Key Tracks: “A Town Called Jubilee,” “My Quicksand”
Elton John understands that he may not be attracting a younger fan base, still writing music for a much older audience now. He’s responded accordingly, releasing a stripped-down, adult album. “The Diving Board” does not feature any members of his regular band, the first album he’s done without them since 1979. Instead, John sat down with Bernie Taupin, John composing the music and Taupin writing the lyrics. They wrote “The Diving Board” in two days.
Musically, “The Diving Board” is a very soft record. A majority of the songs are only John on piano, with some faint drums and/or guitar. Only a handful of songs have added instruments, allowing them sound bigger. But ‘big’ wasn’t the goal – those just help to break up the album a bit. “The Diving Board” is a bare-bones, soft rock record. John shows that, after all these years, he’s still immensely talented. Theatrics aside, John’s voice is still strong, even as he sings deeper than usual on this record.
He is still, predictably, a phenomenal piano player too. One of the album’s tales, “My Quicksand,” ends on a truly haunting piano chord. “Home Again” is centered around some truly beautiful piano work. Often, John takes vocal breaks during the songs that let him play some great riffs and solos. The album has three “dreams,” too, that act as quick, piano interludes where he really gets to shine.
As with most soft rock, it starts to get repetitive. The songs that aren’t the stand-outs start to sound similar, and while they’re never bad, they’re a little too repetitious. Thankfully, the stand-outs are placed throughout the album, so every time a casual listener might get distracted from the album, they’re drawn back in. Overall, the album could stand to be a little shorter and do with a few less tracks. But “The Diving Board” serves as a welcome return for Sir Elton John, who hasn’t released an album since 2006. The album is beautiful and sparse, and serves as a nice ode to John’s musical origins.
-By Andrew McNally