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About this playlist

If you love music, you probably love some Elton John. But as with most musicians who stick around, Sir Reg Dwight has made some stinkers -- quite a few, actually. And although he's rallied in the current millennium, his continued insistence in doing and saying regrettable things makes it hard to erase the memory of entire albums made for cocaine and binge-shopping money. (We're looking at you, Leather Jackets!)

Yet there's another Elton who made some of the most masterful and deeply felt music of the last 50 years, one the hits in constant rotation only suggest. It's the Elton who with Bernie Taupin, Gus Dudgeon, Paul Buckmaster, and a hugely versatile band was lyrically and musically far heavier than most early '70s peers; who was the only singer-songwriter of that era who could thoroughly rock out; who was the daredevil diva that celebrated same-sex desire so directly he went over countless heads. It's the Elton who can wail and write and bang those keys like the badass genius he'll always be underneath the showbiz glitz.

This playlist honors that E.J. It omits all of his U.S. Top 40 hits, and most of his routinely revived album cuts. Instead, it encapsulates him in a way that you will likely never experience in Vegas. Beginning and ending with his most stupendously dramatic ballads, stuff that's akin to beloved platters from in-crowd troubadours like Scott Walker, it presents in segue-conscious mixtape style some of his greatest overlooked rockers, R&B detours, and outlaw love laments. It draws most heavily -- as it should -- from his rightly feted glory days, but it also rescues forgotten gems from dreck-dominated '80s and '90s discs and samples his recent renaissance. Yes, this playlist leaves out your old Elton standbys. Instead, it favors what could be your new Elton discoveries.