Elton John sounded more like a giddy teenager about to release his debut album than a world-weary rock star when he sat down at the dining room table in his Beverly Hills home to discuss the impending release of his 33rd album, "Wonderful Crazy Night."
"I'm so proud of this record," John, 68, told the Los Angeles Times, beaming that gap-toothed grin that's been familiar to pop music fans for almost half a century now. "It's the most upbeat record I've done probably since 'Rock of the Westies' [in 1975], and this is a better record than that one."
In a small-scale show Wednesday at the Wiltern Theater, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member plans to preview at least a handful of songs from the new album. It was recorded in Los Angeles with producer T Bone Burnett, who has been at the helm of the British rocker's previous two albums, "The Union," his 2010 collaboration with fellow pianist Leon Russell, and his intimate 2013 album "The Diving Board."
"T Bone said, 'Why don't we make a record with your band?'" John said, something he hadn't done since 2006's "The Captain and the Kid." "I thought it was a great idea. I was in Hawaii, and I called up [longtime guitarist] Davey Johnstone and said 'I want you to go out and buy some 12-string guitars. We're going to make a very up record.'"
Similarly, he asked his longtime songwriting partner, lyricist Bernie Taupin, to provide him with a batch of positive new lyrics. "I said, 'no sad songs,'" John said. "We could both write sad songs every five minutes, but I wanted something to reflect where I am right now. I have a great career, a great partner, two wonderful children and life couldn't be better. I wanted to make a record that reflects that."
The Times will have a full profile of the five-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter closer to the album's scheduled release date of Feb. 5.