By Charles Wilhelm
Before he became the eclectic-electric leader of 80’s pop music, Elton John wrote music in a personal narrative, with thoughtful and moving vocals, lyrics, and melodies. His recent release,”The Diving Board,” gets right back to that ideology.
John’s 2013 album opens with a wholesome, hymnal sound that cuts through the tabloid-ridden, controversial celebrity and reaches back to his roots to emphasize the spare infrastructure of voice and piano that carried his early records — think “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Tumbleweed Connection.”
Opening tracks “Oceans Away” and “Oscar Wilde Gets Out,” are vocal-driven songs that are pleasant listens in and of themselves, but they lay a framework for the rest of the album as well.
In “A Town Called Jubilee,” John’s showman personality makes an appearance alongside a gospel chorus of back-up singers. However, the album quickly takes a turn back to the vignettes and photographic lyrics that pervade this release. This dichotomy of style, the contrast of the vocal and piano-driven personal stories, along with the gospel-hymnal sound that highlights tracks like “A Town Called Jubilee” and “Take This Dirty Water,” tessellates itself throughout “The Diving Board.”
“My Quicksand,” is a true and to-the-heart ballad with elements of jazz rhythm and melody that grabs the listener with a catchy, albeit somber, hook that strings them along on an emotional trip.
The album’s namesake most completely characterizes the album’s mood. “The Diving Board,” is in the vein of Elton John classics — with impassioned vocals and a persistent, measured groove, it moves surely as John does what he, more than any other contemporary artist, knows.
“The Diving Board” is a trip, not to mention a great listen and classic Elton John fans should be happy with this soul-searching, sensitive and groovy album.