Jump Up!

Elton John

MCA, 1982


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


There is no question that Elton John's output in the 80s was nowhere near as brilliant as his 70s work. Most of his work from the Reagan decade was uninspired and sounds horribly dated today. Up until this point, I pretty much considered Too Low For Zero the only highlight, but much to my surprise I can add this album as another highlight.

While Jump Up! may not be John's best album of the 80s, it certainly is the most fun, perhaps his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road of the 80s (whereas Too Low For Zero is more like Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy). After a few lackluster, disco-driven works, Jump Up! captures Elton finally rocking again and sounding involved.

The opener track "Dear John" sets the tone for what was to come later with "I'm Still Standing." This is balls-out rock, as John rages over the Dear John note his lover left him. "Spiteful Child," is more a demonstration in melody than "Dear John," featuring a great refrain. John's piano work always manages to impress me in its fluidity and effortlessness. The acoustic, semi-country "Ball & Chain" manages to continue the fun, shuffling along as John gets to spout great lines like "I got a ball and chain hanging around my heart / You were the one to blame for tearing my world apart." Bernie Taupin has always liked to tear the ladies down as much as he props them up, and this is no exception.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Legal Boys" is an intriguing number, as it features the first collaboration between John and Tim Rice. The two would go onto to great success in the 90s with The Lion King and The Road To El Dorado. The song here resembles those in its dramatic overwroughtness and orchestral flourishes, but because it's over the top and glitzy it defines what Elton was all about. "I Am Your Robot," borrows heavily from "Madness" off of A Single Man a few years earlier, but in a good way. John's vocals have that snarl to them and the music itself has a hard edge to it, thanks to lead guitar work from Pete Townshend. The only negative thing I can offer up about this track are the incredibly cheesy lyrics from Taupin (sample: "I am your robot and I'm programmed to love you / My serial number is 44357"), but Elton somehow makes it work.

The second half of Jump Up! is a tad weaker than the first, but not by much. "Blue Eyes" was the big hit, allowing for Elton to show off his lower range vocals, foreshadowing the distant future. "Princess" is a pretty song, fitting for its subject matter. The synthesizer solo may sound dated today, but rest of the song carries it. "Where Have All The Good Times Gone" could have been snatched off The Thom Bell Sessions, since it sounds most like John's later 70s disco inspired work. The one glaring weak track is the closing number, "All Quiet On The Western Front." An ode to the horrors of war, it's too pretentious and delicate for such a serious matter. "The Retreat" was a much better war-themed number.

I have saved the best for last. "Empty Garden" is Elton's tribute to his good friend John Lennon, but instead of choosing to subject the listener to force-fed sentimentality, like Paul McCartney's "Here Today," "Empty Garden" could be about anyone who did so much and was taken away too soon. The pain in John's vocals is evident, which hits the hardest, and Taupin contributes some of his best lyrics, expressing the emotions of losing someone and realizing they aren't there for you anymore. "And I've been knocking, but no one answers / And I've been knocking most all the day…" Elton sings, and only the most cold-hearted of people would fail to be moved.

Too Low For Zero may have the better reputation, but Jump Up! comes ever so close to being its equal. It's pure pop craftsmanship, pulled off as only Elton John can. For those who argue John was past his prime by 1982, here is definite proof to the contrary.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-



© 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 MCA, and is used for informational purposes only.