Elton John and Paul McCartney

The Diving Board, and New (Capitol / Mercury)

Phases and Stages

Elton John

The Diving Board (Capitol/Mercury)

Paul McCartney

New (Hear Music)

Just call them Sir. While one, Sir Elton John, 66, reclaims the piano-centric simplicity of his earliest works on 31st LP The Diving Board, the other, Sir Paul McCartney, 71, rockets forward into the robotic New millennium. Both approaches are problematic. Hitting reset in 2010 with Leon Russell collaboration The Union, the former – author of more than 50 Top 40 hits – eschews formulaic pop for the stripped barroom noir of "Oscar Wilde Gets Out" and church hymn "A Town Named Jubilee." All too soon, though, "My Quicksand," which would be a perfect Rufus Wainwright vehicle, sinks overwrought while drawing the disc's Maginot Line. Only the Eighties-esque "Can't Stay Alone Tonight" rallies after that. Macca, meanwhile, delivers his most raucous disc since 1999's Run Devil Run. "Save Us" could be a Strokes twister, while its LP bookend, closer "Road," summons no less than Blue Öyster Cult. In between, the modern clamor obfuscates the pure melody of "Queenie Eye," though both the title track and "Alligator" define Beatlesque. "Everybody Out There" even evokes George Harrison's "All Those Years Ago." McCartney die-hards might have to wait for the Let It Be ... Naked version of New.

(Elton John) **

(Paul McCartney) ***

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Elton John, Paul McCartney

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