Share this news

The UK’s ‘Uncut’ magazine contains a favourable review of Elton’s new album, which is due next month. Bernie Taupin’s Web site has a look at this, and also quotes legendary music critic Robert Hilburn. . . .

When 23-year-old Elton John made his American club debut at the Troubadour in West Hollywood in the summer of 1970, he was already blessed with a deep and mature talent. The songs, which he wrote with lyricist Bernie Taupin (just 20), combined eloquent melodies and evocative lyrics that stepped boldly beyond normal Top 40 fare to embrace such diverse subjects as the innocence of youth (“Your Song”) and a respect for the elderly (“Sixty Years On”). Backed simply by bass, drums and his own piano, John delivered the songs with an intimacy and immediacy that felt straight from the heart.

Remarkably 43 years on, John and Taupin have put together a new album, “The Diving Board,” that reflects those same qualities in such splendid fashion that it serves as an inspiring bookend to the two albums Elton showcased at the Troubadour, “Elton John” and “Tumbleweed Connection.” This is music so finely crafted and deeply moving that if they had played on that 1970 night, instead of the ones that were performed, Elton would still have been showered with applause and acclaim.

It’s no wonder that one of the album’s key numbers is titled, “Home Again.” This is music that celebrates the best of Elton and Bernie’s past, but in ways that are consistently fresh and revealing. Time after time, the songs look gracefully at a similarly broad range of themes—youth to life’s lessons—but from the perspective of age. The closest parallel in recent years is the way Bob Dylan re-examined some of his early observations in such songs as “Not Dark Yet” and “Things Have Changed” more than a dozen years ago—the start of what has been a spectacular new resurgence in his own career.

Elton’s new chapter began when he teamed with producer T Bone Burnett on “The Union,” the album Elton made in 2006 with one of his musical heroes, Leon Russell. When Burnett suggested Elton return to the spare instrumentation of the Troubadour shows, Elton responded with some of his most heartfelt music in years.

Backed only by his own vibrant and warm piano styling on the opening track, he signals the album’s spirit. The song,“Ocean’s Away,” stands with the most memorable John-Taupin works—a reflection on the passage of time, touching on both those left behind and the lessons that live on. Taupin dedicates the song to his father, Captain Robert Taupin, but he speaks for everyone who has made it to a point in life where he or she understands the blessings of the past. Its chorus:

Call ’em up, n’ dust ‘em off, let ‘em shine
The ones who hold on to the ones they had to leave behind
Those that flew and those that fell, the ones that had to stay
Beneath a little wooden cross oceans away.

From there, the album travels in some surprising directions, sometimes a touch playful, other times fearlessly personal, notably in “My Quicksand,” “Voyeur” and “The New Fever Waltz.” The songwriting duo also comments on the struggles of an artist. Rather than employ the self-aggrandizement so common in contemporary pop, John and Taupin salute the dramatic exploits of two other artists, “Oscar Wilde Gets Out” and “The Ballad of Blind Tom” (Blind Tom Wiggins).

This sub-theme of artistic dreams and sacrifice is touched upon most memorably in the album’s title song, which speaks about the daring and strength required to share one’s deepest feelings in music—a quality that John and Taupin have together done consistently over the years. It’s a quality that, too, tells la lot about why their music remains so gripping. Crucially, the song is not a complaint about the fickle nature of fame or stardom. Instead, it admits the joy of being able to spend a lifetime making music that touches people. Confides Elton, “You fell in love with it all.”