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Music Review: Elton John – Breaking Hearts

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Elton John had been cranking out at least a studio album per year for over a decade and sometimes you have to wonder about his commitment and interest level. 1984’s Breaking Hearts would be a solid affair, but would not have the highs of 1983’s Too Low For Zero or the consistency of 1982’s Jump Up.

Despite its plodding nature at times, it would be a commercial success reaching the ten million mark in sales. While it would only reach number twenty in The United States, It would climb to number two in his native England.

Except for an appearance by saxophone player Andrew Thompson on one track; the only musicians featured on the album were Elton and his core band of guitar player Davey Johnstone, bassist Dee Murray, and drummer Nigel Olsson. This would be the last hurrah for the trio as Olsson would depart after this release before returning in 2000 as Elton’s drummer in the studio and on stage.

Murray would die of skin cancer in 1992 at the age of 45. Jonestone, Murray, and Olsson deserve all the credit they receive for their work as his backing group on many of his classic albums and memorable songs. Johnstone and Olsson continue to perform and record with John to the present day.

He and lyricist Bernie Taupin would create only two really excellent songs. “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” is catchy, smooth, and one of his rare creations to be recorded in waltz time. This tune about listening to old songs on the radio and another tribute to Edith Piaf, was a huge hit reaching number five on the American charts. “In Neon” is a wonderful, if somewhat forgotten love song, and is equal to his best eighties work.

The solid nature of the album encompasses most of the material. “Restless” is a traditional rock song that has a typical 1980’s synthesizer sound. It would become a part of his concert act for years, but was played live at a faster pace with the guitar as the dominant instrument making it much better than this studio version. “Passengers” may have been a tad quirky, but it was a top five hit in his home country. The title song and “Burning Bridges” are both love songs that are adequate, if not spectacular.

The poorest of the ten tracks, “Who Wears These Shoes,” was inexplicably released as a single. Elton John had a knack for issuing his best and strongest songs as singles which usually garnered significant radio airplay. But here he made one of his few poor decisions as the song failed miserably.

Breaking Hearts is not offensive in any way but is probably not an album that will often grace many turntables or CD players as there are so many more superior releases in his catalog.

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