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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Virgin EMI

Distinctions 3F de Télérama
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Pop - Released January 1, 1972 | Virgin EMI

Considerably lighter than Madman Across the Water, Honky Chateau is a rollicking collection of ballads, rockers, blues, country-rock, and soul songs. On paper, it reads like an eclectic mess, but it plays as the most focused and accomplished set of songs Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever wrote. The skittering boogie of "Honky Cat" and the light psychedelic pop of "Rocket Man" helped send Honky Chateau to the top of the charts, but what is truly impressive about the album is the depth of its material. From the surprisingly cynical and nasty "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself" to the moving ballad "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," John is at the top of his form, crafting immaculate pop songs with memorable melodies and powerful hooks. While Taupin's lyrics aren't much more comprehensible than before, John delivers them with skill and passion, making them feel more substantial than they are. But what makes Honky Chateau a classic is the songcraft, and the way John ties disparate strands of roots music into distinctive and idiosyncratic pop -- it's one of the finest collections of mainstream singer/songwriter pop of the early '70s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released November 6, 1995 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released January 1, 1970 | Virgin EMI

Instead of repeating the formula that made Elton John a success, John and Bernie Taupin attempted their most ambitious record to date for the follow-up to their breakthrough. A loose concept album about the American West, Tumbleweed Connection emphasized the pretensions that always lay beneath their songcraft. Half of the songs don't follow conventional pop song structures; instead, they flow between verses and vague choruses. These experiments are remarkably successful, primarily because Taupin's lyrics are evocative and John's melodic sense is at its best. As should be expected for a concept album about the Wild West, the music draws from country and blues in equal measures, ranging from the bluesy choruses of "Ballad of a Well-Known Gun" and the modified country of "Country Comfort" to the gospel-inflected "Burn Down the Mission" and the rolling, soulful "Amoreena." Paul Buckmaster manages to write dramatic but appropriate string arrangements that accentuate the cinematic feel of the album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

After a dozen albums with lyrical collaborator Bernie Taupin, A Single Man (1978) represents Elton John's first full-length release away from their decade-long partnership. John's initial intent was to complete work on a Taupin-era remnant that had been on the back burner, titled Ego. However, he found himself with some interesting melodies and eventually teamed up with former Vigrass & Osborne member Gary Osborne. Also contributing to this album's different approach is producer Gus Dudgeon -- who had worked with John as far back as his debut long-player, Empty Sky (1969). The infusion of new musical associates takes notable effect on songs such as the opener, "Shine on Through," which John had previously worked up during the Thom Bell Philly soul sessions that produced the hit "Mama Can't Buy You Love." (That version is available as one of three previously unissued sides on the Complete Thom Bell Sessions EP.) Among the other standouts are the gospel-tinged "Georgia," the lengthy blues-rocker "It Ain't Gonna Be Easy," and the ultra campy, if not lightweight, "Big Dipper." The single "Part-Time Love" only made a nominal chart impact despite its catchy and danceable melody. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

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" -- 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. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1974 | Virgin EMI

Glitzy showmanship is what fuels Caribou, a less successful album than its early-'70s predecessors. Though the shiny surface of the album is alluring, only a few tracks rank among John's best work. "The Bitch Is Back" is one of his best hard rock cuts and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" is one of his classic ballads, but the album tracks tend to be ridiculous filler on the order of "Solar Prestige a Gammon" or competent genre exercises like "You're So Static." There are a couple of exceptions -- "Pinky" is a fine ballad and "Dixie Lily" is an endearing stab at country -- but on the whole, Caribou is a disappointment. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1973 | Virgin EMI

Elton John became a true superstar with 1972's Honky Chateau. He followed that album with Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, his most direct, pop-oriented album to date. Designed as a pastiche of classic and contemporary pop styles, the album almost sounds like an attempt to demonstrate the diversity of the John/Taupin team. Though the hits are remarkable -- "Daniel" is a moving ballad and "Crocodile Rock" is a sly take on '50s rock & roll -- the album is slightly uneven. Several of the album tracks, particularly the knowing "I'm Going to Be a Teenage Idol" and the rocking "Elderberry Wine," are as strong as anything John had recorded, but there are too many melodies that simply don't catch hold. Nevertheless, the singles were strong enough to keep the album at the top of the charts, and at its best, it is a very enjoyable piece of well-crafted pop/rock. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1969 | Virgin EMI

Although he had made a number of re-recordings of popular songs for a budget record label in the late '60s, Empty Sky was the first true solo album Elton John recorded after leaving Bluesology; it also marked the beginning of his long and fruitful collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin. Empty Sky is quite indicative of the post-Sgt. Pepper's era. With its ambitious arrangements and lyrics, it's clear that John and Taupin intended the album to be a major statement. Though it shows some signs of John's R&B roots, most of the album alternates between vaguely psychedelic rock and Taupin and John's burgeoning pop songcraft, capped off by a bizarre reprise of brief moments of all of the songs on the record. There aren't any forgotten gems on Empty Sky, but it does suggest John's potential. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

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. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1975 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

The past Elton John has in mind is the era of soul music of the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, and although all the songs are new, he recreates it well here. The album's most notable selection is the ballad "Sacrifice," which amazingly became his first-ever number one hit in the U.K. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released January 1, 1980 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Elton John entered the second decade of his pop music career releasing his 21st long-player during the 33rd year of his life, hence the album's title. It also marked the tentative return of former writing partner Bernie Taupin after a four-year sabbatical. Although the reunion yielded a trio of tunes, "Chasing the Crown," "Two Rooms at the End of the World," and "White Lady White Powder," unfortunately they all suffer from the same nauseating disco vibe that made John's previous effort, 1979's Victim of Love, so thoroughly dismissible. However, the following year's 21 at 33 is far from a complete washout. Building on the strength of his relationship with Gary Osborne -- with whom John had created A Single Man (1978) -- the pair wrote the standouts "Dear God" and "Take Me Back" as well as the hit single "Little Jeannie." "Sartorial Eloquence" harks back to the classic "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," thanks to the all-star backing vocals from Eagles Glenn Frey and Don Henley as well as Toni Tennille, Bruce Johnston, and Peter Noone (from Herman's Hermits). Interestingly, John briefly reassembled his 1970s core band of Davey Johnstone (guitar), Dee Murray (bass), and Nigel Olsson (drums), although their contributions sound more like an afterthought when compared to those of studio stalwarts Richie Zito (guitar), Steve Lukather (guitar), Lenny Castro (percussion), and an all-star horn section of Chuck Findley (trumpet), Jim Horn (sax), and Jerry Hey (trumpet). The scattered nature and lack of cohesion on 21 at 33 would translate onto John's next few albums such as The Fox (1981) and Jump Up! (1982). Not until the full-fledged reunion with Taupin and backing quartet on Too Low for Zero (1983) would John begin to reestablish himself as a central pop music figure. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Pop - Released January 1, 1982 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Jump Up! (1982) was Elton John's first full LP to have been recorded in the 1980s, and is best remembered for including "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)," John and lyricist Bernie Taupin's tribute to the their slain friend John Lennon. While the pair had been writing together again, albeit infrequently, since the late '70s, John continued to include material written with his primary non-Taupin collaborator, Gary Osborne. The latter team had previously scored big with "Little Jeannie" on John's 21 at 33 (1980), and to a lesser degree with the noir ballad "Chloe" from The Fox (1981). However, on Jump Up!, the quality of material ranges from the absurd and inane "I Am Your Robot" and the insipid breakup opener "Dear John" to the sublime beauty of "Blue Eyes" and the cathartic value of the aforementioned "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)." The dramatic "Legal Boys" is an understated masterpiece, marking the first public effort between John and Sir Tim Rice. The pair would garner Tony and Grammy awards 12 years later for their work on the original motion picture soundtrack to the animated feature film The Lion King (1994). John's backing band includes many of the same musicians who contributed to his most recent recordings. Representing the "classic" personnel are Dee Murray (bass) and post-Captain Fantastic (1975) recruit James Newton-Howard (keyboards). Fleshing out the core combo are studio guitarist extraordinaire Richie Zito and Toto drummer (and another highly regarded session heavy) Jeff Porcaro. Steve Holly, who worked with Wings as well as John circa A Single Man (1978), guests on the tracks "I Am Your Robot" and "Ball & Chain," the latter also featuring guest guitarist Pete Townshend. While far from a total washout, Jump Up! would remain tethered in the wake of the follow-up, Too Low for Zero (1983), marking a reunion between John and both his "classic" 1970s combo and Taupin. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin EMI

Elton John once claimed that he could remember The One among his latter-day albums because it was the first he recorded without drugs or alcohol. If true -- and there's no reason to doubt him -- that could be the reason why this has more character than most of his albums since the early '80s, holding together well in its deliberately measured, mature songcraft by Elton and Bernie Taupin. There's less gloss than on many of his late-'80s records, and John gives a fairly convincing performance throughout this set of pretty good songs. If there's any real problem, it's that the album just doesn't have many memorable songs. Though they're all reasonably melodic and well-crafted, none of the them have memorable musical or lyrical hooks and, if anything, Chris Thomas' production is too evenhanded. Still, even if it isn't memorable, it does represent a meaningful move forward, just because it does sound warmer and more considered than the records that immediately preceded it. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released February 14, 2019 | All Evergreen Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | Virgin EMI

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Pop - Released January 1, 1995 | Virgin EMI

Made in England could as easily be the follow-up to Elton John's self-titled 1970 album as his first recording since the success of his songs for the Lion King soundtrack. John has brought back some of his old associates, including percussionist Ray Cooper, guitarist Davey Johnstone, and, particularly, orchestrator Paul Buckmaster, who gave the Elton John album its distinctive sound 25 years ago and contributes four string charts here. John remains a musical jukebox: "Please" has a twangy guitar riff that sounds like the Searchers, circa 1965, while guest organist Paul Carrack brings a soulful Booker T.-like feel to "Man." As usual, though, John's main vocal influence remains John Lennon, especially on the album's first single, "Believe," the lyrics to which also echo the tone of several of Lennon's solo ballads. Lyricist Bernie Taupin is unusually personal, writing mostly in short, simple, declarative sentences and giving his songs one-word titles ("House," "Cold," "Pain," etc.). His overall theme posits a positive conclusion ("Blessed") eventually triumphing over adversity ("Lies"). John never works up much feeling for this concept, though he does come off alternately angry and solemn as the lyrics seem to require, though without ever upsetting the melodic flow. It sounds, in other words, as if Taupin had a lot to get off his chest this time around, but his mouthpiece, as usual, was more interested in the sound of the words than in their meaning. Which, given the predictability of the message, seems to have been just as well. ~ William Ruhlmann

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Elton John in the magazine