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The Thom Bell Sessions is an EP recorded by Elton John in the second half of 1977, but was not released by MCA Records until June 1979. The project was a departure for John at the time. Up until that time, he had worked almost exclusively with lyricist Bernie Taupin and record producer Gus Dudgeon. Also, John's band was not used at these sessions.
This project brought Elton John together with R&B songwriter and producer Thom Bell, who had previously worked with such artists as The Stylistics, The Delfonics and The Spinners. Apparently, relations between the producer and the artist became difficult rather quickly. Although John was eager to work with one of the creators of the Philadelphia soul sound, recording sessions did not go smoothly and they ended before an entire album could be finished.
As Bell had recently relocated from Philadelphia to Seattle, the initial sessions were recorded at Kaye-Smith Studios - the top Seattle studio at that time. Additional overdubs were done back at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. Bell produced all the tracks and co-wrote one of the songs with his nephew,LeRoy Bell, and Casey James, who together comprised the popular singing duo Bell & James. Bell and James co-wrote the other songs in this set. The Spinners sang backing vocals on the project.
During these sessions, Thom Bell also advised Elton John on vocal skills, including encouraging him to sing in a lower register.
Although at least six songs were recorded during the 1977 sessions only 3 completed tracks were made available on a 12 inch EP in 1979. The project ended up producing one top 10 single: "Mama Can't Buy You Love", which peaked at #9 (#1 Adult Contemporary) on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1979. Ten years later, MCA Records released The Complete Thom Bell Sessions, bringing together the unreleased material with the previously released music.
- "Three Way Love Affair" (L. Bell-C. James) - 5:31
- "Mama Can't Buy You Love" (L. Bell-C. James) - 4:03
In February 1989, this CD was released by MCA Records, which featured three additional songs.
- Nice and Slow (Elton John-Bernie Taupin-T. Bell)
- Country Love Song (Joseph J. Jefferson)
- Shine on Through (Elton John-Gary Osborne)
- Mama Can't Buy You Love (L. Bell-C. James)
- Are You Ready for Love (L. Bell-C. James)
- Three Way Love Affair (L. Bell-C. James)
The first three tracks were (according to the CD sleeve) previously unreleased. "Shine on Through" is a different version than the one that appears as the opening track on Elton's "A Single Man" album. Though not noted on the CD, the mix of "Are You Ready For Love" is different from the original EP version, with Bobby Smith and Jonathan Edwards of The Spinners singing different lines of the second verse instead of Elton, among other more subtle differences. The EP mix of the song did, however, surface on CD in the UK as a bonus track on a CD single release of "The Last Song."