Picks and Pans Review: 21 at 33

updated 07/07/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/07/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Elton John

Elton's fans should sigh with relief. After the morose A Single Man (1978) and the sub-par imitativeness of the disco-fied. Victim of Love, the real Elton has returned. His voice is utterly singular. He can come off as a cutting, driving rocker (Chasing the Crown, Two Rooms at the End of the World), then fall into a wistful mood, as in Dear God. This album has a magnificently clean sound, too, which makes the most of strong instrumental and vocal backup work. Eagles Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Tim Schmit harmonize on White Lady White Powder ("I've had my face to the mirror for 24 hours/Staring at a line of white powder"—about cocaine; Toni Tennille sings on Dear God; Billy Joel's aggressive alto saxist, Richie Cannata, adds a pretty solo on Never Gonna Fall in Love Again; and Elton sings with Elton on a beautiful, country-esque ballad, Take Me Back. On that cut, fiddle great Byron Berline casually slices off the album's sweetest solo, overdubbing several layers of his own playing. The LP's richness may be due to the fact that Elton has collaborated with old pal Bernie Taupin on three tunes, the talented Gary Osborne on three and Tom Robinson on a pair. When he's hot, though, Elton could thrive teaming with Kermit the Frog.

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