ELTON JOHN “The Diving Board”

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Elton’s 30th solo studio album finds him opting for basic piano, bass and drums, many of the numbers stripped back and given extra atmosphere by T Bone Burnett’s production. The setup gives the tracks an honesty and reach absent from so much of his prime pop material. Second number Oscar Wilde Gets Out builds to a thudding intensity with bass drum and strings from a beautiful opening solo figure, while A Town Called Jubilee and Take This Dirty Water (sample couplet: “If you break some bones on landing/ You’ll know you’re built to last”), with its slide guitars and female backing vocals, could have been recorded in 1974. John’s voice has a lived-in, gruff depth these days, and the stripped-back piano accompaniment on the early tracks might almost recall early Tom Waits; he sounds a bit like Neil Diamond on Can’t Stay Alone Tonight. Throughout, he remains the master of bluesy honky-tonking and surprising modulations that he always has been.
Classic Elton.