic, frequently supplied only by the instrumentals. The melodies of “Tiny Dancer”and “Levon” will live forever. In terms of psychological horror, the title track “Madman across the Water” is profoundly angry, and fittingly under appreciated. Taupin shines (“Is it in your conscience that you’re after another glimpse of the madman across the water?”), while Sir Elton’s melody and vocal performance scares the hell out of you. And the social justice sensitivity of the sad and angry ballad “Indian Sunset” moves to tears (even if it’s tainted by a historically uninformed and anachronistic confusion of the plights of Iroquois, Sioux, and Apache cultures). I can’t listen to the line “Peace comes with a bullet hole” without a tissue. Fine album. 4/5

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Wed Jan 05 2022
4

I enjoyed the theatricality so much more than I thought I would. A classic with a lot of sincerity, but Indian Sunset certainly does not stand up.

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Wed Dec 21 2022
4

To be honest, I've always cared about Elton John's music about as much as the current economic situation of the Marshall Islands. This is a really good album though, so maybe I should look into the Marshall Islands more. As it turns out, 77% of their exports are passenger and cargo ships. Also this is my 365th album. Thanks for a great year! This site really made each day a bit brighter and I look forward to roughly 2 more years of great (or at least interesting) music! :)

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Sun Sep 03 2023
4

Hard to follow an opening track like "Tiny Dancer" but, with one exception, it's a great album. "Indian Sunset" is a real stinker of a track. I mean... why? What would possess you to write a song like that? Why do you think that's okay? Taupin really screwed that one up hard. Minus one star for culturally insensitive and historically inaccurate appropriative "story telling". The rest of the album is quite nice, though.

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Tue Mar 08 2022
2

Enjoyed the classic that is Tiny Dancer, rest was meh

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Fri Apr 09 2021
5

Man this guy can sing! Loved it, and found some songs to be way more gospel-like than I expected but I dig it

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Tue Mar 08 2022
2

A bunch of random stories, album wasn't cohesive. A lot of songs sounded the same. Ghetto Gospel sampled Indian Summer Favorite songs - Tiny Dancer, Levon

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Thu Mar 02 2023
3

A pretty solid (and dare I say “proggy”? Prog-ish?) release from Elton John. First half of the record was better than the back half. Tbh, Indian Sunset was where I started losing interest and Rotten Peaches was laughably dumb.

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Thu Aug 10 2023
3

Love me some classic Elton but this doesn't really make the cut. First two are great, rest is typical '70s Reg - clumsy but oddly endearing lyrics and some pleasant tunes. Broken record on this topic, but Tumbleweed Connection is the forgotten masterpiece!

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Mon Oct 18 2021
5

This was my first time listening to an Elton John album in full and my man knows how to make good music

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Fri Mar 12 2021
4

I think this may be my favorite Elton John album. Perhaps because it contains "Levon," the first track of his to ever really capture my imagination. His creative collaboration with Bernie Taupin is incredible. Elton John is certainly a very talented musician and performer but honestly I think it is the poetic imagery and mysterious fractured glimpses of implied storytelling in Taupin's lyrics that really draws me in. "Rotten Peaches" is my second favorite track on the album.

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Thu Jan 21 2021
4

With most songs clocking in around five minutes, the record feels like a major work, and in many ways it is. Madman Across the Water begins to fall apart toward the end, but the record remains an ambitious and rewarding work, and John never attained its darkly introspective atmosphere again.

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Wed Feb 17 2021
4

Another brilliant one in my eyes. It's no Yellow Brick Road but what a way to start the album with Tiny Dancer. I also didn't realise that Indian Sunset was the 'those who wish, to follow me' song. A fantastic tune that gives me the rising ballad feeling that I so adore. Long may the hairs stand tall on the back of my neck. I was pleasantly surprised when Levon came on after the classic opener. Straight into another ballad type song but I suppose that is the bread and butter of Elton John if we're honest. Just to confirm: I really enjoyed Levon. Only listened to this all the way through once but I will almost certainly be listening again. I enjoyed the feel of the entire album, very ballad-heavy which is right up my street; however, I was hoping for a 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' type tune to burst out of nowhere. Despite that, really good stuff.

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Thu Apr 08 2021
4

Selling Americana to the Americans is never easy. This does it superbly.

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Mon Oct 18 2021
4

if you can overlook the 7 minutes of whitesplaining the native american plight, what you've got here is elton's first genuine banger of an album. nowhere near the heights he'd reach in the next few years but a great album in its own right.

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Tue Feb 01 2022
4

"Tiny Dancer" might have one of the greatest build ups of all time. Over 2:30 to get to the chorus! Unreal restraint and talent on display here. And then Elton outdoes himself and goes straight into "Levon". The record loses a little steam with "Razor Face" but bounces back with the title track, which is heavier and more atmospheric than I expected. This album almost gets a five from me for its first two tracks alone. It feels like a classic, near-masterpiece to me. "Indian Sunset" is compellingly cinematic if you can ignore the stereotypical representation of an Indigenous warrior written by a white British dude with very little in the way of meaningful perspective or insight. It's not particularly problematic, but it hasn't aged well. I can't quite bring myself to give the record a five, but it's a worthy inclusion and I really enjoy how dark and introspective Elton gets here. Especially "Goodbye". Chills. Rating: 4.5/5 Favourite tracks: Tiny Dancer, Levon, Madman Across the Water, Holiday Inn, Goodbye

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Sat Dec 10 2022
5

I don’t know if I can give an honest review of this album without the color of sentiment. This the epitome of early Elton John. His bright, young, expressive voice takes center stage of every song. He sings with enthusiasm and never just recites the words. Every song is easy on the ears with no unnecessary noise. Every instrument is brought in and faded out with purpose. Of course the piano lays the foundation. But horns, strings, and even an accordion take their place in the songs. This album is often overshadowed by later ones. But this brings out the early talent and lays out musical elements that show up in later albums.

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Mon Feb 20 2023
5

I used to think the title was some kind of marketing ploy aimed at Elton John himself. Now I think maybe it refers to longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, whose lyrics are completely bananas. Is there a luckier man to ever exist, who responded to the same newspaper ad the same time as the only person alive with enough talent and charisma to turn his words into magic? Anyway, Elton John is incredible despite whatever nonsense Taupin makes him sing about.

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Thu Feb 11 2021
4

Jumps from the sublime to the absurd, but even Bernie Taupin's well meaning (but essentially racist) lyrics about native Americans can't stop this album being fantastic. Best tracks: Tiny Dancer, Levon, All The Nasties

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Sun Jul 11 2021
4

I was quite familiar with this album. It has a very American barroom feel. The standouts were Tiny Dancer, Levon, and the title track. Some of the songs drag a bit

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Mon Jul 26 2021
4

Only song i was familiar with before listening with Tiny Dancer, so that was a good start (Also not having Tony Danza in a single scene in Rocket Man was a missed opportunity) To me this is a prime era of Elton John Madman across the Water is another stand out track, almost verging into proggy territory. Rotten Peaches was the only real meh track to me, rest of the album was pretty solid

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Tue Oct 12 2021
4

Indian Sunset is the only blemish on an otherwise perfect album, but boy, what a blemish it is. Best track: Levon

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Fri Jan 28 2022
4

A fine album from Elton that contained elements of what would carry him to his imperial phase later on in the decade. The first four songs load the album with consistent hooks and catchy melodies, the middle portion is a little forgettable and the last two songs end the album out with great ease. One of the few worthwhile introductions to Elton around this time if you want to get ahold of what he was about. Favorites: Tiny Dancer, Levon, Razorblade, Madman Across the Water, All the Nasties.

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Fri Sep 16 2022
4

it seems silly to write that the piano stood out for me on this album, considering it's elton john. but it did! it's no wonder his piano playing is so renowned and respected. the piano was beautiful and commanding in every song. the piano in "tiny dancer" (while a great song) is what allows the listener to become destroyed. and i must bring up bernie taupin! elton gets a lot of well deserved credit, but this album is filled with beautiful lyrics. while the "madman across the water" song has a soaring piano, the lyric of "is the nightmare really black/or are the windows painted" is what makes the song into an epic masterpiece. all this to say, john and taupin make a great team. a super enjoyable listen.

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Tue Nov 15 2022
4

If you can get past the Album cover then you’re in for a good listen. I don’t know, there’s something about the album cover that just puts me off. This isn’t “1001 Album covers you must see before you die” after all.

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Thu Sep 14 2023
4

Eher schwacher Title Track, aber Tiny Dancer/Levon/Razorface ist ein wundervoller Start. Die restlichen Lieder überzeugen mich zwar nicht ganz, der Gesang bleibt aber über das ganze Album erstklassig, demnach gebe ich knappe vier Sterne.

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Sat Jan 13 2024
4

Tiny Dancer = Humongous Banger Reste de l’album = Ouain cool, mérite une deuxième écoute

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Thu Sep 30 2021
2

Just not my thing. I find Elton John quite annoying when it’s not a song I know well. Gave up halfway through.

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Wed Jan 27 2021
5

Banger. Tiny Dancer and Indian Sunset are awesome! Really nice album.

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Mon May 24 2021
5

Yeah he is good. Tiny Dancer is just a great song

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Sat Feb 06 2021
5

This album has symbolic meaning for me and I think it’s good music too

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Fri Jun 18 2021
5

On se kova! Sir Elton piti otteessaan koko levyn ajan. Levyn lopussa jo vähän hiljenneltiin, mutta niinhän se kuuluukin kunnon rallin päätteeksi. Olisi ollut huikeaa nähdä ukko joskus livenä nuoruutensa päivinä, kun meno on ollut päällä.

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Wed Feb 17 2021
5

Didn't realise Elton John was so rock n roll (and so his appearance on Fall Out Boy's "Save Rock and Roll" feels apt). Looked it up, not only did he change his actual name but he changed his actual middle name to Hercules - what a mad lad. Every song is really good, plenty of good choices, good songwriting, incredible vocals. Won't go into further detail coz it's all great. Only criticism is that the verses can drag slightly, compared to choruses, outros etc.

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Mon May 24 2021
5

Among Elton's best work. Indian Sunset is a sprawling, underrated masterpiece. Pretty much perfect!

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Wed Jul 14 2021
5

Terrific and resplendent. God love Sir Elton John. There’s a reason they made this man a knight, because his music champions the people to a different state of mind and brings them home safe again.

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Tue Jul 20 2021
5

Elton is solid, liked it very much. Great Songwriting, Musical Vibes but still very pop.

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Sun Aug 08 2021
5

Me encanta este álbum, solo conocía tiny dancer e Indian sunset pero me han enamorado casi todas las canciones, no hay casi nadie q se compare con el gran Elton John.

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Sun Aug 22 2021
5

listen today, was pretty good. Sort of mellow

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Tue Aug 24 2021
5

Favorite track: Madman Across the Water. But this whole album is good. Not a huge Erin John fan, but respect is owed.

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Sun Sep 05 2021
5

Album classique tout simplement

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Mon Oct 04 2021
5

GREAT ALBUM CHOICE, I listened to this just recently. Elton and Bernie developing their more epic and experimental sound that would come to fruition on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Good times.

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Thu Oct 14 2021
5

This has Tiny Dancer and Levon on it, two heavy hitters that I absolutely love. Yeah, five dang stars easily.

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Fri Nov 12 2021
5

very top heavy but the top is so heavy, the rest can't weigh it down Tiny Dancer - Banger vor dem Herren

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Tue Jan 11 2022
5

Levon sells cartoon balloons in town

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Fri Jan 21 2022
5

Beautifully cinematic, what a story teller. The man absolutely cains the ivory.

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Wed Jan 26 2022
5

Legal demais! Não conhecia o álbum e me encantei com as canções. Boas baladas, tom crítico em algumas canções e uma pegada bem característica do John. Quero ouvir outros.

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Sun Jan 30 2022
5

Two total classics and some really enjoyable other songs. 9/10

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Thu Feb 10 2022
5

Great pop album that is focusing on its strengths and not trying to be something it shouldn't be. Great variety of songs, all at a very high quality level, they all belong there

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Thu Feb 10 2022
5

Elton at his best. Piano pop rock with his amazing voice. The songs have great lyrics, each song is composed so well, layered with nice harmonies from choirs, orchestration, and nothing out of his caliber. This is top quality pop.

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Thu Feb 10 2022
5

Excellent. Elton John is a true original and this is one of his best albums.

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Sat Mar 05 2022
5

Classic Elton John album, sounds as good as ever: a clear 5* album of course (and not even his best seventies album!)

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Tue Mar 15 2022
5

Incredible opening to an album. This is the kind of piano playing that catches my attention more than the previous album in my list. Hard to find anything to complain about

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Fri Mar 25 2022
5

I've always liked Elton John and I still like Elton John - a strong album. Tiny Dancer is one of his very best songs.

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Tue Apr 26 2022
5

Excellent. Love his voice and piano work

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Fri Apr 29 2022
5

Great Elton album, start to finish. His best tracks are found elsewhere, but there are no bad tracks on this gem.

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Mon Jun 06 2022
5

Elton John's second best album behind 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,' with many amazing classics like 'Tiny Dancer' and 'Levon.' The lyrics are sometimes weird, but more often are they whimsical and carry you away to some strange place you didn't know you wanted to be in. I could listen to this album many times over before getting tired of it.

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Mon Jul 11 2022
5

Very pleasant to listen to album with gorgeous piano playing, also a very solid album. Favorite song: Holiday Inn

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Sat Sep 03 2022
5

One of my favorite Elton John albums. Really displays his true and best sound.

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Tue Sep 13 2022
5

Elton John überzeugt mich immer mehr! Erstklassiger Musiker!

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Fri Sep 16 2022
5

great album; many great songs.....Holiday Inn is great

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Sun Jan 08 2023
5

Great album. I’ve listened to it many times and it never gets old.

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Tue Jan 31 2023
5

a really consistent album. if you like the sound, you love the whole thing

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Wed Feb 08 2023
5

My favorite Elton John record. Every song is amazing.

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Sun Feb 12 2023
5

This album was awesome. Got my morning started like a bat out of hell. After having listened to so many albums on this, you can really tell the difference between a good artist and a great artist

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Tue Feb 21 2023
5

More genius. My favourite Elton John album, from the halcyon days of rock.

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Thu Mar 02 2023
5

Two of the greatest songs ever written on this iconic album - Levon and Tiny Dancer.

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Wed Mar 29 2023
5

Tiny Dancer and Levon, two incredible Elton John tracks, kick off this album. We had this in our household when I was growing up, so I was familiar with it. Even so I have really only strong memories of the two openers and the title track. It's great to hear the rest of this album again. The orchestrations are beautiful and used to great dramatic effect. The lyrics tell vivid stories. The music is interesting - often more experimental than the hit songs might suggest. There is a lot to love on this album and today it has become one of my favorites from Elton John. I can see why it wasn't the instant success of some of Elton John's other efforts as the density and more progressive feel is perhaps less conducive to radio hits, but it is very rewarding. As I kid I didn't appreciate the longer, dense songs. As an adult I found them quite compelling. This album reveals a facet of Elton John that I hadn't properly appreciated. I'm glad to have a real surprise from an artist I thought was done surprising me.

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Wed Mar 29 2023
5

I believe we have well-established that I am a sucker for a rock-n-roll piano. No surprise then that this album speaks to my soul. Sing it, Brother Elton!

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Wed Mar 29 2023
5

Other than the hit tracks, this was all new to me. The recipe of Bernie and Elton just doesn’t seem to go wrong. Now, why this album over others of their discography, I don’t know. Makes me curious, though.

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Sat Apr 01 2023
5

9/10 Elton John meets Prog Rock?! Based!

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Fri Apr 07 2023
5

One of my favorite Elton John albums! His music is always full and well-rounded. I love his story telling. Elton’s a musical class act.

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Fri Apr 07 2023
5

I loved this so much I listened to it twice! Everything just flowed together nicely. I love how all the songs tell a story, remember when music use to do that? I will listen to this again and again.

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Fri Apr 07 2023
5

Oh thank god. This list has been sucking the fattest fucking balls. Finally something that sounds like music. I really enjoyed this, made me remember how much I actually like Elton.

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Mon Apr 10 2023
5

Album 9 of 1001 Elton John - Madman across the Water Favorite Track : Levon Rating : 5 / 5 When today's album popped up, I was quite stoked that it was one my top favorites of all time. One could argue that the album is carried by Side 1 with the inclusion of 'Tiny Dancer' and 'Levon' but Side 2 has more than its share of moments with 'Indian Sunset', 'Holiday Inn' and 'Rotten Peaches', a personal favorite. If you like good music, you should listen to Elton John and if you like Elton John, you must .listen to this album. The first 2 tracks are probably familiar to most, but there is so much more.

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Fri Jun 09 2023
5

Not all my style but I recognize the genius.

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