Elton John returned in 1980 with the now obscure release 21 at 33. The title referred to his 21st album release at age 33. I’m not sure how he counted his former releases as it does not come out correctly no matter how I figure it but he was indeed 33.
While it might not measure up to his classic seventies efforts, when you compare it to 1979’s abysmal Victim Of Love, it sounds pretty good. His fans agreed as it sold double the number of copies of its predecessor and returned him to the top fifteen on the American charts.
It also marked the return of long time lyricist Bernie Taupin, who had been sorely missed on John's previous two releases. The three songs that he contributes are the album’s most interesting. “Chasing The Crown,” which is the opening track, is a nice rocking number. John’s piano and the guitar playing of Toto's Steve Lukather blend well. “Two Rooms At The End Of The World,” which is catchy and features some nice brass work, deals with Taupin and John’s reunion. “White Lady, White Powder” is an odd track in that its lyrics about cocaine use run counter to the melodic music. The song is further interesting in that it was released at a time when John was reportedly into serious drug use of his own.
The best track was co-written by Gary Osborne who had replaced Taupin on A Single Man. “Little Jeanie” would become a huge hit in the United States. Having the feel of the best of his seventies work and sounding a lot like his prior hit “Daniel,” the song was a mid-tempo ballad that combined an electric piano and acoustic guitar.
Tom Robinson would co-author two tracks as well. He calls himself bisexual and has been a lifelong advocate of gay rights. At the time he was famous for his 1976 song “Glad To Be Gay.” “His “Sartorial Eloquence” is a nice pop ballad that matched John’s admitted sexuality.
The final track was written with English singer Judie Tzuke. “Give Me The Love” can best be described as a jazzy type of disco tune. If only his last album had featured material such as this it would not have been such a disaster.
21 at 33 is not a unified album which is mainly due to his use of four different lyricists. It is however a solid release and still very listenable today.