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album I album secondari

Elton John - 21 At 33  (1980)

Dopo la pubblicazione di Victim Of love che gettò nello sconforto gran parte dei suoi fans, Elton si rese conto del passo falso e decise di ritornare al più presto sul mercato con un album "normale".  E' così che nasce 21 At 33, inciso ai Superbear Studios di Nizza, un album apparentemente caotico, registrato con una marea di musicisti probabilmente coordinati dalla presenza di James Newton Howard.  Ma il risultato è molto buono, le canzoni non saranno straordinarie ma il risultato finale è verante positivo e un singolo come Little Jeanie riesce a sbancare le classifiche USA raggiungendo la posizione n° 2 della Hot 100 di Billboard.


1) Chasing The Crown
2) Little Jeannie
3) Sartorial Eloquence
4) Two Rooms At The End Of The World
5) White Lady White Powder
6) Dear God
7) Never Gonna Fall In Love Again
8) Take Me Back
9) Give Me The Love

Stati Uniti:    13° posto
Inghilterra:    11° posto
Italia:    25° posto

Elton's first fully-fledged album after "A Single Man" in 1978, "21 at 33" was issued in May of 1980 and, though not necessarily a "landmark" album in terms of overall Elton chronology, it WAS a milestone release in several ways. If you count all the compilation discs and "The Thom Bell Sessions" up to that point, Elton (who had recently turned 33 at the time) was indeed up to his 21st LP! It was also his last release on MCA until the latter part of the decade, with his next six records appearing on Geffen Records in the US. One other notable point about this album, as CD reissue veteran sleeve writer John Tobler points out in his liner notes, is that Bernie Taupin's words once again appear on an Elton studio album, Taupin's first contribution since "Blue Moves". Bernie did, however, write the lyrics to Elton's much underappreciated "Ego" single in 1978... and though they wrote and recorded several songs that would end up as b-sides during this time, Bernie's songs were absent upon the final assembly of "A Single Man". The songs that would eventually make up what was to become "21 at 33" were all written, along with material that would end up on "The Fox" and flipsides of singles during the previous August, with recording beginning in earnest in February of 1980. For this album, as with the session for "A Single Man", Elton and Clive Franks handled the production chores and while the record isn't as focused as "A Single Man", it's also nowhere near as DARK! "21 at 33" is a "happier" album, at least happier sounding than Elton had been in a while. Technologically, it was state of the art for the day and actually didn't sound too bad to begin with. and the remaster, while not dramatically improving the overall dynamics, has engineer Gary Moore getting a more defined and cleaner sound. There are no bonus tracks, which is unfortunate since several were recorded during this period... at least a couple that would have at least made fun bits of fluff to tack onto the end of the album program! But, what we do have is a fine Elton album that's quite enjoyable, even if it's not "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" or "Too Low For Zero". Recorded with a diverse group of musicians ranging from Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson to guest vocals from Peter Noone and The Eagles, there are some stellar names on the credit list. Session vets Alvin Taylor and Reggie McBride on drums and bass, James Newton Howard, members of Toto including David Paitch & Steve Lukather, Richie Cannata on sax from Billy Joel's band. Then there's Jim Horn, Jerry Hey, Bill Reichenbach and Chuck Findley who backed A&M jazz superstar Chuck Mangione on several recordings, Victor Feldman and Lenny Castro on percussion, David Foster's signature string arrangements which were very in demand at the time, and "Blue Moves" fans will recognize the familiar backing vocals of Bruce Johnston and Toni Tennille along with John Joyce, Joe Chemay and Curt Becher. Pretty good company all around! Elton signals Bernie's return by leading off the album with "Chasing The Crown", easily the most aggressive track on the collection. Bernie wrote 3 of the record's tracks, including the superlative, snappy and aptly named biographical "Two Rooms At The End Of The World", with the remastering really paying off during the big horn section finish that was in 1980 the closer for Side 1. Other writers of course were the order of the day for the next couple of records and Gary Osborne is naturally part of the fold. He contribues one of his very best lyrics ever in the warmly romantic "Little Jeannie", the album's #3 charting single that became Elton's first major hit since "Don't Go Breaking My Heart". Elton's knack for a catchy verse/chorus/hook combination is in full-effect on this song, and his vocal is instantly ear-catching in classic Elton tradition, making for perhaps the album's best all-around moments. Singer/songwriter Tom Robinson makes his Elton album debut with "Sartorial Eloquence", a very touching ballad and a highlight of the disc and also contributes "Never Gonna Fall In Love Again", a sweet if somewhat cheeky ballad that has one or two humorous self-parodying lyrics... see if you can pick them out! And Elton's generosity is not lost on Rocket Records prodigy Judie Tzuke co-authored the album's closer, "Give Me The Love", which is a nice song that regrettably suffers from too much "David Foster" in the overall production and a strange vocal rendering from Elton, that is fine, but ultimately could have and probably SHOULD have been better. Cynical moments are few on the album, with "Dear God" being the standout, and even it is a far cry from the very pessimistic "If There's A God In Heaven (What's He Waiting For?)". Even the jovial "Take Me Back", with it's decidedly country arrangement complete with Byron Berline's fiddle solo plays like it's a sad song, but actually does so with the song's lyrical tongue planted firmly in cheek, not unlike the b-side "Can't Get Over Getting Over Losing You" There wasn't much actually to the original album artwork beyond lyrics, credits and disembodied hands with cards and poker chips, but the remaster's booklet has improved on all that by incorporating pictures of Elton, another Elton signature sample (there's also one on "Victim Of Love"), playing card backgrounds behind the lyrics and credits, and photos of some memorabilia which once again includes the sleeves to the 7" singles released at the time. "21 at 33" was if nothing else an album Elton had to do, not only for contractual reasons, but to get himself back into the studio and prove he could get back on the musical horse. That he charted a hit single proved his relevance in the record/radio marketplace and gave him the confidence he may have needed to once again head out on the road and even play Central Park. The September, 1980 concert that would be a monumental event in Elton's career and a determining factor of whether or not his future days as a world pop music leader were numbered. Not only did he hit a home run, he batted the ball out of the "park" and proved that not only was he a leader, he was relevant, entertaining and, when a half-million fans cheered him on while he rocked out as Donald Duck, he was still every bit at the top of his showstopping form. With "21 at 33", the Bitch was sending out notice that he was Back... and this was just the beginning.

Andy Geisel - 22nd Row 2003

da All Music Guide

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

anno/label 1982 - ROCKET in UK, GEFFEN in USA 
produzione Elton John e Clive Franks
arrangiamenti orchestrali James Newton Howard, David Foster
studio Superbear Studios, Nizza (Francia)
musicisti Nigel Olsson: batteria; Alvin Taylor: batteria; Reggie McBride: basso; Richie Zito: chitarre; Steve Lukather: chitarra; James Newton Howard: tastiere; David Paich: organo; Jim Horn: sassofono; Richie Cannata: sassofono; Larry Williams: sassofono; Chuck Findlay: tromba, trobone; Jerry Hey: tromba, corno; Larry Hall: tromba, corno; Bill Reichenbach: trombone; Byron Berline: violino; Clive Franks: percussioni; Victor Feldman: percussioni; Lenny Castro: percussioni; Vennette Gould, Carmen Twillie, Stephanie Spruill, Bill Champlin, Dee Murray, Max Groenthal, Gary Osborne, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit, Bruce Johnstone, Toni Tennille, Peter Noone, Curt Becher, Jon Joyce e Joe Chemay
note album molto sottovalutato, non è un capolavoro ma è relativamente più valido rispetto a molte produzioni successive