Music album review: The Diving Board & The Last Ship

Music album review: The Diving Board & The Last Ship
Album cover: The Diving Board and The Last Ship

SINGAPORE - These two veterans have been kickin' around for decades, so is there any fuel in the tank left? The answer is a stately yes. For his 30th album, Elton John keeps things simple and visceral.

Produced by T. Bone Burnett, the songs don't so much break new ground as retread paths and turn over some stones.

The old is new again - the pleasure is in such a gentle discovery. John's voice, gruff now, inhabits the lyrics of Bernie Taupin with a natural intimacy. The rhythm is bluesy, even jazzy, and everything fits like a careworn cardigan.

Accompanied by piano, confessionals like My Quicksand and A Town Called Jubilee feel as if the 1970s have never left. How fresh tradition can sound shorn of expensive studio knob-twiddlery indeed.

Comparatively, Sting increasingly sounds like an accidental pop tourist; a peripatetic troubadour.

The Last Ship, his first album of original material in a decade, is a family homage, retracing the slow death of the shipping industry in north-eastern England during his childhood.

Hearkening to the elegiac tone of 1991's The Soul Cages, the songs are a grab-bag of folksy, chamber and bawdy pub, featuring uilleann pipes and piano and that Stingian voice that's less smugly guarded, and more earnest these days.

He dips into the Geordie accent for the moving title track, but truly hits the crucible in Practical Arrangement; a plea for love so down-to-earth, it hurts.

Rock Pop

Album: The Diving Board 
Artiste: Elton John
Label: Capitol/Mercury

Rating: 3 and a half out of 5

Chamber Folk

Album: The Last Ship 
Artiste: Sting
Label: Cherrytree Records/A&M

Rating: 3 and a half out of 5 

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