MCA-13921 The Thom Bell Sessions
Produced by Thom Bell
Released on May 1979
Find it at GEMM
MCA-13921 cover
[high resolution scan]

T he second half of the Seventies saw Elton wiltin. Here And There was nowhere, Blue Moves was a double-album downer and, by 1979, Elton seemed a washed-up disco diva. These were lost years, complete with their own lost sessions. In 1977, Elton went into a studio with Philly soul producer Thom Bell to make a disco album. The material was written mostly by Bell’s son LeRoy and Casey James (of Bell & James fame) and featured that pair plus members of MFSB on instruments. The Philly disco detour wasn’t entirely unexpected (“Philadelphia Freedom” ring a bell?), but for some reason the sessions fizzled out after a half-dozen tracks. It wasn’t until after A Single Man that Elton remixed a handful of them, scoring a surprise hit with “Mama Can’t Buy You Love.” I’m not the biggest disco fan in the world (pshaw, you say), but I thought “Part-Time Love” was pretty good, and these songs are much better than that. The opening strings and horns on “Mama Can’t Buy You Love” are vintage magic; much better than an nth pale retelling of “I Want You Back.” And the harmonies on “Three Way Love Affair” are as rich as anything on David Bowie’s Young Americans. Victim of Love is a mugging, but these lost sessions are a find in the flatlands between Rock of the Westies and 21 at 33. A decade later, the “complete” sessions were released as a six-track EP.


  1. MAMA CAN'T BUY YOU LOVE    (LeRoy Bell/Casey James)    4:03
  2. THREE WAY LOVE AFFAIR    (LeRoy Bell/Casey James)    5:31
  3. ARE YOU READY FOR LOVE    (LeRoy Bell/Thom Bell/Casey James)    8:31


ELTON JOHN -- vocals, mixing
BOB BABBIT -- bass
LeROY BELL -- guitar overdubs, background vocals
THOM BELL -- keyboards, arranger, conductor
TONY BELL -- guitar, background vocals
BOBBY ELI -- guitar
CASEY JAMES -- guitar overdubs, synthesizer overdubs, background vocals
M.F.S.B. -- strings and horns
LARRY WASHINGTON -- percussion
Carla Benson -- bacground vocals
Evette Benton -- background vocals
Barbara Ingram -- background vocals
Bill Lamb -- background vocals
The Spinners -- background vocals
Don Murray -- engineer
Clive Franks -- mixing
A3 -- photography
Jubilee -- design

UK May 1979 Rocket EP XPRES 13-12  
US May 1979 MCA EP MCA-13921  
AUSL 1979 Rocket EP 9198 229  


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