The singing, song-writing dynamic duo, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, are back in the record releasing business with “The Diving Board.” The album showcases their talents of going back to their roots of melodically clamoring keys complemented by story driven lyrics reminiscent of “Honky Chateau,” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” One track in particular, “The Voyeur,” is clearly in keeping with an epitomized Elton John piano intro that uncannily echoes “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
The piano, bass, occasional percussion and vocals stand alone as the sounds of the album. The title track is incredibly honest; it beautifully lays all of John’s emotions out on the table. The simplicity of the composition and lack of any synthesizers creates a highly vulnerable piece (think of the stripped-down vibe of Let it Be by The Beatles). Many of the tracks feel as though John just sat down at the piano and played what came to mind. “Dream #1,” “Dream #2,” and “Dream #3” each invite the assumption that John just got out of bed and recounted a few of his dreams.
John said in a recent Rolling Stone interview, “I love the miserable songs,” which is apparent in the melancholy lyrics and minor chord progressions that haunt “Oceans away,” “Oscar Wilde Gets Out,” and “My Quicksand.” He then shifts to a mindset that is more optimistic in “Can’t Stay Alone Tonight” and “Take This Dirty Water,” which are complemented by a bluesy piano and his iconic major chord progressions.
John has said in several interviews that it is “a relief to not have to worry about making the Top 40.” The not-having-to-be-a-hit–album factor is key in the composition of “The Diving Board.” Although we see a return to his early 70s style, John has since established himself as an extremely accomplished artist. The owner of the “Million Dollar Piano” can afford to release an album that evokes what he loves to do as a musician through heart wrenching ballads that may not ring true for lovers of mainsteam pop songs.
John has an excellent way of composing an album that mimics the coming–of-age of human nature and “The Diving Board” is no exception to this. In somewhat of a story arc, the early tracks express utter disappointment, slowly working toward coming to terms with facing a crisis mid-album, and eventually crescendo-ing to a jaded resolution by the end of the album. It flows from being “Oceans Away,” to yearning to be “Home Again,” to the bliss of a “Candlelit Bedroom.” He makes a clean execution of the messy emotions of a person who is still finding his own identity, falling in and out of love and the regret and resolution that come along with it.
RECOMMENDED: Fans of both new and old Elton John music should be impressed.