Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 06/26/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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.""
Some Good Songs--Not A Great Album
Michael A. O. Donnell | Denver, Colorado | 09/22/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Having owned everything E.J. has put out at one point or another, there are some great songs on this album. I'm Still Standing, Cold As Christmas, I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues.... This was the time of E.J., king of the radio singles.
That said, for every I'm Still Standing, there's a One More Arrow or Religion, which I see as pure filler. Yes, if you like the early 80's Elton John, this is a great choice for you. While Elton John always has great songs on his albums, overall this isn't his best period of work. Compared with true masterpieces like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Madman Across The Water, Rock of the Westies, or even his latest, Captain & The Kid, Too Low For Zero seems pale as a whole. That said, there are some great singles on this album and it's a much more solid work than the three that followed."
(2.5 stars) Kinda good
finulanu | Here, there, and everywhere | 11/22/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Three big hits on this one (the rocker "I'm Still Standing"; easygoing, piano-based "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues", featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonica; the typically '80s rocker "Kiss the Bride") - the first two are undeniably awesome, and even the third is catchy, as is the title song, though I do feel a minute of that could've been taken off the end. And "One More Arrow" is a pretty good melodramatic ballad. However, too much of it is stereotypical pop from the decade ("Cold as Christmas"; "Religion"; "Whipping Boy"; "Saint", with a synthesized brass solo stolen from "Shine on You Crazy Diamond"), there's also a pathetic attempt at ambient music ("Crystal"). And too many songs have five-minute running times. So this isn't a classic Elton album, but I suspect it's much better than his other efforts from the decade."
One Of Elton's Best Albums
Anthony Nasti | Staten Island, New York United States | 01/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After spending the first three years of the 1980s' looking for a place to fit in, Elton finally found his niche and recaptured the magic of his 1970s' heyday with his 1983 release, "Too Low For Zero." By bringing back Bernie Taupin to pen all of the lyrics for the first time since 1976's "Blue Moves" and reuniting his original (and best) band of Davey Johnstone on guitar, Dee Murray on bass, Nigel Olsson on drums, and Ray Cooper providing occasional percussion. The result was his best release in almost 10 years.
"Too Low For Zero" is best remembered for the smash singles it generated. The first was the explosive rocker, "I'm Still Standing," an anthem of resilliance and self preservation that has long since become Elton's battle cry in the face of public adversity and private turmoil. With its bouncy lyrical cadence and singalong chorus, it's one of Elton's most infectious recordings and a beloved concert favorite to this day.
The other major hit was the gorgeous ballad "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues." This longing, romantic composition is one of Elton's best love songs, buoyued by Elton's rollicking piano chords and soulful vocals and Dee Murray's driving bass moving it along at locomotive rhythm, perfectly emulating the thunder rolling under the covers mentioned in the song's memorable chorus. Stevie Wonder's harmonica solo is the icing on the cake on this already perfect musical confection.
The third single, the less successful but well remembered "Kiss The Bride" is one of Elton's best rockers, with a singalong proclemation in the chorus that has Elton shouting with mock anger mixed in with triumphant glee.
The rest of the album is equally appealing to the listener, starting off with its haunting, atmospheric ballad detailing a marriage in peril, "Cold As Christmas (In The Middle Of The Year)," which boasts a great melody and a clever Taupin lyric.
The title track is a dramatic, fast paced number reflecting the hyper kenetic lifestyle of its disillusioned protagonist. Elton's vocal perfectly reflects the lyrics, depicting another sleepless night of someone far too ahead of themselves, as his voice has a raspy, crackly quality that lends itself well. The quirky keyboard effects are especially notweworthy, and Elton's piano solo is a spindly web of melodic nirvana.
"Religion" is a satircal jab at hypocrtical evangelists who rose to prominence in the 1980s', such as Robertson, Falwell, Swaggart, Anita Bryant, and others. Elton, never shy about his negative views on organized religion, creates a stingingly funny tale about a gambler and a hooker who find God in the most unlikely of places yet to continue their sinful lifestyles under the false vibe that it's okay because they now believe.
"Crystal" is a catchy, synth driven rocker about a friend who loses the love of his life gracefully to his best friend, and is one my favorite rockers that he's ever done. It's similar melodically to "I'm Still Standing," as Elton sings in the same fast pace, almost breathless cadence he uses on the aforementioned more popular number, and should've been just as big a hit.
"Whipping Boy" is a repetitive rocker and gets annoying but still boasts some clever lyrical touches and in the long run does nothing to diminish the rest of the album.
The gorgeous, ethereal "Saint" features great synth work by James Newton Howard, touching lyrics and a soaring Elton vocal. Aside from "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues," it's probably my favorite track on the album.
"Too Low For Zero" closes with the chilling "One More Arrow," a loving tribute by a son to a deceased father. Like "Skyline Pigeon" and "Candle In The Wind," as well as the lesser known "Cage The Songbird" from "Blue Moves," takes an almost hymnlike aura, bolstered by Elton's hauntingly beautiful, piercing falsetto, which soars to Heaven and brings a tear to even the most hardened heart. It helped me appreciate my father a little more than I already do, if that's any indication of how well Elton captures the song's sentiments.
"Too Low For Zero" is one of Elton's best album and is, along with "Reg Strikes Back" and "Sleeping With The Past," his finest studio output of the 1980s'. 26 years, it's still standing with the most essential of his recorded output."