DELUXE EDITION DREAMLAND: Elton John – Madman Across The Water

In 2008, Universal Music reissued both of Elton John’s 1970 albums (‘Elton John’ and ‘Tumbleweed Connection’) as part of their ongoing Deluxe Edition series. These classic albums joined an excellent 2CD edition of ‘Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy’ and a long-out of print double disc Super Audio CD of the much loved ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’, giving hope for future reissues.

A decade later, the only further reissue to hit the shelves was a multi-disc box set version of ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’, reprising the earlier material and expanding it with two some excellent live material, some pointless – and unwelcome – modern day covers by other artists and a DVD.

Elton has only ever looked forward and embraced new projects, which has left other potentially worthy deluxe sets – including ‘The Fox’ – unlikely to appear.

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Back in 2019, Daydream Runaways released a brilliant indie pop single called ‘Closing The Line’. The track set them up as a very accessible band; their music showed parallels with a lot of radio-friendly fare like The Killers and the vastly overlooked Ghosts, but the song also showed a more mature and thoughtful side by featuring a lyric that lamented the closure of the Honda factory in Swindon. The music wasn’t strikingly original – very little is, or even needs to be – but their performance demonstrated a genuine knack for slick rock-pop.

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THE VAPIDS – Teenage Heads

The idea of a punk band covering an entire album is hardly a new phenomenon. In the 90s, Screeching Weasel, The Queers, The Vindictives and Mr. T Experience recorded their own fairly faithful versions of the first four Ramones albums. Thinking a little more broadly, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes thrilled the masses with their themed albums and pop punk heroes MxPx punked up material as diverse as Bryan Adams, Dave Alvin and The Proclaimers on their ‘Cover To Cover’ releases. Yes, indeed… The “punk cover” has become a staple of the scene.

The ubiquity of the punk cover doesn’t stop this album by Ontario punks The Vapids being hugely entertaining. With half the punk world wanting to pay tribute (either directly or indirectly) to Joey and Johnny’s groundbreaking blueprint, it is somewhat refreshing that these Canadian punks would want to pay homage to their own home grown heroes, and so, ‘Teenage Heads’ – originally released in 2002 – finds the band hammering through the ten numbers from Teenage Head’s self titled debut LP from ’79.

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JEFF SCOTT SOTO – Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)

If there’s one word that best describes singer Jeff Scott Soto, it’s “prolific”. He made his first major breakthrough in the mid 80s when he appeared as a singer for hire with Yngwie Malmsteen, a job that doubtlessly helped him score similar work with virtuoso guitarists Alex Masi and Axel Rudi Pell. From that point on, he never stopped working. Throughout the nineties, he fronted hard rock bands Eyes, Talisman and Takara (sometimes simultaneously) and in the twenty first century, he’s fronted his own band SOTO – taking a heavier direction – and been a member of AOR supergroup, W.E.T. In between all of that, he’s found time for an on/off solo career. Take one look at his discography on Wikipedia detailing all of his major works alongside dozens of guest appearances and you’ll find yourself wondering if he ever sleeps.

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Angelica Rylin’s solo debut ‘Thrive’ (Frontiers Records, 2013) was a decent AOR record. The core of its material took its influence from Robin Beck and other female stars from the late 80s and despite a very predictable approach to the material, Rylin gave strong vocal performances throughout. Its dozen well-written, chorus driven rockers opted for big hooks and bigger melodies at almost every turn and by going for a less bombastic approach than her band The Murder of My Sweet, it certainly made Rylin far more of an appealing musical prospect.

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