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on August 8, 2006
The transitional phase Elton John went through in the late '70s and early '80s was over. Too Low For Zero was not only the first record since Blue Moves that's all John/Taupin (except for one of the bonus tracks on this reissue, but I'll get to that in due time), it was also a full reunion with the original Elton John Band! This is the first record since Captain Fantastic in '75 to be recorded, from start to finish, with Davey Johnstone on guitar, Dee Murray on Bass and Nigel Olsson on the skins, and it shows. The title reflects neither the quality nor the chart positions of this fabulous record; it was Elton's best in years. The opener, 'Cold As Christmas,' may be a bit of a lyrical downer about a failing marriage, but it remains an excellent song with clever phrasing; it was quite a pleasure to hear this one again after something like fifteen years. 'I'm Still Standing' follows, an anthem of survival still without peer; the title track, a lament on boredom, misery and insomnia, comes next, with its irresistable beat and addictive chorus- lyrics notwithstanding, it's far from depressing. Next comes 'Religion,' as it so often does (ha-ha), a triple-tale of spiritual conversion in the most mundane of circumstances. While not a work of particular brilliance, it's a catchy little number that holds its own surrounded by the duo's signature hits of the decade. The album's best song comes next, 'I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues.' Featuring a harmonica bit by Stevie Wonder and a co-writer's credit for Davey Johnstone, this song, one of John/Taupin's all-time great love songs, was a hit throughout most of Western Civilisation, as it well warranted. 'Crystal' follows, another clever, catchy hook around a story of a lover lost to a friend, then comes the record's last major hit, 'Kiss The Bride,' a good rocker about falling in love with a stranger as she walks down the asile. I'll tell ya; for songs about unrequited love, no one beats these two. You might even call it their particular specialty: Elton and Bernie have managed to write uncountable songs on this topic, without excessive repetition of the same specific themes or stories (although they will write another song about falling in love with a bride at a wedding, 'I Never Knew Her Name,' on Sleeping With The Past six years hence, the details and the music are sufficiently different that you can't call it self plagarism, exactly). The next song, 'Whipping Boy,' is perhaps a bit perverse; the story of a masochistic relationship with a mean piece of jailbait, it's funny and it has the kind of chorus that can bother you for days. Now, we come to the tracks that close the original album, moving into torch-song territory: 'Saint,' a worshipful love song about an all-too good lover, and 'One More Arrow,' about a dead one. Finally, we come to the reissue extras. 'Earn While You Learn' is a jaunty instrumental that served as the b-side of 'I'm Still Standing,' 'Dreamboat,' a jazzy, countrified number in the tradition of 'Dixie Lily,' and the only non-Taupin lyric on the record- is Gary Osbourne's sole appearance on this record. Last, but far from least, is 'The Retreat,' a lovely ballad reflecting Taupin's continuing Americana fixation. It's a poetic tale of the aftermath of a Civil War battle, and one of my favourite songs in their entire catalog. I'm glad to see it finally placed on an album, no longer relegated to B-side or boxed set obscurity.

In conclusion, Too Low For Zero brought the rough patch that was the Punk/Disco/New Wave era to a satisfying conclusion for our heroes, as they survived their first set of challenges from various next big things, up-and-comers, trend-setters, various voices of the new generation and nay-sayers who said that their hit-making days were behind them. When most of these had been cast back into the obscurity from whence they came, Elton John and Bernie Taupin were indeed still standing. And twenty-three years later, they still are.
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VINE VOICEon June 26, 2007
The 80's weren't always kind to Elton John. Once he jumped from MCA to Geffen, the hits slowed down. He and Bernie Taupin had gone their separate ways, and his core band had been gone since "Rock of the Westies." "Too Low For Zero" changed all that. For the first time since "Blue Moves," Elton and Bernie co-wrote the songs. Nigel Olsson and Dee Murray were back, and so was the alchemy.

That was apparent from the first single, the defiant "I'm Still Standing." From the uptempo beat to the forceful lyric, it is the best Elton song since the glory days. "Kiss The Bride" follows in the same vein, about an ex who sees his dreamgirl slipping away as she walks down the aisle. But it was the ballad "I Guess That's Why They Call it The Blues" that blasted away the logjam. "Blues," with its great Stevie Wonder harmonica solo, became Elton's first top ten single in three years and the first since "Little Jeannie" from "21 at 33."

The most important part of this comeback is the rest of the album. "Too Low For Zero" was not just the home of three top 40 singles, but the remaining cuts had depth. The disintegrating family of "Cold as Christmas" is prime Elton, and the title track could have easily been a fourth single. The falsettoed ballad that closed the original album, "One More Arrow," is exquisite and a departure for Elton. "Too Low For Zero" marked the first time since "Blue Moves" that the entire album held together as a whole, and signalled the rebound for Elton that would continue through to "The One."
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on October 2, 1998
This album, which I bought in 1983, is still one of my favorite Elton John albums. I have almost all his albums, and I love them all, but this one is and remains a classic!!
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on March 27, 2012
"Too Low For Zero" marked a bit of a creative comeback for Elton in the mid-80's. After a series of rather patchy albums with different collaborators and musicians, "Zero" re-united Elton with lyricist Bernie Taupin for every song and his long time touring band mates Davy Johnstone, Nigel Olsen, and Dee Murray. The result was his strongest overall album in quite a few years and one that still holds up well today. Along with the strong singles "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues", "Kiss The Bride", and what has become his anthem "I'm Still Standing" are a host of good album cuts, especially "Cold As Christmas", and "One More Arrow". Still, there is a fair share of filler on this one as well as the rest of the tracks don't quite add up to the ones listed above. The title track and "Crystal" are ok, but nothing spectacular and the rest are just kind of there. I don't think this album as a whole stacks up to Elton's classics, but there are some really good songs on it that make it worth owning.
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on May 4, 2004
After flirting with his fans for years, Elton John delivered his most consistent and solid collection of songs since 1975's Captain Fantastic.
At the insistence of long time lyricist, Bernie Taupin, Elton decided to go back to basics and work with Taupin full time since 1976's Blue Moves. And, just as important, Elton reunited with the core of his backing band of the early 70s: Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone. This dynamic trio never sounded so good and they easily capture the romance and aura of the sound that made so many of Elton's early albums classics. Bernie Taupin also wrote lyrics with meaning and depth. He and Elton have always been better together than writing with other artists.
From the opening chords of the first track, Cold As Christmas, listeners are in for a treat. Elton's haunting vocal, coupled with the incredible backing vocals of the band, take the listener on a story of an elderly couple whose romantic flame as burned out. Then, as if on cue, Elton cuts right to the next song, I'm Still Standing and you can almost hear him saying: "Liked the first song? I knew you would. I'm back so take notice!" The transition is a bit jarring, but hey, he was feeling frisky and that's a great thing.
From there, the album slowly builds. The synthesizers are heavy (it's 1983 afterall) but they never intrude. They supplement the melody and reinforce Elton staying with the times. The title track should have been a single as it went over big on the tour that followed. I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues remains an instant Elton classic with it's overtly sentimental lyric about pining for a love one. Stevie Wonder's express and sweet harmonic solo only add to the songs' nice touches. Elton and the band deliver a rock solid effort on this one. And speaking of rock, the "rock" songs on the album are also worthy of mentioning. Kiss The Bride and Whipping Boy are fun, yet throwaways that, taken in the context of the album, fit in just fine. Crystal relies on a drum machine and is clearly an experimental effort that again, would have made a great choice for a single. Saint and One More Arrow round out the ballads and are equally satisfying primarily on the strength of Elton's vocals. The only song here that feels out of place is Religion. An obvious attempt to mimic a country-rock feel and would have been better suited on a b-side. Though Taupin's lyric is full of great imagery and sly humor.
Too Low For Zero had three hits in the USA: I'm Still Standing amazingly just missed the Top 10; I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues peaked at #4; and the third single, Kiss The Bride, made the Top 40. It's also no secret that the videos that accompanied the singles helped reshape Elton's image for the decade.
Longtime fans waited for this one. Elton and Bernie delivered and this one is remembered as a true return to form.
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on February 16, 2015
........... Simply put, 1983's "Too Low For Zero" is one of Elton's best... "It's July (But It's Cold As Christmas)", "I'm Still Standing", & "Too Low For Zero" are all excellent songs ams the rest are gr8 2...........
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on July 21, 2011
I have to judge how good an artist is by how many good albums and good songs they have. By that standard I have to say Elton John is the greatest artist out of anyone. This album is included in my earliest childhood memories. Every song could have been released as a single. 'Cold as Christmas' is the standout track in my opinion. It's moody, melancholy, melodic, and just a great song. Elton's voice sounds amazing on the album too. Still had full use of his range at this time. Even the casual Elton John fan should have this album in their collection.
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on July 21, 2013
I highly recommend Elton John's music. He is a talented, timeless artist, and we are very happy to still have him. He keeps producing excellent music!. I would highly recommend his CD's and his music!
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on June 22, 2014
This is a near perfect CD - a great return to form for Elton and his longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin. Includes classics like I'm Still Standing and Guess That's Why They call it The Blues - as well as underrated but absolute gems like Crystal, the title track 2Low4Zero and One More Arrow. The expanded version has a great song called THE RETREAT - one of the very best of new Elton.
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on April 27, 2015
Ej and bernie back together with the core band that produced all those hits in the mid 70's with 80's flavor of your expecting tumbleweed connection or goodbye yellow brick road not for u but if u like melodies lyrics and clean production and engineering u will like this
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