.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/ff86449b8899912bc4cf0d374f0e45331350266a.jpg Ice On Fire

Elton John

Ice On Fire

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
January 30, 1986

It's too much to expect a substantial album from Elton John at this point, but with the return of his longtime producer, Gus Dudgeon, for Ice on Fire, there was the hope that he might at least whip up a few frothy singles. Though the riffs abound, they're warmed over from other hits — most of them not his own — without any foundation of personal style.

An identity crisis is nothing new for Elton, but even the obvious influences on this album are second generation; his Motown and Gamble and Huff tributes sound more like Wham! and Culture Club approximations. No matter how derivative his past hits, at least they had some charisma and some flash, anchored in his sturdy piano playing. Lately, Elton's piano has become an afterthought, and the few times his piano takes the lead on Ice on Fire, it's distant and heavy-handed, as if he were striking the keys with mallets.

Elton's full-time reunion with lyricist Bernie Taupin doesn't help. Taupin recently scored a Number One single without Elton — Starship's hunk of AOR lead, "We Built This City" — and he's given Elton his own mindless anthem: "This Town," an unsympathetic look at a dead-end blue-collar community, which Elton "exposes" in a sneering vocal that's matched by some hard-nosed, clinical horns. The album's big ballad, "Too Young," isn't nearly as offensive, just silly and ironic. Elton laments the objections of his lover's parents (he's too old, they say), and his weary vocal suggests that maybe they're right.

As usual, Elton and Taupin get more when they strive for less. "Nikita" is a simple tale of political and emotional oppression that's as sure-voiced and emotional as "Daniel," while "Wrap Her Up" unabashedly celebrates media molls in a jaunty vocal romp between Elton and George Michael. Their voices are almost interchangeable, revealing just how much influence Elton has had on the younger British popthrobs, though "Wrap Her Up" is considerably more appealing than the empty calories Wham! usually serves up.

When Elton does hit his stride, he still only echoes his seminal work. Once one of rock's more animated performers, Elton John is now an old cartoon: the gags are sometimes still funny, but the punch line never changes.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Nightshift”

    The Commodores | 1984

    The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com