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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Diving Board [Mint Pack]
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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2013
This millennium in his albums (if not some side projects) Elton has been intent on re-establishing himself as a musical artist to be taken seriously, rather than a declining purveyor of plastic pop and inconsistent albums. He has made good progress; with The Diving Board he has arrived. That is not to say it will suit all Elton fans. Amid the exciting buzz of praise, there have been some dissenting voices. But my own doubts when underwhelmed by first impressions of lead single Home Again and a live version of upbeat Mexican Vacation have been well and truly laid to rest.

Don't expect an album full of spectacular tracks, catchy pop, instant classic singles or a return to hard-driving 70s rock. Pared back to piano-bass-drum trio, with striking piano to the fore, The Diving Board's strength comes from its cohesive mix of consistent, at times surprising, pleasures and tracks that grow. I certainly won't be skipping any.

The Diving Board is a labour of love, which gathers r&b, gospel, jazz and classical influences, with sumptuous or tender ballads, a few upbeat numbers and three brief "Dream" piano interludes acting like palate cleansers between tasty courses. It may remind at times of the early Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection albums, Blue Moves, Songs from the West Coast and even (superior) hints of Lestat, or what that musical might have been. Yet while it's familiar it's also bold and intriguing- a tremendous cumulative experience for me, rounded off by a sublime title track, that lifted me to places Elton's music hasn't taken me since Captain Fantastic.

Yes, this is the Elton album I've waited 38 long years for. It's deep, warm, dark, rich and wonderful. I hope you enjoy it too.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2013
When the news broke that Elton John's next album would be a return to the early days of his recording career I thought to myself where have I heard that before. Oh yes I remember. On just about all of Elton's post 2000 albums something similar has been said about those albums. So when I heard that this album would feature primarily piano, bass and drums with guitar thrown in here and there, which is a return to Elton's early band of himself, Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums, I was not going to let myself get sucked in to the same hype we've heard for the last 12 years or so.

And then I got a hold of a pre-release of the album. I have been listening for a solid week and I am thoroughly enjoying "The Diving Board". What surprises me the most is how well the songs work with the band configuration of a trio. There is an energy that has been lacking on some of Elton's recent work but it is back on this newest album, his first solo album since 2006.

Anyone expecting to hear "The Bitch Is Back" or "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" or are comparing this album to the "classic years" that's just silly and a mistake. Oh he still rocks out in concert but you're not going to get that on new Elton albums these days. That's just not where he is these days.

What I will say is that this album is the best thing he's done since "Songs From The West Coast" and it can stand on its own next to Elton's best work. The up tempo tunes all work. They all pass the skip test. The ballads are what Elton has always done best and he does not disappoint here. "Oceans Away" and "Voyeur" are the standouts for me as well as the single "Home Again". But's it's the up tempo tunes that are what surprised me the most. They carry the album in my opinion. For once the hype is justified.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2013
This has been reviewed many times but I noticed a few detrimental remarks which I fail to understand. Elton was criticised as singing out of key by one particular reviewer. Well, Elton's voice may not be in its zenith now but he has never sung out of key before so why would he start now?? I found the production on this to be really thoughtful and bordering on minimalistic but the overall effect was spot on. Some of his previous albums like The Big Picture and even as far back as Elton John have maybe suffered from over production, yet we now have detractors saying that this latest offering is bland. It is unrealistic to expect something like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 40 years on and besides, things have moved on. However, I regard this as one of his career best but for totally different reasons than his 70's output. I think we should stop trying to make comparisons and just enjoy this for what it is which is a superbly well written album. The Captain and The Kid was a return to form, this is even better!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 22 October 2013
The Piano on this album is simply sublime as track after track opens with some memorable piano tunes. Add good lyrics and decent songs and this ranks as one of EJ's and BT's finest moments.

I confess to being a "semi" Elton fan. For all his classic albums like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Sleeping With The Past and Too Low For Zero (I'm Still Standing) there has often followed two or three frustrating albums perhaps memorable only for the odd single. So his greatest hits is the next best option! But after reading positive reviews in the media I decided to buy it and am glad I did.

This album ranks up there with his best work and along with Macca this week EJ is showing age is no barrier when you have supreme musical talent.

Its hard to single out specific tracks because the standard here is so consistent and is almost a greatest hits part 3 on its own. Just enjoy Piano man!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2013
Why did I buy this. I still have a great respect for Elton and his music. I thought I would give it a try following the decent Leon Russell joint venture. This album contains few outstanding tracks but the standard is consistently good. The piano playing is probably the best it has ever been. It sounds as if Elton is still enjoying creating and playing music. Bernie Taupin still has something relevant to say. The whole package continues to grow in an unassuming way. Very enjoyable. He won't necessarily attract new fans but he will delight long standing fans with this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The narrative around Elton John's new album "Diving Board" is about a return to a stripped down, sparse piano and lyric-driven sensibility of his early days. Go back to 2001 and the same claims were also being made for the excellent "Songs from the West Coast". But on this album Elton John has again enlisted the producing "gun for hire" T Bone Burnett, fresh from work with Diana Krall, Steve Earle, Gregg Allman and of course rekindling the link with Elton forged on 2011's "The Union".

The Burnett and John link up adds new dimensions not least with Bernie Taupin firing on all lyrical cylinders and the producer essentially dismissing band support. The result is that "The Diving Board" is a fine album recalling the wonders of the early Elton which got lost over the years in "Tantrums and Tiaras". So it back to a proper emphasis on songs and all the better for it. Opener "Oceans Away" sets the tone with Elton singing better than ever as and where he opens with the confession that "I hung out with the old folks/ in the hope that I'd get wise/I was trying to bridge the gap, between the great divide". Other great songs follow not least the haunting "Town called jubilee" and the brilliant standout "My Quicksand" which is one of the better songs he has written in years. The album is punctuated with 3 "Dream" piano interludes and the sumptuous third of these is also Keith Jarrett like in composition.

Songs like "Can I stay alone tonight" hark back to that vintage era of "Tumbleweed Connection" as does the splendid "Take This Dirty Water" where Elton sings sagely "If you break some bones on landing/ You'll know you're built to last". It is three of the darker songs here however which impress most. "Oscar Wilde gets out" charting the writers sad departure to France post Reading Jail is an automatic start for downloads. The "New Fever Waltz" would not go amiss on a Tom Waits album while the highly reflective almost Randy Newman style song "Home Again" is pure class.

"The Diving Board" is a master class in song writing and sees Elton John at his most intimate and introspective. Perhaps it is not sardine packed with obvious hits but taken as a whole it is his most solid and worthwhile album in a decade. The old Rocket Man has got back into groove, and achieved lift off. Part of this stems from the fact that he is clearly enjoying himself greatly not least on the evidence of "Mexican Vacation (Kids in Candlelight)" and the excellent bluesy title track. This reviewer would not claim to be a fully paid up member of the Elton John fan club but this is one record of his that you really need.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 October 2013
The Jimmies

As can be seen from other reviews, some love this album while others (including self-declared EJ fans) either hate it or are at best lukewarm. Well, this reviewer just loves it - and it gets better and better the more times I listen to it.

EJ has emerged from what I would consider a kind of comfort zone to deliver this album. This comfort zone included use of his longstanding backing band and crafting and arranging tunes to take account of his band's strengths (particularly evident on the fine Songs from the West Coast album, the less good Peachtree Road album and his most recent solo effort, The Captain and the Kid. On this album, he's crafted songs primarily for himself and piano - and the excellent session musicians and TBone production provide sensitive back-up to this approach. It has resulted in a cohesive suite of relatively sparse, excellent, but piano-rich tracks, far removed from the heavily arranged norm. What some people would consider the "EJ sound" is markedly absent here, and the album is all the better for it. The songs (based on a set of Taupin lyrics that among his best) are honest, rootsy and non-commercial. They are a breath of fresh air and befit an artist of EJ's age and rich musical heritage.

Among the real highlights for me are Oceans Away, Oscar Wilde Gets Out, The Ballad of Blind Tom, Voyeur, The Diving Board, the outstanding instrumental Dream #3, and Can't Stay Alone Tonight (a vastly superior country song that shows what Turn the Lights Out from the Peachtree album could have been with more rigorous quality control and musical de-cluttering).

This album is so surprising ... it harks back to the days when the Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water, Honky Chateau, Don't Shoot Me, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou, Captain Fantastic, Rock of the Westies and Blue Moves albums all sounded completely different to each other showed progression and versatility. I suspect that this album will one that I will go back to again and again in years to come, just like Madman Across the Water and in contrast with most of EJ's recent output.

Five stars and well deserved!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2013
I went off Elton a few years ago having been repeatedly disappointed with the quality of his later albums. However, having read a few reviews here I gave the Diving Board listen and was very happy indeed. This is the Elton I loved - great melodies, the piano to the fore. This deluxe album is well worth the money and I highly recommend it for newcomers or older fans like me. This has been well described by others here so no need to go over it again , Just listen and enjoy - Reg still has it! MOC - DUBLIN
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
With Elton's piano and voice at the fore throughout the majority of this album, "The Diving Board" continues Elton's creative purple patch and delivers an album reminiscent of some of his best work from the early seventies. It's not a particularly instant piece of work and like "Tumbleweed Connection" requires a little bit of time and focus to appreciate everything Elton and Bernie are trying to get across on this project. The first time I listened to it, I concluded that it was a rather nice album, but a little unremarkable. Half a dozen playbacks later and I think that it's really a rather wonderful album indeed. It is a relatively gentle affair, very little that gets out of second gear here, but the music and lyrics really are largely fantastic and it proves to be a very good piece of work to simply relax to and enjoy. It also feels like a truly accomplished album, rather that just a collection of songs, with some lovely short pieces of incidental, instrumental music to tie everything together. In other words, it's a classy affair.

There aren't many compositions here which are less than excellent. The highlights are plentiful, with my favourites including the magnificent "Oscar Wilde Gets Out", imagining the scene when Wilde was released from his couple of years hard labour, "A Town Called Jubilee", one of Bernie's many richly descriptive pieces of prose based on small town old America and "The Ballad Of Blind Tom", which tells the story of a blind pianist over a deft riff and an uplifting, catchy chorus. The mournful "My Quicksand" is also rather excellent, "Voyeur", even with its piano line a little reminiscent of Cat Stevens' "Matthew and Son" is one of the best songs on the album and "Home Again" is a beautiful, wistful piece with a longing chorus. Other stand-outs on the album are "The New Fever Waltz", "Mexican Vacation (Kids In The Candlelight)" and the excellent title track. There are, simply, too many top-quality songs here to list them all in any great detail. The only song that sounds a little contrived and pedestrian here is "Can't Stay Alone Tonight", which doesn't have the level of intricacy and thought to either the music or lyrics that make the other songs so appealing. It's pleasant enough, of course, but the rest of the material on offer here puts it to shame. The bonus live tracks really aren't worth the extra money on the deluxe edition either, as the tinny, distorted piano sound is quite awful and compares badly with such a beautifully recorded studio album. To be frank, I find them quite difficult to listen to, especially right after the main album, so they're a bit of a disappointment.

To surmise, I don't think it's quite as good as his best album from the last twenty years, "Songs From The West Coast", but it's probably better than anything else from these last two decades which, considering the other excellent efforts such as "Peachtree Road" and "The Captain and The Kid" (I wasn't over-awed by "The Union"), isn't exactly faint praise. His piano playing is creative, painting beauteous, intricate pictures within the songs, and, although his voice perhaps lacks the range it once had, he delivers these songs with real belief in the material and makes the most of what he still has. Lyrically, "The Diving Board" is nothing short of excellent and the long-standing partnership between Elton and Bernie sounds as fresh today as it did forty years ago. This album may be a little too slow-paced and gentle for some palates, but if you appreciate beautifully crafted songs and some of the less-commercial efforts that Elton has released over the years, especially in his early days, then "The Diving Board" will probably be something you will enjoy greatly.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2013
In the last few years every new studio album released by Elton John has been hailed by both critics and fans as his best work in decades. The Diving Board has done exactly that, even surpassing it's recent predecessors! It's been well documented that Elton had a lot of time to live with the finished body of work and had returned to studio to improve upon it. This payed off as we are left with an outstanding body of music!

The star tracks are the bluesy country flavoured Can't Stay Alone Tonight; the previous title track Voyeur, of which could easily have been released as a single with it's beautiful harmonies and unique bass section; and The New Fever Waltz with it's somber tune and piano keys reminiscent of Carla Etude. The songs are all a very beautiful and melodic that cross a range of genre from piano rock and roll, blues, country and jazz . This mixed bag of genres are married together by three short instrumentals that divide the album and gives the listener a break before the next selection plays.

Of all the versions out there, I prefer the double cd with all the bonus material on the second disc as I find it demanding to listen to a lengthy album with numerous songs.

The piano, drums and bass themed album is well structured and Elton John reminds us what a great musician and artist he is by stripping down the music to show it has substance.
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