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40 years after Elton John became the first major Western pop star to venture behind the Iron Curtain and play the USSR, his seminal performance with percussionist extraordinaire, Ray Cooper, entitled Live From Moscow is to be released on 2LP vinyl, plus 2CD and digital formats, out 24th January via UMe. The show was broadcast by BBC Radio 1 in 1979 and the audio has been remastered by Bob Ludwig in 2019 from the original BBC analogue tapes. This general release follows an immediately sold‐out limited pressing for Record Store Day 2019 earlier this year.
In 1979 Elton John had enjoyed a ten year rise to becoming a global icon. His acclaimed A Single Man tour saw him shorn of the grandeur that had become synonymous with his live shows, choosing instead to play one set alone on his Steinway grand piano and the electric Yamaha CP80, and then, after the interval, be joined by legendary percussionist and long‐time collaborator, Ray Cooper. This stripped‐back setup offers a rare chance to witness his incredible musical talents without all the trimmings that were, at the time, both trademark and treadmill for Elton.
The final concert of the tour took place at the Rossiya Hall in Moscow, marking a significant thawing in East‐ West cold war relations and resulting in Soviet authorities permitting the state‐owned Melodiya record company to issue A Single Man, making it the first Western pop album to be officially released in the USSR. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 on May 28th 1979, with DJ Andy Peebles noting that the “Russian audience is a great deal more restrained than the audiences in Britain.” However, by the end of a performance that saw Elton thoroughly enjoying himself through a 12 minute version of ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’, an incendiary ‘Bennie and The Jets’ and a closing medley of ‘Crocodile Rock’/ ‘Get Back’ / ‘Back In The USSR’ they had become full‐throated participants at a rock concert. As the Daily Telegraph, Sydney wrote: “They knew they were breaking new ground and knew that if rock music were ever to penetrate the iron curtain with any consistency then the impression they left behind had to be indelible. Surely, it was. It was the pair at their very best, blazing a trail.”
Speaking on the concert, Elton explains: “I can honestly say it has been one of the best experiences of my life. It was one of the most memorable and happy tours I havebeen on. The last show was probably one of the best concerts I’ve ever given in my life. Working with Ray, with just the two of us on stage, was both exhilarating and challenging.”
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