The Fox

Elton John

Geffen, 1981

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


The Fox signals the end of Elton John's mediocre string of albums from the late 70s to the early 80s. While its successor Jump Up! was the true return to form, The Fox shows signs of an artist having weathered musical styles like punk and disco and coming out of it strong. However, Elton was not out of the woods just yet.

I am fully aware that The Fox was recorded in the 80s, but that does not mean I have to like it. There are many moments that sound horrendously out of date; "Nobody Wins" is probably the most glaring example, with a heavy synthesizer/keyboard/drum trigger sound that was state of the art at the time but is hard to take seriously today.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Besides the old-school 80s sound, most of the music off The Fox sounds similar to John's previous albums. There's a dance/disco vibe that underlies a few of the tracks, though it is nowhere near as horrible as Victim Of Love. "Heels Of The Wind" could have been lifted from 21 At 33, as could have "Heart In The Right Place."

This all being said, a few moments have stuck with me since first listen. The opening track, "Breaking Down Barriers," is one of John's best rock numbers of the decade, propelled along by his superb piano work and diverse vocals. This number showcases the low and high facets of Elton's voice, which I would argue was at its peak from this point to Breaking Hearts.

The pairing of "Carle Etude" and "Fanfare/Chloe" is without question the highlight of The Fox. The former is a full orchestral piece, on par with "Tonight," and these tracks make me wish Elton did more straight up instrumental work. "Fanfare" may suffer a tad from the aforementioned onslaught of fake instrumentation, but as with Stevie Wonder's "Village Ghetto Land," the songs are fleshed out because of the synths. The "Chloe" piece is a relatively straight-up ballad, but with a catchy refrain and excellent orchestra arrangements from James Newton-Howard.

The two other tunes that caught my attention were "Elton's Song" and the title track. "Elton's Song" is relatively unadorned, with just Elton and the piano for most of its running time... moments like these are always appreciated on any Elton album. "The Fox" fits alongside such track as "The Flintstone Boy" and "The Retreat" with a pop/country feel that John is quite good at pulling off. The argument could be made that these tracks are more country than what passes for country music today.

There was enough material to keep my interest throughout the The Fox, especially considering that the second half of the album contains its best material. More importantly, the stage was set for Jump Up! and Too Low For Zero. That is probably the most lasting impact The Fox has in Elton John's catalog.

Rating: B-

User Rating: C



© 2006 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen, and is used for informational purposes only.