Friday, April 1st, 2011 | musiX
Neil Diamond. Horribly out of place in The Last Waltz. Spoofed brilliantly later by Will Ferrell. Forever associated with two decades of Vegas-style glitz, adult-contemporary pap and unfortunate hair and blouses (the cover of 1972′s Hot August Night sorta says it all). Somewhere along the way he was dubbed “the Jewish Elvis.”
You have to rewind a little further to get to the good stuff. The essential stuff. Released in concert with Diamond’s recent induction into the farce that is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Neil Diamond: The Bang Years 1966-1968 shines a light on the songwriter’s early, can’t-miss pop gems. Diamond signed to Bert Berns’ Bang Records in 1966 after years cutting his teeth in The Brill Building, thus beginning an impressive run of singles—most of which you’ve heard at least once—including “Solitary Man,” “Cherry, Cherry,” “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” “Kentucky Woman,” “Shiloh,” “Red, Red Wine,” “You Got to Me”—all loaded with tambourine and hand claps, piano and horns, and that smoky rasp. Then there’s “Thank the Lord For the Night Time,” a song that hints at his ’70s kitsch and one whose descending bridge before the chorus continues to tickle my fickle ears. Everything on The Bang Years appears in their original mono mixes, and there are a few tracks (“I’ll Come Running,” “The Time is Now” and “The Long Way Home”) that haven’t seen the light of day since their original release. All I have to say is it’s about time.
But let us not forget that Neil Diamond has been back for some time. I’d like to say it was Saving Silverman—in which Jason Biggs, Jack Black and Steve Zahn spend time in their tribute band Diamonds in the Rough—that made him cool again. Although it was most likely 2005′s 12 Songs that brought him back to form while at the same time introducing Diamond to a younger audience (having the name “Rick Rubin” attached never hurts). Maybe he never actually went away. But in mine eyes and ears, Neil Diamond will forever look like the photo above and sound like the songs below.
“Solitary Man” – Neil Diamond
“Thank the Lord For the Night Time” – Neil Diamond