Elton John recorded this song in 1977 with producer Thom Bell, who was one of the big guns at Philadelphia International Records, responsible for hits by The Stylistics, The Spinners and The Delfonics. From 1971-1976, Elton had a remarkable run of hits, but the lifestyle was wearing him down and his creative batteries needed a recharge. A huge fan of the Philadelphia soul sound, he connected with Bell to make an album, but they ended up with just three songs, including "Are You Ready For Love?"
None of these songs saw the light of day until 1979, when they were released on the EP "The Thom Bell Sessions '77." In America, "Mama Can't Buy You Love" was issued as a single, going to #9; in the UK, "Are You Ready For Love" was the single, climbing to #42.
Thom Bell wrote this song with songwriter/guitarists Leroy Bell and Casey James, who had a hit with "Livin' It Up (Friday Night)" as Bell & James. It's one of Elton John's few hits he had no part in writing, with an arrangement quite different from his previous material and lyrics that Bernie Taupin never would have written:
I'll write a symphony just for you and me
If you let me love you, I'll paint a masterpiece
It's an intriguing look at what happened when Elton gave up some control and went through the Philadelphia soul machine.
The Spinners sang backup on this track, with lead singer John Edwards (he replaced Philippe Wynne earlier in 1977) doing some answer vocals, responding with lines like "tell me" and "give it to me" when Elton asks the musical question, Are you ready for love?
The Spinners recorded lead vocals that weren't used - they were hoping the project would be billed as a joint collaboration (Elton John & The Spinners), but had to settle for background vocals.
The Spinners ended up releasing their own version of the song in America around the same time Elton put out the single in the UK. Their version went to #25 on the R&B chart in May 1979, the same month Elton's rendition was on the UK chart.
The song got new life in 2003 with the DJ/producer Ashley Beedle of Xpress-2 re-mixed the track. After becoming a fixture in the Balearic nightclubs it was used by Sky Sports in promos for their soccer coverage, leading the DJ Fatboy Slim to issue it as a single on his Southern Fried record label. This remix went straight to #1 in the UK and also topped the US Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. In the clubs, DJs would often play it as the last song of the night.
The album version runs 8:31, split into two parts for the single. A radio edit was released cutting it down to 3:31.