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Wednesday, November 13, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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47 years on, Elton John replays 17-11-70 for Record Store Day

Elton John, photographed last month in Spokane, is among the dozens of artists up to something special for Record Store Day. He’s releasing a limited edition, vinyl-only re-release of his 1970 live album, “17-11-70.” (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Elton John, photographed last month in Spokane, is among the dozens of artists up to something special for Record Store Day. He’s releasing a limited edition, vinyl-only re-release of his 1970 live album, “17-11-70.” (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Elton John habitually engaged in music store shopping sprees in various cities on his world tours in years past, amassing a monumental collection. He largely sold it off in the early 1990s to raise money for his Elton John AIDS Foundation.

As he only half-jokingly told an audience last year at a free show he gave in the parking lot of the former Tower Records store in West Hollywood, “I could have probably bought Los Angeles for the money I spent in Tower Records.”

But he couldn’t give up the passion entirely.

“I’ve fallen in love again with the ritual, of sleeve notes – especially on old albums – and I’ve been re-collecting a lot of old blues records,” he told The Times in an interview last year.

So it’s no surprise he’s returning the favor, in a manner of speaking, with a special of an expanded reissue – on vinyl only – of his 1970 live album, “17-11-70,” to be released at independent music outlets on Saturday. It marks the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day, an event designed to spur shopping at bricks-and-mortar record stores.

John’s release is now a two-disc album that includes several additional takes not found on the original single-disc version that MCA Records issued a few months after the original concert,

John’s star was rapidly rising at the time he entered New York’s famed A&R Studio for radio station WABC-FM broadcast on Nov. 17, 1970, with bassist Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson.

The November performance for WABC-FM was intended strictly for the small audience on hand and the station’s listeners. But it was quickly bootlegged, prompting John’s label, MCA, to hustle out an official version the following May.

The new edition brings a remastered version of the original recording to new life and captures him at a critical juncture in his nascent career.

His debut U.S. album, “Elton John,” was chock full of exquisitely arranged and intimately performed songs about love in its early stages (the breakthough hit single “Your Song”), the miracle of birth (“The Greatest Discovery”), alienation and disillusionment (“Border Song”) and even a God-knows-what-it-means rocker (“Take Me to the Pilot”).

Many featured lush orchestrations by Paul Buckmaster. The revelation of “17-11-70” (which was issued in the U.S. with Americanized date nomenclature as “11-17-70”) was what an electrifying live performer John was.

John channeled the early rock ‘n’ roll spirit of such flamboyant pianistic predecessors as Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.

The original album’s closer and piece de resistance was his 18-minute-plus barn-burner performance of “Burn Down the Mission,” a song that incorporated bits of Elvis Presley’s “My Baby Left Me” and the Beatles “Get Back,” and which would appear in an abbreviated 6-minute form on “Tumbleweed Connection.”

The second disc extends the stripped-down approach with a previously unreleased version of “Indian Sunset,” the historically minded tragic grand opus that would turn up on 1971’s “Madman Across the Water” album, and another “Tumbleweed Connection” song, “Amoreena.”

It also includes alternative versions of such songs as “Your Song”and “My Father’s Gun,” reinforcing the strength of the songs John wrote with lyricist Bernie Taupin, apart from the gorgeous arrangements they meticulously crafted for the studio versions.

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