On May 30, 1983, Elton John released his seventeenth studio album, "Too Low for Zero".
This album stands as a triumphant reunion and a creative peak in the legendary musician's career. After a period of commercially underwhelming albums, this record marked a significant comeback for Elton John, delivering enduring international hit singles and reclaiming his position at the forefront of the music scene. It remains his second best-selling album of the 1980s, receiving Platinum certification from both the RIAA and the BPI. With its chart-topping success and over a year spent on the Billboard album chart, "Too Low for Zero" solidifies John's artistic resurgence and reaffirms his lasting legacy.
One of the album's standout features is the reunion of John with his long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin, who pens all the lyrics, marking their first full collaboration since "Blue Moves" in 1976. The album also sees the return of the core members of John's early 1970s backing band, including Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson, and Davey Johnstone, alongside the talents of Ray Cooper, Kiki Dee, and Skaila Kanga. With acclaimed producer Chris Thomas at the helm, "Too Low for Zero" was recorded at AIR Studios in Montserrat and Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood.
"Too Low for Zero" showcases John's musical evolution as he incorporates synthesizers alongside his iconic piano playing. Embracing the possibilities that synths offer, John felt they enhanced his ability to create fast-paced rock songs, addressing a creative concern he had previously encountered when performing such compositions solely on the piano.
TThe album spawned two big hits: the bouncy rocker "I'm Still Standing" wich is an upbeat song with harsh lyrics aimed at the ex and the poignant ballad "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonica. Bernie Taupin wrote this song as a love letter to his then wife, Toni Russo, who is the sister of actress Renee Russo. There is no doubt that this song demonstrates Elton John's amazing ability to wrap deep words that examine the complexity of relationships, in such a moving melody.
But the success of the album is not only attributed to the big hits he produced, there are also songs like "Kiss the Bride" which shows John's ability to write a fast rock song, "Crystal" which reminded us a bit of David Bowie and corresponds with Elton's previous works, The opening song of the album "Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)" which is a personal and deep piece, describes a difficult relationship through phone calls between the couple, and more.
"Too Low for Zero" is an album whose success is built on the renewed creative synergy between John and Taupin and produced some great songs that resonated deeply with the audience. While the album received a mixed critical reception upon its release, there is no doubt that it showcases John's ability to create catchy melodies that connect on an emotional level with Bernie Taupin's deep lyrics.
In conclusion, although "Too Low for Zero" is not considered one of Elton John's greatest albums artistically, it represents an amazing comeback and an comercial peak of one of the greatest artists in rock. The album serves as a testament to the resilience, talent and enduring legacy of Elton John, who through his partnership with Bernie Taupin, delivers a collection of songs that combine captivating melodies, vibrant performances and deeply relatable writing themes.
For Listening: Spotify