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Elton John

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Elton John - Too Low For Zero [Geffen GHS 4006] (1983)

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ITEM# SR-GEGHS4006
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Artist:

Elton John

Title:

Too Low For Zero

Released: 1983
Label: Geffen
Catalog: GHS 4006
Genre: Rock / Pop
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Cold As Chrismas (In The Middle Of The Year)
02 I'm Still Standing
03 Too Low For Zero
04 Religion
05 I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues
06 Crystal
07 Kiss The Bride
08 Whipping Boy
09 Saint
10 One More Arrow
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Album Review

Stephen Thomas Erlewine [allmusic.com]

Elton John began inching back into the mainstream with Jump Up, an uneven but strong record highlighted by ''Empty Garden.'' Its success set the stage for Too Low for Zero, a full-fledged reunion with his best collaborator, Bernie Taupin, and his classic touring band. Happily, this is a reunion that works like gangbusters, capturing everybody at a near-peak of their form. That means there aren't just hit singles, but there are album tracks, like the opener, ''Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year),'' that strongly (and favorably) recall Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. John hadn't been this engaging in years, not since Gerald Ford was in office. Why does this work so well? Well, the question isn't just consistency, since records like A Single Man were strong, but it's because each cut here showcases John at a peak. He's rocking 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 hits context. 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.


Elton John - Breaking Hearts [Geffen Records GHS 24031] (9 July 1984)

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Artist:

Elton John

Title:

Breaking Hearts

Released: 9 July 1984
Country: US
Label: Geffen Records
Catalog: GHS 24031
Pressing: Allied Record Company
Genre: Rock, Pop


T R A C K L I S T:
01 Restless
02 Slow Down Georgie (She's Poison)
03 Who Wears These Shoes?
04 Breaking Hearts (Ain't What It Used To Be)
05 Li'l 'Frigerator
06 Passengers
07 In Neon
08 Burning Buildings
09 Did He Shoot Her?
10 Sad Songs (Say So Much)
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Album Review

Lindsay Planer [allmusic.com]

Building off of the success of his previous long player Too Low For Zero (1983), Elton John (piano/vocals) retained his 'classic quartet' for the follow-up Breaking Hearts (1984). After an eight year ('75 -- '83) hiatus Dee Murray (bass/backing vocals), Davey Johnstone (guitar/backing vocals) and Nigel Olsson (drums/backing vocals) briefly reunited with John and Bernie Taupin (lyrics) to attempt a musical resurrection of their early-to-mid '70s sound. Without question this is one of John's most consistent efforts during his half decade on Geffen Records ('81 -- '86). However the shift in pop music styles since 1975 as well as lack of edgy material, seemed to stifle the band's return to full form circa Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (GYBR) (1973) or Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975). Breaking Hearts was not light on hits either, yielding ''Who Wears These Shoes'' as well as the Top 5 smash ''Sad Songs (Say So Much)''.'' The oft over looked ''L'il 'Frigerator'' is a high octane rocker that could be considered a post script to ''Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n' Roll)'' from GYBR. 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. The vast majority of Breaking Hearts however, 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-utilised the synergy between the artist and band. With the exception of the noir 'unplugged' title performance ''Breaking Hearts (Ain't What It Used To Be)'' a majority of the LP is indistinguishable from much of the rest of his mid '80s and early '90s catalogue.


Elton John - Ice On Fire [Geffen GHS 24077 / R-143673] (1985)

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ITEM# SR-CLGEGHS24077
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Artist:

Elton John

Title:

Ice On Fire

Released: 1985
Label: Geffen
Catalog: GHS 24077 / R-143673
Genre: Rock
NOTE: RCA Music Club Edition


Matrix / Runout (Side A):
R-143673A-1

Matrix / Runout (Side B):
R-143673B-1
T R A C K L I S T:
01 This Town
02 Cry To Heaven
03 Soul Glove
04 Nikita
05 Too Young
06 Wrap Her Up
07 Satellite
08 Tell Me What The Papers Say
09 Candy By The Pound
10 Shoot Down The Moon
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Album Review

Stephen Thomas Erlewine [allmusic.com]

Sandwiched between 1984's Top 20 hit Breaking Hearts and 1986's commercial disaster Leather Jackets, 1985's Ice on Fire is a forgotten Elton John effort. While it is hardly a masterpiece -- it isn't even up to the standard of such '80s efforts as Too Low for Zero -- it's still an enjoyable record, living proof of the power of professionalism. John was riding high on his comeback of the early '80s and ready to turn out another record. And that's what Ice on Fire is -- another Elton John album, in the best possible sense. Sure, it does mark the reunion of John and lyricist Bernie Taupin with producer Gus Dudgeon, who helmed John's greatest recordings, but you'd never know it from the sound of the record. 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; it's sort of fun, in a way, since it instantly brings back its era. The biggest complaint is that much of the record never rises to the level of memorable. The two singles, the cold-war ballad ''Nikita'' and the George Michael-featured ''Wrap Her Up,'' are the strongest items here, but even those are rather disposable. The rest of the album shares the same sparkling, canned production, and a few songs could have held their own on the Top 40, but much of it is just average Elton.

Elton John's biography

Stephen Thomas Erlewine [allmusic.com]

In terms of sales and lasting popularity, Elton John was the biggest pop superstar of the early '70s. Initially marketed as a singer/songwriter, John soon revealed he could craft Beatlesque pop and pound out rockers with equal aplomb. He could dip into soul, disco, and country, as well as classic pop balladry and even progressive rock. His versatility, combined with his effortless melodic skills, dynamic charisma, and flamboyant stage shows, made him the most popular recording artist of the '70s. Unlike many pop stars, John was able to sustain his popularity, charting a Top 40 single every single year from 1970 to 1996. During that time, he had temporary slumps in creativity and sales, as he fell out of favor with critics, had fights with his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, and battled various addictions and public scandals. But through it all, John remained a remarkably popular artist, and many of his songs -- including ''Your Song,'' ''Rocket Man,'' ''Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,'' and ''Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me'' -- became contemporary pop standards.

The son of a former Royal Air Force trumpeter, John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947. Dwight began playing piano at the age of four, and when he was 11, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. After studying for six years, he left school with the intention of breaking into the music business. In 1961, he joined his first band, Bluesology, and divided his time between playing with the group, giving solo concerts at a local hotel, and running errands for a London publishing house. By 1965, Bluesology was backing touring American soul and R&B musicians like Major Lance, Doris Troy, and the Bluebells. In 1966, Bluesology became Long John Baldry's supporting band and began touring cabarets throughout England. Dwight became frustrated with Baldry's control of the band and began searching for other groups to join. He failed his lead vocalist auditions for both King Crimson and Gentle Giant before responding to an advertisement by Liberty Records. Though he failed his Liberty audition, he was given a stack of lyrics left with the label courtesy of Bernie Taupin, who had also replied to the ad. Dwight wrote music for Taupin's lyrics and began corresponding with him through mail. By the time the two met six months later, Dwight had changed his name to Elton John, taking his first name from Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and his last from John Baldry.

John and Taupin were hired by Dick James to become staff songwriters at his fledgling DJM in 1968. The pair collaborated at a rapid rate, with Taupin submitting batches of lyrics -- he often wrote a song an hour -- every few weeks. John would then write music without changing the words, sometimes completing the songs in under a half-hour. Over the next two years, the duo wrote songs for pop singers like Roger Cook and Lulu. In the meantime, John recorded cover versions of current hits for budget labels to be sold in supermarkets. By the summer of 1968, he had begun recording singles for release under his own name. Usually, these songs were more rock- and radio-oriented than the tunes he and Taupin were giving to other vocalists, yet neither of his early singles for Philips, ''I've Been Loving You Too Long'' and ''Lady Samantha,'' sold well. In June of 1969, he released his debut album for DJM, Empty Sky, which received fair reviews, but no sales.

For his second album, John and Taupin hired producer Gus Dudgeon and arranger Paul Buckmaster, who contributed grandiose string charts to Elton John. Released in the summer of 1970, Elton John began to make inroads in America, where it appeared on MCA's Uni subsidiary. In August, he gave his first American concert at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, which received enthusiastic reviews, as well as praise from Quincy Jones and Leon Russell. Throughout the fall, Elton John continued to climb the charts on the strength of the Top Ten single ''Your Song.'' John followed it quickly in late 1970 with the concept album Tumbleweed Connection, which received heavy airplay on album-oriented radio in the U.S., helping it climb into the Top Ten. The rapid release of Tumbleweed Connection established a pattern of frequent releases that John maintained throughout his career. In 1971, he released the live 11-17-70 and the Friends soundtrack, before releasing Madman Across the Water late in the year. Madman Across the Water was successful, but John achieved stardom with the follow-up, 1972's Honky Chateau. Recorded with his touring band -- bassist Dee Murray, drummer Nigel Olsson, and guitarist Davey Johnstone -- and featuring the hit singles ''Rocket Man'' and ''Honky Cat,'' Honky Chateau became his first American number one album, spending five weeks at the top of the charts.

Between 1972 and 1976, John and Taupin's hitmaking machine was virtually unstoppable. ''Rocket Man'' began a four-year streak of 16 Top 20 hits in a row; out of those 16 -- including ''Crocodile Rock,'' ''Daniel,'' ''Bennie and the Jets,'' ''The Bitch Is Back,'' and ''Philadelphia Freedom'' -- only one, the FM hit ''Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting,'' failed to reach the Top Ten. Honky Chateau began a streak of seven consecutive number one albums -- Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1973), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973), Caribou (1974), Greatest Hits (1974), Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975), Rock of the Westies (1975) -- that all went platinum. John founded Rocket, a record label distributed by MCA, in 1973 in order to sign and produce acts like Neil Sedaka and Kiki Dee. John didn't become a Rocket recording artist himself, choosing to stay with MCA for a record-breaking eight-million-dollar contract in 1974. Later in 1974, he played and sang on John Lennon's number one comeback single ''Whatever Gets You Through the Night,'' and he persuaded Lennon to join him on-stage at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving Day 1974; it would prove to be Lennon's last live performance. The following year, Captain Fantastic became John's first album to enter the American charts at number one. After its release, he revamped his band, which now featured Johnstone, Quaye, Roger Pope, Ray Cooper, and bassist Kenny Passarelli; Rock of the Westies was the first album to feature this lineup.

Throughout the mid-'70s, John's concerts were enormously popular, as were his singles and albums, and he continued to record and perform at a rapid pace until 1976. That year, he revealed in an interview in Rolling Stone that he was bisexual; he would later admit that the confession was a compromise, since he was afraid to reveal that he was homosexual. Many fans reacted negatively to John's bisexuality, and his audience began to shrink somewhat in the late '70s. The decline in his record sales was also due to his exhaustion. After 1976, John cut his performance schedule drastically, announcing that he was retiring from live performances in 1977 and started recording only one album a year. His relationship with Taupin became strained following the release of 1976's double album Blue Moves, and the lyricist began working with other musicians. John returned in 1978 with A Single Man, which was written with Gary Osborne; the record produced no Top 20 singles. That year, he returned to live performances, first by jamming at the Live Stiffs package tour, then by launching a comeback tour in 1979 accompanied only by percussionist Ray Cooper. ''Mama Can't Buy You Love,'' a song he recorded with Philly soul producer Thom Bell in 1977, returned him to the Top Ten in 1979, but that year's Victim of Love was a commercial disappointment.

John reunited with Taupin for 1980's 21 at 33, which featured the Top Ten single ''Little Jeannie.'' Over the next three years, John remained a popular concert artist, but his singles failed to break the Top Ten, even if they reached the Top 40. In 1981, he signed with Geffen Records and his second album, Jump Up!, became a gold album on the strength of ''Blue Eyes'' and ''Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny),'' his tribute to John Lennon. But it was 1983's Too Low for Zero that began his last great streak of hit singles, with the MTV hit ''I'm Still Standing'' and the Top Ten single ''I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues.'' Throughout the rest of the '80s, John's albums would consistently go gold, and they always generated at least one Top 40 single; frequently, they featured Top Ten singles like ''Sad Songs (Say So Much)'' (1984), ''Nikita'' (1986), ''Candle in the Wind'' (1987), and ''I Don't Want to Go on with You Like That'' (1988). While his career continued to be successful, his personal life was in turmoil. Since the mid-'70s, he had been addicted to cocaine and alcohol, and the situation only worsened during the '80s. In a surprise move, he married engineer Renate Blauel in 1984; the couple stayed married for four years, although John later admitted he realized he was homosexual before his marriage. In 1986, he underwent throat surgery while on tour, but even after he successfully recovered, he continued to abuse cocaine and alcohol.

Following a record-breaking five-date stint at Madison Square Garden in 1988, John auctioned off all of his theatrical costumes, thousands of pieces of memorabilia, and his extensive record collection through Sotheby's. The auction was a symbolic turning point. Over the next two years, John battled both his drug addiction and bulimia, undergoing hair replacement surgery at the same time. By 1991 he was sober, and the following year he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation; he also announced that he would donate all royalties from his single sales to AIDS research.

In 1992, John returned to active recording with The One. Peaking at number eight on the U.S. charts and going double platinum, the album became his most successful record since Blue Moves and sparked a career renaissance for John. He and Taupin signed a record-breaking publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music in 1992 for an estimated 39 million dollars. In 1994, John collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on songs for Disney's animated feature The Lion King. One of their collaborations, ''Can You Feel the Love Tonight,'' won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. John's 1995 album Made in England continued his comeback, peaking at number three on the U.K. charts and number 13 in the U.S.; in America, the album went platinum. The 1997 follow-up, The Big Picture, delivered more of the same well-crafted pop, made the Top Ten, and produced a hit in ''Something About the Way You Look Tonight.'' However, its success was overshadowed by John's response to the tragic death of Princess Diana -- he re-recorded ''Candle in the Wind'' (originally a eulogy for Marilyn Monroe) as a tribute to his slain friend, with Taupin adapting the lyrics for what was planned as the B-side of ''Something About the Way You Look Tonight.''

With the profits earmarked for Diana's favorite charities, and with a debut performance at Diana's funeral, ''Candle in the Wind 1997'' became the fastest-selling hit of all time in both Britain and the U.S. upon the single's release, easily debuting at number one on both sides of the Atlantic; with first-week sales of over three million copies in the U.S. alone and 14 weeks in the top spot, it was John's biggest hit ever. For his next project, John reunited with Lion King collaborator Tim Rice to write songs for Disney's Broadway musical adaptation of the story of Aida; an album of their efforts featuring a who's who of contemporary pop musicians was released in early 1999, going gold by the end of the year. In late 2000, John landed a TV special with CBS, performing a selection of his greatest hits at Madison Square Garden; a companion album drawn from those performances, One Night Only, was issued shortly before the special aired. Released in 2001, Songs from the West Coast was a return to form for John, who found critical success for the first time since the '80s. However, it wasn't until 2004's popular Peachtree Road album that he managed to match that success commercially. In 2006, John and Taupin released The Captain & the Kid, a sequel to 1975's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. John busied himself with stage work and a Vegas show before he unexpectedly recorded a duet album with Leon Russell, releasing the T-Bone Burnett-produced The Union in the fall of 2010.

The Union revived Russell's career and the duo supported the record with a limited tour. John settled into another Vegas stint in 2011, signing a contract with Caesars Palace to deliver a show called The Million Dollar Piano over the next three years. Despite this long-term commitment, Elton pursued other projects: he published an autobiography called Love Is the Cure in the summer of 2012 and around the same time, the Australian dance duo Pnau reworked many of his classic '70s recordings on the Good Morning to the Night album. He also completed another collection of new songs called The Diving Board; the T-Bone Burnett-produced album appeared in September 2013.
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