The Alternate Madman Across The Water [Midnight Beat]
2CD Quad version

The mid-1970s’ penchant for producing quadraphonic mixes of the era’s biggest (and, sometimes, oddest) albums has never been seriously addressed by the bootleg community. For every patient recounting of the quad Pink Floyd, there’s a spurious attempt to pass an Alice Cooper album off as a set of demos, and the title of this set would seem to be one more in a long line of disreputable deceptions.

Delve inside, however, and The Alternate Madman Across The Water is revealed as quite the special treat. Two discs serve up both the quadraphonic mix of the album, and the special mono version that was produced by US radio, while four bonus tracks deliver Elton’s original piano demos for "Madman," "Holiday Inn," "All The Nasties" and (unfortunately) "Tiny Dancer" - surely the most gut-wrenchingly awful lyric that Bernie Taupin ever put his name to.

Cynics might point out that the quad version of this album scarcely ranks among the most dynamic examples of the remixer’s art, and they would be correct. Anybody familiar with the regular stereo mix will notice nothing more than a handful of embellishments to the sounds they know and love. That said, the mix is a lot wider open than in stereo, with the fade of "Razor Face" such a manic helter-skelter that the succeeding "Madman" cannot help but benefit from the sudden shift in mood.

The mono mix is less eye-opening, although the compression will take your ears all the way back to the sound of early 1970s radio, and if there’s any true disappointment to be scratched out of this collection, it’s that the demos go all the way back to Elton’s solo piano efforts, rather than the legendary sessions with the Michael Chapman Band that produced the truly mad "Madman" included on the Rare Masters compilation. Chapman himself says they recorded at least one side of the album before label head Dick James pulled the plug on the sessions, complaining it was all "too psychedelic." Now that would be an alternative to drool over! - Dave Thompson

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