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  • Muzik First


We run down the colossal and breathtaking works by the genuinely excellent artist Elton John as he is our Artist Of The Month. Collaborating with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967, John is one of the most successful artists of all time, having sold over 300 million records in a six-decade career in music. We will run down four albums every post and go through his incredible catalogue. Enjoy!

Too Low For Zero (1983)

It had become clear that Elton was intent on inching back into the mainstream with the poppier sensibilities of preceding 80's albums 21 at 33 and Jump Up!, which both favoured an uneven song-based structure and commercial subjects and sounds to court the charts. Elton's budding success with this formula set the stage for what was arguably his most recognized album of the '80s; 1983's Too Low For Zero, which was also a full-fledged reunion with lyricist Bernie, and his classic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road touring band, capturing everybody at a near-peak of their form. Elton rocks with a vengeance on "I'm Still Standing" and "Kiss the Bride," crafting a gorgeous romantic standard with "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" while knocking songs as immaculately crafted as "Religion" -- songs that anchor this album, giving the context of the hit. While this may not be as rich as his classic early period, it's a terrific record, an exemplary illustration of what a veteran artist could achieve in the early '80s.

Breaking Hearts (1984)

Building off the success of his previous smash-hit Too Low For Zero, Elton relished in being back in the spotlight with his follow-up 1984's Breaking Hearts. It's excellent to see Elton fully reunited and in full swing with his classic era band attempting a musical resurrection of their 70s sound. Breaking Hearts keeps up the consistency and coherence of those albums and Too Low For Zero. Still, the album cannot avoid sounding overly 80s, which nevertheless is powerfully executed, but raises the question of whether the 70s band is cut out for the massive shift in style. The opening cut "Restless" is also one of the spunkier tracks and came off particularly well when John hit the road with his formidable sidemen to support the disc. However, the vast majority of Breaking Hearts is met with varying degrees of success. Both "In Neon" and the reggae-dub influenced "Passengers" were best suited to the lighter pop genre and Adult Contemporary radio format where John joined the ranks of Phil Collins, Lionel Ritchie and George Michael. This stylistic direction, while concurrently popular, also criminally under-utilized the synergy between the artist and band. Except for the noir 'unplugged' title performance, "Breaking Hearts (Ain't What It Used To Be)."

Ice On Fire (1985)

"1985's Ice on Fire is very much a forgotten Elton John effort; sandwiched between the follow-up hit Breaking Hearts and the commercial disaster Leather Jackets, all three albums sadly endured a large shadow compared to 1983's Too Low For Zero. Nevertheless, Ice on Fire is still a hugely enjoyable record, even if it is not entirely up to scratch with Elton's better 80s work. It is the living proof of Elton and Bernie's consummate professionalism. Ice on Fire is pure 1985, heavy on synthetic drums and keyboards -- the kind of record where Davy Johnstone is credited with guitar, but it never sounds as if there's a guitar on the record, or any other "real" instrument, for that matter. That's not really a criticism since John always made state-of-the-art records, so it should come as little surprise that this sounds like its time. Nevertheless, being as far from the classic Elton sound as possible, Ice on Fire delivers some solid tracks; "This Town," "Cry to Heaven," "Soul Glove," the greatest hit "Nikita," and the wonderful duet with George Michael "Wrap Her Up."

Leather Jackets (1986)

.1986's Leather Jackets did undermine Elton's last few commercial efforts and made the '80s seem like a slow and sad decline for the artist; regardless of having his original lyricist and classic band on board, there is an arguable difficulty in keeping up the momentum that Too Low For Zero had brought. Even the most ardent enthusiasts freely admit that Leather Jackets was nothing more or less than a final fulfilment of his six-album deal with Geffen Records. The decent tracks here would be the title track, "Hoop of Fire," "Don't Trust That Woman," "Heartache All Over The World," "Angeline," and "Gypsy Heart" everything else is filler and radiate the 80's synth-pop to the extreme. an enjoyable listen all around.

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