In a release that echoes Junkie XL's 2002 mix of 'A Little Less Conversation', 'Are You Ready for Love' is a remix (by Brit DJ/producer Ashley Beedle) of an obscure(ish) Elton John song, originally recorded in 1977 but not released in the UK until 1979 as part of Elton's 'Thom Bell Sessions' EP. Bell, of course, was a major player in the seventies 'Philly soul' scene, and 'Are You Ready for Love' saw John decamping to Philadelphia and dabbling in the Philly soul sound and working with its main architects Thom and LeRoy Bell and the MFSB.*
By all accounts the sessions did not go well, and on the basis of the end recordings I can imagine the frustrations of those involved; Philly soul was about more than just the music, it needed a voice too and this is where the project scuppers itself. Although it's a Bell original, Elton can't invest 'Are You Ready for Love' with the same light glide as a Teddy Pendergrass or a Russell Thompkins - Pinner is not Philadelphia after all, and despite the best efforts of the music, the end result could be n.e.other contemporaneous Elton John song (John has already covered much the same ground on his own 'Philadelphia Freedom' in 1975). Elton is game enough but his vocal is forever looking for the secure story in song handholds that Bell's haiku-like lyric doesn't offer and, lacking the soulful chops to stretch and breeze over Bell's melody, he bogs down its smooth, late night skim and production with a sandpaper friction, a contrast made all the more stark by the addition of backing vocals from The Spinners who only serve to highlight just how far Elton is falling short.
Because unlike the re-working of 'A Little Less Conversation' (which would have suited Elton's delivery here), Beedle's 2003 remix doesn't tinker with or update the base product in any significant way. Rather, Beedle polishes and buffs the original tracks like George Lucas tinkering with his Star Wars films, creating an end product that's different but the same. But whilst Lucas and his changes got the faithful raging, Beedle's mix barely generates a shoulder shrug - apart from a noticeable toning down of those backing vocals to place more of an emphasis on Elton's lead, you'd need the ears of a dog to be able to tell the two versions apart. So why the sudden interest? Well it's use on a Sky Sports television advert for football no doubt played no small role in its re-surfacing, but 'remix' notwithstanding, 'Are You Ready for Love' remains more of an indulgent fanboy pastiche than faithful homage. I'll stick with my Delfonics albums thanks.
* Like Los Angeles' famous 'Wrecking Crew', MFSB were a pool of crack studio musicians based at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios