Elton John continued to issue an album per year and by 1985 his eighties output, past and future, was beginning to sound like one continuous release. It all amounted to a little good, a lot of average and forgettable, as well as a few misses altogether. It all added up to presentable efforts — some good, lots of them average and forgettable, and a few misses — but nowhere near the quality of their classic seventies predecessors.
Ice On Fire is an album grounded in the sounds of the mid-eighties with glossy, slick production plus a reliance upon synthesizers. It just seemed like music that Elton John and Bernie Taupin could crank out without much effort.
Elton again abandoned the core-band concept and the list of musicians used on this work seems almost endless. Roger Taylor and John Deacon of Queen, Deon Estus, George Michael, and a large cast of supporting players provided the instrumental backing. Only guitarist Davey Johnstone remained from his stellar backing band of the past.
The best track by far was the hit single “Nikita.” This ballad, which would reach number seven on the American charts, was a love song about a homosexual crush on an East German border guard. The accompanying video misinterpreted the song’s meaning, however, and starred a blonde woman as the guard. Nevertheless, Elton John’s vocal and the backing by George Michael are first rate on the track.
A lot of the material on this album has very dark lyrics. “Shoot Down The Moon” is about being killed in an attempted robbery. There is a ballad dealing with falling in love but with someone who turns out to be underage. “Cry To Heaven” is another ballad that deals with the dark side of life. All in all, it’s not exactly the most uplifting listening experience.
“Wrap Her Up,” the longest track at over six minutes, is an eighties time capsule, the dance track proving popular in the United States. While it has a dated feel today, when compared to what was being released at the time it comes off as pretty good.
Ice On Fire is far from being a grand epic. It is competent eighties pop/rock but more was always expected of Elton John. As such it is a forgettable release in his vast catalog.