July 20, 1981 12:00 PM

Elton John

If you loved Elton’s early works like Madman Across the Water or Tumbleweed Connection but lost interest while he plied his bitch-is-back routine, you’ll be happy to know the King of Optical Arts is singing your song again. With a new label, some old sidemen and fresh collaborators, he has regained his artistic equilibrium. His melodies are less glitzy and self-indulgent than in recent years, though he hasn’t lost his penchant for musical phrases so playful they border on sonic puns. There is a joint effort with British rocker Tom Robinson, as well as four deft tunes composed with John’s longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin. The highlight of the offering, though, is a pair of instrumentals (Carla/Etude, Fanfare) on which Elton tickles the ivories, backed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The style of the music harks back to the charming sound track score he did for the modest 1971 film Friends. Elton has always been a Jekyll/Hyde combination of shy, pudgy schoolboy and flamboyant extravert. The latter shows up in the title cut when he sings defiantly: “Yes I am the fox, a fascinating cross/Of sharp as a whip and tough as an ox.” The reticent side surfaces in Elton’s Song: “Sitting in my room/I’ve got it bad/Crying for the moon/They think I’m mad.” This time John’s control of his eccentricities shows he’s mad like, well, a fox.

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