Today’s POP RESCUE from a loveless fate, is the 1985 19th studio album from Elton John, called Ice On Fire. Is this album a cool collection of songs, or is it just a big melted mess? Read on…
The album opens with the track This Town, which begins with a growling synth. This is soon joined by a funky bassline, and the whole thing feels fairly disco. It’s unsurprising then that Sister Sledge are providing backing vocals. Yes, Sister Sledge are consigned to backing vocals on an Elton record, and it feels like a bit of a crime.
Obligatory 80s Saxophone gets a funky solo too, and all in all it’s a really up-beat track and the perfect album opener.
The familiar tinkling Elton piano brings in next song Cry To Heaven, as he sings a serious slow song – a style that has come to be familiar in his later career. This was the third and final single from this album and it’s a wonderfully gentle but powerful track, dogged only by the occasional dated synth instruments jarring against the piano – the church bell synth for example, sounding like he borrowed it from a 1985 episode of Doctor Who.
Third track is the oddly named Soul Glove, complete with lyrics “and slip into my soul glove. Pull it on we got a tight fit. Never take it off“. Despite its odd concept of clothing, this song is a nice bouncy pop number that could happily find its place on an S Club 7 album.
Next up is the lead single from this album, and his huge #3 UK chart hit – Nikita. The song to give this album its title (Ice On Fire is a lyric used here). This is of course, like the video suggested, about East/West Germany, and includes the lines “and if you’re free to make a choice, just look towards the West and find a friend“. When you read the album sleeve, you also realise that this song has George Michael (amongst others) providing backing vocals, although I think it’s only near the end that you can pick him out as he reaches far higher than Elton does. In addition, Nik Kershaw also appears on this track, playing electric guitar.
Side one closes with Too Young. This is a slow rock track, again, like Nikita and Cry To Heaven, carrying war references. This track also sees Roger Taylor on drums and John Deacon on bass (both from Queen), and Kiki Dee on backing vocals.
Side Two opens with second single Wrap Her Up, and up-best track featuring George Michael. Kiki is back on backing vocals here, but despite this pop royalty mix, this song is a bit lame. The song ends with Elton and George naming celebrity women they’d like to have wrapped up to take home, including Annie Lennox, Shirley Temple, and Joan Collins. Oh the irony. It’s unsurprising that this song rarely appears on ‘best of’ albums, and despite my sister having this on 7″ it has become a forgotten hit for both artists, even if it did reach #12 in the UK during December 1985.
Next up is Satellite, and Nik Kershaw is back on electric guitar. It’s a pretty standard Elton track, and sadly starts the unmemorable part of this album.
Tell Me What The Papers Say, is a bouncy but dated song about media conspiracy. Again, Kiki Dee provides backing vocals, but this song isn’t really very memorable or catchy.
Almost seamless in its transition, it leads into the oddly titled Candy By The Pound, which is just as memorable as the previous track. This is Kiki’s last appearance on the album.
Tucked at the end, the album closes with the slow, sad, ballad of Shoot Down The Moon. This track is rather nice, and perfectly suited as the closing track. I wonder whether this song has ever been played with an orchestra – because I imagine it would be wonderful. Ending on a sad but high note, that’s it. Apparently this was Elton’s close brush with a James Bond theme – that glory instead going to Duran Duran.
The first side of the album is pretty good, and the closing track Shoot The Moon is also strong too, but side two is weaker and generally lets this album down.
The music royalty involved in this album is fantastic, but their near-smuggled usage is somewhat barbaric.
Despite its commercial success in the UK, the album was not as successful in the US, where it stalled at #48.
- POP RESCUE RATING: 3 / 5.
- 1985 UK ALBUM CHART POSITION: #3, certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from an RSPCA charity store.