Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bernie Taupin Previews The Diving Board at Electric Lady Studios in NYC

On Monday in New York City, Elton John‘s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin and producer T Bone Burnett hosted a listening party for John’s new album, The Diving Board, which is due out this fall. And Taupin told the invited guests that he feels that the three of them have created an album that reflects Elton’s artistic maturity.

“It really befits our years,” said Bernie of The Diving Board, adding, “We’re telling stories, and that’s what we do best. I’m amazingly proud of this record.” Burnett, meanwhile, said that the disc represents John “at the peak of his powers,” and noted that they had created the album “for history.”

The album, which puts Elton’s voice and piano playing front and center, has a rootsy sound that’s reminiscent of his earlier work, especially the 1970 album Tumbleweed Connection. As Taupin notes, many of the songs do tell stories; for example, one, “Oscar Wilde Gets Out,” was inspired by real-life Irish playwright and poet Oscar Wilde, who was imprisoned during the 1800s for being gay. Another, “The Ballad of Blind Tom,” was inspired by the true story of Blind Tom Wiggins, an autistic African-American slave who was a piano-playing musical prodigy.

Musically, the songs on The Diving Board range from gospel, to regretful ballads, to torch songs, to ’50s-style rock ‘n’ roll, to country. Earlier this year, Elton said of the record, “I can honestly say that this is the first time for a long time that I’ve got an album…and every single track and every single vocal I really love.”

As for why John himself wasn’t at the listening party, he, his partner David and their two sons, Elijah and Zachary, are currently vacationing in Italy.

- ABC News Radio

Elton John is back, folks, with a new record coming this fall called The Diving Board, and I was invited to Electric Lady Studios to hear it. Producer T-Bone Burnett and Bernie Taupin were both there to talk about the making of the album, which has been a few years in the works.

T-Bone first worked with Elton on the Leon Russell project, The Union. He cited the great 11-17-70 live album as an inspiration for this record, which Elton calls "the most piano-oriented album of my career."

In terms of production, T-Bone said he wanted to bring Elton back to basics, with a trio that included Raphael Saadiq on bass and Jay Bellerose on drums; strings and horns were added later. He spoke about the changes in recording afforded by digital technology, explaining that the new process allowed for a much deeper low end than vinyl ever would have — interesting, considering that we usually just hear about the downsides of digital recording. The album does have a beautiful low end, aided I'm sure by the amazing speakers we heard the songs on (ATC for you audiophiles). I wouldn't mind a set of those in my living room.

The album on the whole is a beauty, with a story-like cinematic quality to the songs. Elton is in great voice, and the production is authentic and artistic. The lyrics have weight, and Elton's phrasing is often unpredictable in a good way. There are a few instrumental breaks in the album too.


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