Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
Superb 31st studio album from Watford's finest
on 23 November 2013
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.