What was Elton John’s last truly great album? Probably Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy in ’75, right? Up until that point, he was consistently incredible and then his form dipped. The ’80s were particularly unkind to John, with the Brit legend diving into schmaltzy water with abominations like “Sacrifice” and “Nikita.” By the ’90s, he had disappeared up his own ass completely and was writing twee nonsense for Disney films. He’s due a return to form, so the question is: Is The Diving Board it? After all, Uncut Magazine said that the album “may be Elton’s greatest LP to date.” It isn’t, but it is damned good. First impressions are odd, because the cover art (depicting, literally, a hipster on a diving board) and the inside photos (a hipster reading Oscar Wilde) suggest that John is looking to attract a contemporary Brooklyn audience. Fortunately, the songs are excellent. This is John and Bernie Taupin, plus producer T-Bone Burnett, remembering what made Elton John great to begin with — gorgeous songwriting, some beautiful piano and vocals torn from the heart. No overblown production, no shine and sheen, no bullshit. The Diving Board is the album Elton John needed to make at this point in his career.
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