Picks and Pans Review: Ice on Fire

updated 12/16/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/16/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

Elton John

Someday Elton is going to get together the right bunch of blues tunes and the right bunch of jazz musicians and record one of those devastating, where-has-he-been-all-this-time albums. Meanwhile he is turning out some of the most engaging pop-rock around. Even when he is less than satisfying, he never seems to be coasting. Produced by longtime associate Gus Dudgeon, this album has the same slightly acerbic, bluesy feel of most of John's best projects. One reason is lyricist Bernie Taupin. (He, by the way, has apparently decided to start calling himself by only his last name, "Taupin," which makes him sound like a brand of French shirts or an economy car.) Taupin writes consistently intelligent lyrics that are sometimes pretentious but never lame, and they're usually informed with a witty perspective that's rare in pop music. In Satellite, for instance, John sings, "I don't walk on water/If you think I can/If you want a miracle/Call up a superman." This LP also includes a peculiar song, Nikita, which seems to be a pop-rock ode to detente—"And if there comes a time/Guns and gates no longer hold you in/And if you're free to make a choice/Just look toward the West and a friend." John is backed vocally by such names as George Michael of Wham!, Kiki Dee and Sister Sledge; drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon of Queen appear on one track, too. The cumulative effect is that of a pleasantly weighty, thick production—on the order of an especially good hamburger, (Geffen)

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