fri 14/08/2020

CD: Elton John - The Diving Board | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Elton John - The Diving Board

CD: Elton John - The Diving Board

Bernie Taupin takes his pardner into new lyrical terrain, but Americana still works best

The Diving Board: Elton sings on

A new album from Elton John is also a window into the world of Bernie Taupin. For four decades the lyricist, like a golfer who has always just won the previous hole, has had the honour of going first. It’s easy to forget that with songs from Elton’s pomp in which the words, the voice and piano have long since melded into a unified whole. The reality is that the fantabulously out-and-about showman channels the musings of a heterosexual Californian recluse. It’s been a remarkable conjuring trick.

So what has Taupin been thinking about on The Diving Board? Well, the opener “Oceans Away” is about war veterans and their fallen comrades, followed by the self-explanatory “Oscar Wilde Gets Out”, while “My Quicksand” hymns an old poetical sot. Taupin has gone all simile-tastic, requiring Elton to sing “rheumy eyes pierced his heart like crucifixion nails” while on “Voyeur” the composer has skilfully created a melodic line in which the words “Insurance of protection from immediate collapse” do not sound like a speak-you-weight machine.

As for the music itself, Elton’s fingers tinkle into some sinuous new areas – “This New Fever Waltz” is rather intoxicating. But Elton’s essentially transatlantic voice has most fun in the American idiom, and Taupin’s lyrics sit best with a musical worldview which has always been down and dirty and unpretentious. And that’s where T Bone Burnett’s spare production feels most at home. “A Town Called Jubilee” is essence of Elton, and listen out for the stompy “The Ballad of Blind Tom”, the bluesy “Can’t Stay Alone Tonight” and “Mexican Vacation” and the lovely swoony title song.

All in all it’s been a good year for the UK plc’s rocking codgers. After Bowie and Rod, and the Stones’ latest apparition, Elton’s still got something to say, so long as Taupin has too.

Overleaf: the video for 'Home Again'

Elton’s fingers tinkle into some sinuous new areas

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Average: 3 (1 vote)

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