Thursday, November 02, 2006

Diamond in the rough

We all have a secret. You know, a musical act that is kind of cheesy, you know they are cheesy, yet you still like their music. I know people who have an affinity for bands like April Wine, Celine Dion and the Headpins. For me, my secret shame is Neil Diamond.

Top 5 Neil Diamond Songs
1. Cracklin' Rosie
2. Sweet Caroline
3. Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show
4. Forever In Blue Jeans
5. Dry Your Eyes (the version from The Band's The Last Waltz)

To make things worse, I actually own three of his CDs, the soundtrack to his 1980 film The Jazz Singer, one of his greatest hits albums and his latest, the Rick Rubin produced 12 Songs.

12 Songs is brilliant on many levels. It is the first album that Diamond played guitar on since the early 70s, it was the first one where he wrote all the songs and it was the first one that didn't just seem like a bunch of crap thrown together in order for him to tour.

If you were a fan of the Rick Rubin-produced Johnny Cash albums, I highly recommend this. It doesn't have the cheese factor that a lot of his albums have since the mid-80s (i still can not recognize the song inspired by the movie ET: The Extra Terrestrial called "Heartlight".

The good news is that 12 Songs is about to be re-released as a double disc with the second disc including the bonus tracks "Men Are So Easy" and the version of "Delirious Love" with former Beach Boy Brian Wilson. There will also be unreleased demos and alternate takes of songs from the original album.

I think the problem with Neil Diamond is that he gave up being an actual artist (he was originally a songwriter for the Brill Building along with Carole King) to be a concert star. Plus, the aforementioned film he starred in The Jazz Singer was not great. Leonard Maltin, a movie critic I have zero respect for, called the film a turkey. I don't think it was quite that bad but I still can't get the image of an aging Laurence Olivier dancing in the crowd along with everyone else to Neil Diamond singing "America".

The good thing about Neil Diamond is that he still continues to be a pop icon. His song Sweet Caroline continues to be played during sporting events (as shown in the American film Fever Pitch), Urge Overkill covered his song "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" for the film Pulp Fiction, in the film Saving Silverman-the main characters perform in a Neil Diamond cover band and Diamond himself had a cameo in that film.

There is even a scene in the film What About Bob? where Bob Wiley (played by Bill Murray) talking about his divorce says, "There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't. My ex-wife loves him."

Most notably, Will Farrell did terrific Neil Diamond impressions on Saturday Night Live. Here is a Gap commercial Farrell did as Neil Diamond.

PS. I said I would never talk about a certainTV show again. So I won't. However, here is an on-line petition to help save it.

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Blogger JMacK said...

Blog reminded me of the SCTV parody of "The Jazz Singer" Where Al Jarreau IS a Jazz singer but wants to be a Cantor. Eugene Levy plays his father, a pop music impressario who disapproves. He plays the father as one of his funniest characters "Sid Dithers" cross-eyed behind thick glasses, and speaks English with an exagerated Yiddish accent "So yer from San Fransisky? So how did you come: was you flew or did you drove?" Just thinking about it makes me laugh my ass off. The scene where Al fulfulls his dream of being a Cantor and the camera moves to the back of the Synagogue where you see a disco-clad Sid Dithers (dancing shoes, spangled jacket), topped off by hair in dreadlocks framing his perpetually confused face, his crossed eyes dancing behind his Coke-bottle-bottom glasses.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

secret shame?he is one of the greatest singer/songwriters ever!

3:45 PM  
Anonymous SkyPilot said...

Always been partial to "Solitary Man" myself.

2:17 PM  

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