Elton John, fresh off 1979's active year, with a top 10 hit (the Thom Bell written and produced "Mama Can't Buy You Love"), being one of the first ever rock artists to tour the Soviet Union (the Berlin Wall was still up) and blast through the speakers of discos across the country with the "Victim Of Love" album, opened the new 80's decade with his last album for MCA, "21 At 33". As most people know, the title refers to the number of albums released (21) and his age at the time (33).
With the first single "Little Jeannie" becoming one of his biggest hits of the decade, the album got off to a great start, backed with a solid tour as well. What one notices right from the start on this record is how clean sounding the production and the arrangements are. The bell-tree in "Little Jeannie" is crisp and crystal clear. The horn arrangement in the autobiographical "Two Rooms At The End Of The World" (Elton in London and Bernie in Los Angeles) is pointed and the staccatos have punch to them.
The second single, "Sartorial Eloquence" was a decent, building-ballad (although I've never understood why MCA released it as the key line from the song "Don't You Wanna Play This Game No More"). EJ & Taupin even (blushingly) take on (of all things) cocaine in "White Powder White Lady". All with the Eagles provided ample backing vocals (and perhaps, noses???). But the next two tracks could have been stronger. "Never Gonna Fall In Love Again", written with England Gay New-Waver Tom Robinson, was OK, but "Take Me Back", a country-esque number complete with "fiddle" was in retrospect too obvious of a "filler".
Much more interesting was the album's closing number "Give Me The Love" written with label-mate Judy Tzuke (think elements of Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush), who had a gorgeous hit the previous year with "Stay With Me Till Dawn". The song takes on a fluid, crisp jazz quality, one which was a head-turner for the hard-core Elton fan. It was so well written and executed, that I couldn't help but wonder if Elton was listening to Boz Scagg's "Middle Man" album while writing the music. It's always been my belief that Elton should do more exploration into Jazz, as well as compose and release an album of instrumentals. "Give Me The Love" seems to support both.
As with the other newly-released, import remasterings, they could have included some really great bonus tracks like "Conquor The Sun" (B-side to "Little Jeannie"), and "Cartier", "White Man Danger" (which should have been on the album instead of "Take Me Back"), as well as other european B-sides like "Love So Cold" and "Tactics". They really blew it...especially with most of the "Classic Year" remasterings containing bonus tracks.
Overall, "21 At 33" gets 3-Stars. It was a sprightly, Summery album, which would have gotton 4-stars if there would not have been the "filler" track mentioned above, as well as providing the bonus tracks mentioned. It should be noted that the remastering is superb and definetely enhances the clean, crisp arrangements.