The Diving Board (2014)

1. Oceans Away 2. Oscar Wilde Gets Out 3. A Town Called Jubilee 4. The Ballad of Blind Tom 5. Dream, Pt.1 6. My Quicksand 7. Can't Stay Alone Tonight 8. Voyeur 9. Home Again 10.Take This Dirty Water 11.Dream, Pt.2 12.The New Fever Waltz 13.Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight) 14.Deam, Pt.3 15.The Diving Board


Like his last record, the duet with Leon Russell, 2010's The Union, Elton is working with producer T-Bone Burnett, and the results are very satisfying. Whether conscious of the fact or not, Elton is reverting back to the old style when he just started out in his career, before the masses had really heard of him, but when the critics were definitely taking notice. This album is much more low-key, a lot of piano everywhere, and this allows the listener the ability to concentrate more on just Elton. In other words, this album is essentially The Union without Leon Russell.

The only familiar collaborator is, thankfully, his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin. Although Elton has written with a few different lyric writers in the past, it's always a sense of overwhelming joy to the true fan knowing that a new album is as much Taupin's as Elton's. The sparse recordings really help to bring Taupin's beautiful poetic lyrics to the forefront, and although mostly metaphorical, his words that he writes for Elton always seem to push the melodies one step closer to greatness.

There really aren't a lot of "hits" here. I put that word in quotes because, even if popular radio were still playing songs from this 67 year old, I doubt this record would be getting a lot of airplay on the top 40. Again, though, this was quite normal from Elton's earliest years as well (apart from Your Song he never really had any hits until his fifth or sixth album). All of that is irrelevant, as this album is chocked full of beautiful piano driven, thoughtful, introspective material. No, it's not all sparse and hollow, but even on songs with a lot of musical accompaniment has an overall feel of being somewhat low key.

That's not to necessarily say that this thing is a masterpiece, but it does come close. At least amongst the diehards. Being that Elton is now old enough to collect social security, his voice isn't quite what it once was, and there are a few tough moments when he sounds as if his mouth if full of marbles, trying to sound coherent. There are other times when songs here sound a bit too familiar.Take This Dirty Water sounds a bit too much like Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight), and A Town Called Jubilee sounds like a lot of his material from the lackluster Peachtree Road. Such things are bound to happen when one has mass quantities of material.

It's an incredible blessing to discover that well after "Sixty Years On" that the man can still play amazing piano, and Taupin can still write wonderful lyrics - even if the two might be showing their age to some extent. One hopes this isn't the swan song from either.

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