Recorded in the late 1960s and early '70s, this collection of cover songs presents Elton John in his formative years, just on the verge of major success, though clearly not there yet. (John, aka Reginald Dwight, is erroneously -- and humorously -- referred to as "Reg Bright" by a press clipping in the liner notes.) On these work-for-hire sessions, Captain Fantastic is still very much in the music-industry trenches, running through hits such as "In the Summertime" for release on budget-priced British LPs.
Despite the unglamorous origins of these tracks, there are plenty of gems, as John can't help but let his charm seep through, even when trying for John Fogerty's vocal grit on Creedence's "Travelin' Band" and "Up Around the Bend." Not surprisingly, the most convincing covers are the ones that hew closest to the bold pop style that John would go on to perfect, namely a chiming take on Cat Stevens' "Lady D'Arbanville" and an energetic, spot-on rendition of the Paul McCartney-penned Badfinger hit "Come and Get It." Though Legendary Covers is primarily a novelty disc for devoted John fans, it also serves as a fascinating glimpse of the pop legend's beginnings.