Neil Diamond – 12 Songs

So, Johnny Cash catches the last train, and Rick Rubin gets out the bumper book of washed-up singer songwriters and picks a name at random. OK, that’s completely unfair. Neil Diamond can probably call up any Vegas casino-resort and demand any amount for a six month residency. But, he never really had the cool of ole JC. Despite being one of the best jobbing tin pan alley writers for a fair whack of years (cf. all the classic Monkees songs). But as a singer, it’s the very-MOR Jazz Singer image that does the phaedo-ness thing. Despite having a fairly decent set of pipes on him, we all prefer other folk doing his songs (just like Leonard Cohen – oh, go on admit it).

So we now have the fruits of his collaboration with Rubin in the shape of the…erm…13 songs on this CD (fourteen actual tracks). Very nice they are too. The production is the stripped back type on the four Cash records, with many of the same musicians. Including the wonderful Benmont Tench on piano – I think he may be my new hero. Nowhere near as darkly portentous as his work on JC’s stuff but still brilliantly sparse and inventive.

Rather unfairly, you cannot fail to compare this record with the JC albums. And, obviously, this is gonna suffer by that comparison (c’mon Rick, Jerry Lee next time!). But, what really gets me is that in small bits this is all great stuff. Two or three tracks at a time it’s amazing. Listen in a oner and it all gets a bit samey. Diamond never really was known for his subtle production and laid back atmospherics. And, this works best where it tries for the size we expect from him (when we get a whiff of the clapalongs and satin shirts). Evermore with it’s brass and strings builds beautifully to near the melodramatic level you’d expect from the man. The second version of Delirious Love, which features Brian Wilson is just completely over the top in bells and sha-la-la’s and brilliantly dotty.

Can’t wait until others start covering this stuff, though.

PS. Who allowed that cover actually get to the printers?

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Written by Tony Kiernan

10 March 2006 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Records

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