Elton John is one of those exceptionally talented artists that have the capacity to reinvent themselves when the need arises. Well, in 1979 the Disco era was arguably at its peak following dance floor successes by the Bee Gees, Chic, and the Village People to name a few. No doubt, John probably felt if he couldn’t beat them, why not join them. Yes, dear reader, Elton John made his first, and only, disco album – Victim Of Love.
I don't know about you, but as I was born in 1979, I was probably conceived to the disco's boogie rhythm which I simply adore to this day. That said, I'm likely one of the few that feel Victim Of Love is an exceptionally brilliant Elton John release, even though he would write no songs, play no instruments, only contributing to lead and backing vocals. Nevertheless, this album wasn't just thrown together on a whim. It is a complete masterpiece, from start to finish, that has stood the test of time. With its seamless tracking, we disco-lovers have an endless piece of music to put on and dance to all night long (on repeat, of course).
An unconventional cover of Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode commences the album. I know it doesn’t sound like it would work but it absolutely does, setting the rhythm for the entire album. John's vocal delivery is also reminiscent of Berry's original which I feel is a lovely tribute to the master musician. Lenny Pickett’s saxophone solo takes the song to a new level, I could listen to him play indefinitely. John's Johnny B. Goode is truly exceptional, blending beautifully into Warm Love In A Cold World.
Warm Love In A Cold World is incredible. While the beat is predictable, a strength for disco, it is John's vocal delivery that I particularly enjoy, especially in the way he delivers the chorus. I love the drumming in particular and saw a familiar name providing the drum beats. Renowned for his production roles on Billy Idol’s exceptional debut and Rebel Yell albums as well as the Australian masterpiece, Icehouse’s Primitive Man, Keith Forsey is legendary.
Another seamless transition and we're dancing to Born Bad. I'm not kidding when I say just how challenging it is to write this review when your body is moving uncontrollably to the beat. Another stellar song, with a killer guitar solo!
Thunder In The Night doesn't offer quite as smooth a transition, most likely due to it being the first song on the second side of the vinyl release. Regardless, it isn't a jolt to the senses either and I class Thunder In The Night as the best song on the album. If only it was released two years earlier, it would have absolutely suited Saturday Night Fever. The rhythm is off-the-charts good! I'm head banging more than I would to any Metallica or AC/DC song. Exceptional!
Spotlight is a B-side and John's vocals come across a little whiny. It doesn't ruin the album, but it isn't as strong as the other songs.
Street Boogie doesn't flow well from Spotlight, but it is such an addictive pop/disco song that you can't help but bounce around as you sing the chorus. Thankfully, the remastered CD release contains the complete lyrics, thereby making karaoke-influenced disco nights all that more interactive.
Victim Of Love was largely unsuccessful when released as a single, but it would make it to John's career perspective, Diamonds. It deserves the inclusion, as does the entire album in John's diverse catalogue. Victim Of Love is the perfect way to close this disco-era album. It makes me want to play the album again and I'm not ashamed to say that I listen to this album on repeat for hours on end. It is that good and is extremely underrated! Perhaps it is too different to John's other albums for mainstream appeal, but all I know is it is a prized possession in my music collection. I will admit it initially takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve stopped comparing it to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road et al, it is exceptional!
This review is based on listening to the 2003 remastered CD (cat: 077 116-2). While remastering is often considered a dirty word, in music appreciation circles, this remaster is as close to vinyl as the CD format can deliver. It has an incredible soundstage and simply sounds right. You can also pump the volume to dance club levels with no distortion or degradation of sound. Sonically, it is perfect, although I'd still love to see a vinyl reissue.
The artwork and booklet are reproduced beautifully, with an accompanying reflection written by rock music journalist John Tobler. While Tobler is a little more critical of the album than I am, if you enjoy Elton John and the disco-era, then this is a must own.
Victim Of Love is an album that energises and rejuvenates my soul, reminding me exactly why I love music. Thank you, Elton!
Victim Of Love is available on CD and iTunes.
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