It has been 3 years since the music world got anything new from rock icon Sir Elton John (last release was The Union withLeon Russell) and with his 31st studio album, The Diving Board, he shows us just how much we’ve been missing from him as a solo artist. Calling this his “most adult album to date” Elton opens the vault of his extensive music library and properly emulates the sound that made him the mega musician we know today.
The Diving Board sounds like it could have come out in any era of rock. Being an artist who knows he isn’t going to be number one with the likes of Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, he set out to make a record of good rock and blues. T-Bone Burnett, producer of the album and of The Union, told Elton he needed to “return to the piano, bass and drums set up that he had in the early days of his career”. This was a similar sound that made Elton’s last solo album (The Captain and the Kid) such a critical success. This album as a whole is nearly perfect. Listening to it from beginning to end (as one should) the listener can immediately feel like they are listening to unreleased tracks from early Elton albums like Tumbleweed Connection, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player or Blue Moves. Like these albums, The Diving Board is not themed but gives the audience a full range of properly collected emotional songs all placed together on one album, giving it a full and meaningful tone.
It’s easily detectable to hear how much love was put into the making of this album by all of those involved. Bernie Taupin really takes the stage with his lyrical prowess. I suppose to carry on being the most successful writing duo in music, both parties must put in the same amount of effortless talent. The song “Oscar Wilde Gets Out” is a track that stands out in a lot of ways in both music and lyrics. Taupin expels such visual detail with: “A golden boy in velvet landed in New York, The past was so seductive when they paid to hear you talk”. Elton compliments this track wonderfully with a great rhythmic jaunt and haunting vocals; which he put on full display when he played it live at the iTunes Music Festival. “Ballad of Blind Tom” is another wonderful story-telling song about a black piano player who can “play whatever you want”.
Elton’s most stand out track to me as a listener and a fan, was the jazz infused “My Quicksand”. He shows such a talent for smooth jazz piano and vocals that has rarely been shown in his work in the last decade. His aged voice keeps the tone of the song so Sinatra in a way, while also leaving a seductive resolve in his delivery. To be honest, if Adele wanted to cover this track at any time I (and the world) would not hate that. The albums melodic and orchestral segue tracks “Dreams 1, 2 & 3” are short but sweet. They allow Elton to deliver some gorgeous classical piano and for T-Bone to let us hear them perfectly note for note.
The album isn’t all melancholy blues songs, Elton and the band wail out some awesome up-tempo rock songs as well. The tracks “Take This Dirty Water” and “Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight)” are powerful blues-rock anthems with just the right amount of gospel. These tracks keep the album from being purely “sad songs”, giving a jovial and uprising feel to the record. With the music charts showing a rise in the singer/songwriter world, it’s no wonder that the first single from the album “Home Again” has been received so well in the Alternative community. The bittersweet single gives a perfect glimpse of what to expect on The Diving Board.
From the lyrics of a poet, to the music of a genius, a multi-talented band, a praise worthy choir and a visionary producer, The Diving Board is a product of music lovers. It stands out as one of the most heartfelt albums of Elton’s career. It makes the world understand why artists like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Fall Out Boy or Queens of the Stone Age have brought Elton John in to collaborate on their recent works. He is man of music. And with this album taking only 2 days to make, it gives him plenty of time to show the others just how it’s done.
RATING : 3.5/ 4