Making Waves With Elton John’s ‘Most Grownup Album’

Elton John was 66 years previous when he described The Diving Board as “my most grownup album.” Launched on September 13, 2013, it marked a return to the stripped-down, piano-and-vocal fashion that made him a star within the first place.

Producer T Bone Burnett was central to that simplification, invited by Elton to supervise the album following his sympathetic remedy of The Union, the star’s 2010 collaboration with hero and mentor Leon Russell. However in distinction to the prodigious fertility of the singer-songwriter’s earlier years, this time Elton’s followers had some ready to do. The Diving Board was his first all-new solo studio work since 2006’s The Captain And The Child.

‘Essentially the most piano-oriented album of my profession’

The preliminary classes for the album passed off at The Village Studios in Los Angeles early in 2012, and an autumn launch was earmarked. However the longer Elton lived with the recordings, the extra he knew that they wanted one thing further. The road date moved to February, after which, at his live performance in Perth in November 2012, he introduced that The Diving Board had been put again once more, to Could.

Shopping for extra time, Elton and Bernie Taupin wrote 4 new songs, recorded at The Village in simply two days, a yr after the primary recording classes and with the identical group of musicians. For under the second time in virtually 1 / 4 of a century, that line-up didn’t embrace any of Elton’s longtime collaborators.

As a substitute, this time, the solid featured esteemed keyboard participant Keefus Ciancia, drummer Jay Bellerose, and different such notables as Raphael Saadiq on bass and guitarist Doyle Bramhall II. There have been additionally a number of appearances on tambourine by Jack Ashford, veteran percussionist in Motown’s peerless studio crew, The Funk Brothers.

The album even briefly modified title throughout its incubation, to Voyeur, the title of one other of its tracks. Within the new yr of 2013, Taupin wrote on his web site: “Seeing that we’re in no rush to get this document on the market, we simply felt the bug to get again in and lower some extra materials. We’re fairly pleased with what we’ve already laid down however there’s at all times room for enchancment. When you’ve bought some good songs up your sleeve that may boost the combination and improve what’s already there, it will be a disgrace to not make use of the free time.”

‘That is the album I needs to be making’

Make use of it they did. By February, Elton was telling mates that The Diving Board was “essentially the most piano-oriented album of my profession.” He defined to a small gathering at Village Studios that its musical influences had been “every thing I really like about American music. That is the album I needs to be making after The Union.”

Lastly mounted for a September launch, The Diving Board was previewed by two lead songs. “House Once more,” issued in June, was a sublime gradual reflection that later added horns, organized by Darrell Leonard, to Taupin’s wistful look over his shoulder (“All of us dream of leaving, however wind up in the long run/Spending all our time attempting to get again house once more”). Two weeks earlier than the album’s launch got here “Mexican Trip (Youngsters In The Candlelight),” its bluesy sway in some distinction to the commonly contemplative temper of what was about to comply with.

Followers had been delighted to listen to Elton the pianist reclaiming the nimble brilliance that solely amplified the influence of his vocals and Taupin’s lyrics. Such renewed readability was evident from the very opening seconds of monitor one, “Oceans Away,” on which John’s keyboards and vocals had been fully unaccompanied. Taupin famous that the music was written “in reminiscence of my father, Captain Robert Taupin, and the Nice Technology.” Bernie had grown up on the farm owned by Taupin, Sr, within the Fenlands of Lincolnshire.

The next “Oscar Wilde Will get Out” was tastefully adorned by the cellos of Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic. The 2 halves of Croatian duo 2Cellos, they’d impressed Elton a lot that he invited them to tour with him in 2011 and past, together with on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Live performance at Buckingham Palace in June 2012.

“A City Referred to as Jubilee” had a gospel-style choir organized by Invoice Maxwell, with Ashford enjoying the identical block he had hit for Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’. The identical churchy really feel adorned “Take This Soiled Water,” whereas “Can’t Keep Alone Tonight” reminded us of Elton’s aptitude within the nation idiom.

It joined an inventory that included the Tumbleweed Connection spotlight “Nation Consolation” and “Flip The Lights Out When You Go away,” from 2004’s Peachtree Street. The pithy lyrics of “My Quicksand,” in the meantime, had been completely matched to a fragile remedy by Elton on the Yamaha, with an adroitly jazzy core.

‘Fairly an achievement’

The Diving Board entered the UK chart at No.3 and the Billboard 200 at No.4, and was largely greeted with enormous heat by the world’s media. Andy Gill in The Impartial made it his album of the week, writing: “The singer has matched Bernie Taupin’s finest crop of lyrics for years together with his personal most emotively apt melodies to supply a set that each harks again to the intrigues and pursuits of his earliest recordings, but manages to interrupt new floor, fairly an achievement for an artist in his sixth decade.”

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In The Boston Globe, Sarah Rodman admired the best way that the album was “placing John’s piano and voice entrance and centre, providing memorable melodies, and scraping off the manufacturing glop to disclose once more the musician, the vocalist, the emotional artist nonetheless alive beneath John’s shiny shell {of professional} fabulousness.”

Purchase or stream The Diving Board.