Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Neil Diamond sparkles again

I've shared this before, but for newer readers I'll repeat myself. As a child growing up, I can remember playing my dad's vinyl, and at one point, Neil Diamond was my favorite artist out of his selections. Looking back, I don't know if it was his name, the album covers, or the music, but the memory stuck with me of loving Neil. Eventually my musical tastes turned onto new pathways, but a piece of me always enjoyed Neil's music.

Now that we've got that out of the way, I'll continue my post in the semi-present tense (or at least more present than when I was a wee-young one). I only recently found out that Neil is now working with Rick Rubin, and has been since his last album, 12 Songs. It terms of producers active in music today, Rick Rubin probably tops my list, or at least comes close, of musical masterminds that I respect. When you look back at what he's accomplished, and in such diverse genres, it's hard not to give him some props. I mean if you can take 3 white guys and make them into respected hip-hop artists, you must be doing something right.

Then you have to think about what he did working with Johnny Cash. I'm not going to thumb my nose at all you and say that I was listening to Johnny before American Recordings came out (I was), simply point out that Rick was able to get A LOT of listeners to realize that Johnny still had music in him that wanted to come out and be appreciated. It seems that Neil is hoping for some of that same magic: getting a younger generation of listeners to hear what's coming out of his mouth and soul. With today's generation, unfortunately the only cultural currency I think Diamond holds is Sweet Caroline and his cameo in Saving Silverman.

If my opinion is worth 2 cents, this album proves that he wasn't just a glitzy 70's star that should be relegated to kitschy movie roles. Honestly, I think this album is going to be one of my top 5 favorites of the year. Call me a sentimentalist if you want, but I'll still stick with this album. As he did with Cash, Rubin has stripped down Diamond's sound, although not as much. Diamond's voice is nearly as spent as Johnny's was either (not putting down Johnny, the scratch was part of the draw - that lived hard and played harder mythos that he carried with him), but is certainly carries a somber tone that he hasn't always displayed in his work.

I'd love to give you most of this album to listen to to prove you should be paying attention, but I'm going to limit it to one: One More Bite Of the Apple. It's a great track that on the surface is about not giving up on love, about giving it another go. I listen to it and I hear Neil singing like this is one more chance to make the music that he's loved for decades, one more chance to connect with a new generation. I for one am rooting for him.

Visit his website, his label Columbia, and become his friend on MySpace.


Urge Overkill - Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon (Neil Diamond cover)
: Pulp Fiction Soundtrack

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