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Elton John's The Fox was released on May 20, 1981. It was produced by Elton John and Clive Franks, as well as Chris Thomas who had previously supervised the mixing of Pink Floyd's Legendary The Dark Side of the Moon and would produce much of Elton's recorded work through the 1980s and 1990s.
It was recorded at Super Bear Studios in France, as well as Sunset Sound, Village Recorder, and Davlen Studios in Los Angeles and Abbey Road Studios in London.
Several songs on the album were left over from the previous album, 21 at 33.
The album opens with "Breaking Down Barriers," an upbeat number written with lyricist Gary Osborne. This song features great piano work from Elton, a really groovy bassline from Dee Murray, and classic drum fills from Nigel Olsson—showing the wisdom of reuniting the classic rhythm section. Vanette Gloud and Tamara Champlin sweeten the song with background vocals. It is a catchy tune that showed how Elton still had some memorable tunes in him after the seeming career nadir of Victim of Love.
The second song on the album is "Heart in the Right Place," a funky number also written with Osborne. The song features many guitar licks, some fine bass work from Reggie McBride, and drums by Alvin Taylor. James Newton Howard also adds some vocoder parts to the song.
"Just Like Belgium," which is written with primary lyricist Bernie Taupin, is a nice uptempo pop tune with sound effects, Elton's piano, and Newton Howard's synthesizers driving the melody, as well as legendary sax man Jim Horn let loose for a fine alto sax solo.
"Nobody Wins" is a synthesizer-laden pop song about a child's experience of a divorce. It's unique, as it was not written by Elton, but by French Composer Jean-Paul Dreau with lyrics by Gary Osborne.
"Fascist Faces" is another co-written song with Taupin. It has a pretty straightforward drumbeat from Nigel Olsson, along with some drum programming by Jeff Porcaro who keeps the song on a pretty brisk pace. The song also features the talents of the Cornerstone Baptist Church choir led by James Cleveland.
Next is the instrumental, classical-like piece "Carla Etude," which features, in addition to Elton's delicate piano playing, members of the London Symphony Orchestra bringing the track to life. Thus, it was played as part of Elton's 1986 concert with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. This leads directly into "Fanfare," which is a short synthesizer piece that then leads into "Chloe," written with Osborne. "Chloe" features a string arrangement by Marty Paich, congas performed by legendary percussionist Victor Feldman, and backing vocals by Dee Murray, Gary Osborne, and Max Carl.
"Heels of the Wind" is an upbeat number featuring prominent Fender Rhodes, James Newton Howard, and backing vocals by Stephanie Spruil, Vanette Gloud, and Tamara Champlin.
"Elton's Song" is a piano-driven ballad written with Tom Robinson about a young boy harboring a homosexual crush on a schoolmate. The mood of the song is enhanced by James Newton Howard's synthesized strings, helping illustrate the wounded tone of the song.
The album closes with "The Fox," written with Taupin and featuring backing vocals by Ronald Baker, Carl Carwell, Chuck Cissel, Clarence Ford, Roy Galloway, Jimmy Gilstrap, and John Lehman, as well as harmonica by Mickey Raphael.
The Fox was a pretty solid album, though sadly it did not sell well and continued Elton's commercial decline.