Elton John finally seems ready to release The Diving Board, which he calls "the most piano-oriented album of my career".
Produced by T-Bone Burnett, the singer's 30th studio LP is now likely to see the light of day in September.
John first started talking about The Diving Board last year, emphasising a minimalist approach to arrangements: just piano, bass and drums. He and Bernie Taupin wrote 11 songs in three days, after completing John's album with Leon Russell, The Union. It took four days to record them. But almost a year later, the singer decided he wasn't quite done: last month they all went back into studio, writing and recording four more tunes.
"In hindsight, I realise I never had that before," John said. By getting some distance from The Diving Board's material, he was able to "put a little sugar on it". He also started reconsidering the title – for a few weeks, the LP was rechristened Voyeur.
In addition to Taupin-penned tunes about love, loss, dead soldiers, Mexican holidays, and Oscar Wilde's release from Reading Gaol, The Diving Board includes three improvised instrumentals. "I'm just heading toward being 80 years old and playing at the Holiday Inn," John joked. His collaborators included bassist Raphael Saadiq, drummer Jay Bellerose, guest guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, and 78-year-old percussionist Jack Ashford. For one song, A Town Called Jubilee, Ashford allegedly played the same woodblock he used for Marvin Gaye's What's Going On.
Despite the provenance of Ashford's woodblock, John doesn't seem to think that The Diving Board will mark his return to the singles charts. "I'm not the sort of artist who'll get played on the radio [any more]," he said. The 65-year-old will have to pin his hopes on a recently-recorded song with Queens of the Stone Age, due later this year.
Elton John's last solo album was 2006's The Captain & The Kid, which peaked at No 6 in the UK charts. He is one of the top five biggest-selling solo artists of all time.
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