Elton John certainly doesn’t need to be making records anymore. He could sell out arenas around the world playing ‘Rocket Man’ over and over and everyone would be happy enough, but it seems that’s not enough for the aging star. He insists on producing new music consistently over the years (this is somewhere around his 30th studio album to date) and the latest offering is The Diving Board, a complex and consistent album that slowly but surely grows on you.
While fans are always clambering for the catchy hooks of John’s earlier career, The Diving Board is more in keeping with his recent work or his very earliest tracks than the piano-led hits-driven heyday of his career. It’s clear that John no longer needs to make music with the aim of selling millions of records, he hasn’t done for a long time now, so The Diving Board is more of a challenging listen than a greatest hits collection. The album is still dominated by piano, guitar and drums, but The Diving Board is rich and surprising in its sound, with very little campness or Vegas stylings to speak of.
This isn’t a record that’s necessarily easy to listen to. It’s a slow burner and requires a few listening sessions before the sound really sets in, which may frustrate some less dedicated fans who get their hands on The Diving Board. It is, however, worth bearing with. John has stated that this is his “most adult album”, and this rings true upon listening; it has a stripped back element that removes the excess razzle-dazzle to focus on the detail. The signature Elton John sound can still be recognised clearly with tracks like ‘A Town Called Jubilee’, although the album steers its way around a diverse variety of genres, with rock ‘n’ roll, gospel and soul all featuring. The Elton John-Bernie Taupin partnership still offers the solid combination of poignant lyrics and consistently great musicianship that we’ve come to expect, and The Diving Board is no exception.