Breaking Hearts

Elton John

Geffen, 1984

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Too Low For Zero had officially brought Elton John back into the limelight in the mid-80s. The question was if could he continue that momentum into the next album. Breaking Hearts may have continued the chart success, but creatively speaking it started a downward spiral that would plague John until 1987.

Breaking Hearts hit #20 on Billboard, and spun off three top forty hits. One of those, "Sad Songs (Say So Much)," reached number 5. While not a brilliant Elton single by any means, "Sad Songs" is certainly catchy enough to have warranted its success. Lyrically, the number is a contrast; John sings about how sad songs can help people out, yet the music for the track certainly isn't weepy . The best part of the song to me has always been the reunited trio of Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray, and Nigel Olsen, whose harmonies are as good as ever.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The other two hits, "Who Wears These Shoes" and "In Neon," differ in terms of quality. "Shoes" is one of John's underrated 80s singles, throwing out a R&B vibe with Elton delivering a unique vocal, pretty much smack dab in the middle of his 70s and 90' vocal styles (by that, I mean his higher and lower ranges). "In Neon" sounds like a prototype for "Love's Got A lot To Answer For" from The Big Picture. As far as Elton ballads go, this track doesn't do its job, lacking a strong hook though once again the backing vocals from the trio are excellent.

The rest of Breaking Hearts is remarkably hit or miss. "Passengers" definitely fits into the former category; this could have been an outtake from Paul Simon's Graceland. It stands out as one of John's most unique songs, apparently discussing apartheid in South Africa. "Lil Frigerator" attempts to cut it loose "Dear John" style, but the definite 80s sounds detracts from the hard-edged sound lurking beneath the flourishes. "Restless" falls victim to the same fate; but it fails even more so because of the turgid pace.

"Breaking Hearts" is a welcome change in sound, stripped down and lacking the glossy feel most of Breaking Hearts contains. I just wish it had a stronger melody, though John's vocals are some of his best of the album. "Burning Buildings" rectifies the situation, taking the core elements of John and the trio and letting them play it out. At times, I was reminded of the brilliant build up that "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" had. While "Burning Buildings" isn't in the same league as "Someone..." it follows a similar pattern. Johnstone's electric and acoustic work are welcome instead of a soulless synth riff.

Breaking Hearts marked the end of John's second comeback. It would not be until Live In Australia his career righted itself. But as far as average Elton John albums go, Breaking Hearts is a perfect example.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B+



© 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.