A mixed bag! Yes, that’s how I would adequately describe Too Low For Zero. There is little doubt that this album was another successful collaborative effort between John and Taupin, and while it would mark a return to John's original band lineup, from his classic era, Too Low For Zero isn't what I would consider to be a classic album. Don't get me wrong, there are some killer songs to be heard on this album, but not all of them are noteworthy.
I must admit that l've always liked the cover art of Too Low For Zero, but I find it humorous that the hieroglyphs by themselves are not enough, therefore requiring the album name to appear at the bottom of the album artwork. Nevertheless, it is the music we’re here for, so let's check it out.
This review is based on listening to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music remastered editions of the album. Sonically, the difference between the two is negligible, ensuring you’ll enjoy this album regardless of the streaming platform.
Cold As Christmas (In The Middle Of The Year) is musically a good song, but John should have remained mute, allowing the song to be an instrumental composition only. Yes, I'm not a fan of anything Christmas related, as many regular readers would note, but it’s just not suited to John and at best is a B-side. It certainly should have never been the opening track for the album. It's not as bad as Dear John, but it isn't far off either.
I'm Still Standing, as l’ve mentioned before, is addictive and truly awesome!
Too Low For Zero certainly has an 80s sound, but to be completely honest, I find it difficult to connect with this song as I feel the chorus is a little whiny, bordering on campy. Unfortunately, no amount of repeat listens can change my mind. It also sounds very under-produced, one step away from a demo recording. It’s a great album title, but a lacklustre song. Although, that piano solo is thoroughly enjoyable.
Religion isn't a bad song with a toe-tapping rhythm, but it’s also a B-side and offers nothing to write home about.
I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues is such a beautiful song. Well written, recorded, mixed, and mastered. It really is, as I’ve said before, simply fantastic!
Crystal is a great song. The beat is compelling, the backing atmospheric music is captivating, and John's vocal is perfectly presented on this song. One of the best, non-hit, songs on the album!
Kiss The Bride is, as I've mentioned before, one of the greatest songs ever recorded! Seriously, does anything more than that need to be said about this masterpiece?
Whipping Boy just isn't good. When I say Too Low For Zero is a mixed bag, this song validates that viewpoint.
Saint is a solid B-side and a worthy addition to the album.
One More Arrow is a beautiful song that should really be more prominent in John's catalogue. The vocal shifts are incredible and one can only wonder how amazing this song would be if performed live.
Dreamboat is the very definition of campy. It isn’t bad, it’s just not great and probably should have been left in the archives.
The Retreat is a solid song to close the remastered edition of Too Low For Zero. It encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue. However, I also have the same opinion of One More Arrow closing out the original non-remastered edition of the album.
Overall, Too Low For Zero is an excellent album, but it is most certainly a mixed bag of extraordinary and mediocre. Hence, it is difficult to recommend this album on vinyl as the skip ability of that track you may not like is not nearly as flexible as digital delivery methods. Regardless, the tracks that are truly worth hearing are the hits and they are available on various compilations. That recommendation, of course, limits some of the better non-hit tracks from being heard, but the songs that are truly bad, are bad enough to mar the album if you're not a truly dedicated fan.
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