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Any Major Neil Diamond Songbook

 

When I was little, Neil Diamond was one of my mother’s favourite singers, alongside Cat Stevens. She’d also get excited when Engelbert Humperdinck appeared on TV, but she had none of his records. I assume that more than us crooning, she liked Engelbert’s luxuriously blow-dried hair. Of which Neil Diamond had a lot, too. Plus the lamé jackets.

As I became a teenager, I regarded Diamond as lamé and lame. His easy listening music was aimed at my mom, not at me. Forever In Blue Jeans was a boomer hymn, not aimed at my generation. And I assumed the name was a presumptuous moniker (turns out, it’s the guy’s real name).

For a long time, I didn’t dare to go near Diamond. Then I became the age of the people at whom Diamond had aimed his music. I still don’t go for the Forever In Blue Jeans stuff or the Streisand duet, but his 1960s and earlier ’70s stuff… well, that works for me. I also have a lot of time for his 2000s albums, especially the wonderful 12 Songs from 2005.

What a pity, then, that for many people, Neil Diamond means the hackneyed DA-DA-DA inserted by sports crowds into Sweet Caroline.

Diamond (who was born in 1941 and grew up in Brooklyn with future duet partner Barbra Streisand in his orbit) started out as part of a singing duo, Neil & Jack, and as a Brill Building songwriter. The duo flopped, but he made a name as a songwriter for acts like The Monkees, whose mega-hit I’m A Believer he wrote. His first Top 20 composition was in 1965, with Sunday And Me for Jay and the Americans. By 1966 he had a recording contract, recording his first hit, Solitary Man. It was the beginning of a fruitful career.

This mix features covers of songs from that long career. Strangely, some great songs have not been covered (such as the magnificent Brooklyn Roads) or not covered by many acts other than your James Lasts and Hugo Montenegros.

When UB40 had a hit with Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine in 1983, they apparently had no idea that it was a song by the lame-suited balladeer. The group thought they were covering (and, we may assume, improving) an original by reggae singer Tony Tribe, whose own cover of the song was released in 1969, two years after Diamond’s (Tribe’s version is added here as a bonus track. It might have been inspired by the 1968 soul version of Jamaica’s Jimmy James & The Vagabonds).  Several reggae artists covered Diamond: Holly Holy, for example, was covered to good effect by both Byron Lee & The Dragonaires and Willie Lindo; Bunny Scott did I Am…I Said; Marcia Griffiths did Play Me. As recently as 2013, Third World got their hands on Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon.

This collection includes a handful of songs written by Diamond but first recorded by others:  I’m A Believer and A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You were first hits for The Monkees, but feature here as covers — the latter in Diamond’s version. The Monkees themselves feature with their original of Diamond’s composition Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow), The Box Tops with Ain’t No Way, the Jay & The Americans track, and Glen Campbell with Sunflower.

As ever, CD-R length, home-song-sung-blued covers, linernotes in illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Neil Diamond – I’m A Believer (1970)
2. Bobby Womack – Sweet Caroline (1972)
3. Jr. Walker & The All Stars – Holly Holy (1970)
4. Deep Purple – Kentucky Woman (1968)
5. David Garrick – I Got The Feelin’ (1967)
6. Elvis Presley – And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind (1970)
7. Glen Campbell – Sunflower (1977)
8. Johnny Cash feat. Tom Petty – Solitary Man (2000)
9. Shane MacGowan & The Popes – Cracklin’ Rosie (1994)
10. The Specials – A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (1996)
11. Marcia Griffiths – Play Me (1974)
12. Jimmy James & The Vagabonds – Red Red Wine (1968)
13. Millie Jackson – Love On The Rocks (1981)
14. Bunny Walters – Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon (1972)
15. Caterina Caselli – La casa degli angeli (I Am…I Said) (1971)
16. The Box Tops – Ain’t No Way (1969)
17. Wishful Thinking – Cherry, Cherry (1967)
18. The Monkees – Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) (1967)
19. Lafayette – Porcupine Pie (1973)
20. Frank Sinatra – Song Sung Blue (1980)
21. Peggy Lee – Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show (1969)
22. Malcolm & The Les Humphries Singers – Soolaimon (1970)
23. Jay & The Americans – Sunday And Me (1966)
Bonus Tracks:
Elvis Presley – Sweet Caroline (1970)
Willie Lindo – Holly Holy (1974)
Tony Tribe – Red, Red Wine (1969)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Leonard Cohen
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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  1. amdwhah
    July 22nd, 2021 at 09:26 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Stonefish552
    July 22nd, 2021 at 10:21 | #2

    You only have to look at that list of tracks to realize that Diamond is a superstar. Hit, after hit, after hit – the man is an absolute genius. Diamond is forever!!! I absolutely, and unapologetically, love his music and I’m a lifetime fan!!!

  3. amdwhah
    July 22nd, 2021 at 13:10 | #3

    Yes, all the hits. And immediately recognisable vocals (which makes hearing his songs covered by others so interesting).

  4. Hey-ItsMike
    July 22nd, 2021 at 15:13 | #4

    Yes, a well deserved tribute, and I really appreciate your writing here about Mr. Diamond (real name!). His 1969 album, “Brother Loves Traveling Salvation Show,” was played to death in our house in my childhood—a slice of the zeitgeist musically and socially for we kids. Nothing that he released afterward ever interested me—too cornball once I heard, say, “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” But the songs on that one album are indelibly imprinted on my siblings and I. It deserves a book, which someday I’ll write. The title song, and “Juliet,” “If I Never Knew Her Name,” “Glory Road”–I feel like most of these are lost to memory outside my family, but they’re great songs, each with at least a dollop of vivid writerly detail and redolent of late-60s style youth and heart. It’s worth checking out. All those songs came back to me three years ago, the day Mr. Diamond announced that, because of Parkinson’s Disease, he will no longer be performing. Thanks for this.

  5. Rhodb
    July 24th, 2021 at 00:54 | #5

    Well done a great compilation of Neil Diamond tunes. I was a closet fan of Neil as all my friends were listening to heavier tunes and I did not want to let the cat out of the bag that I had and played to death Hot August night

    Regards

    Rhodb

  6. Hugh Candyside
    July 24th, 2021 at 19:39 | #6

    Very nicely done. I’ll admit I dismissed Diamond as too cornball during the 60s and 70s but came to an appreciation with “12 Songs”, which showed his talent minus the schmaltz.
    You did miss “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” however. I have a couple covers and find the Liberace version particularly moving.

  7. amdwhah
    July 27th, 2021 at 13:33 | #7

    You can’t go wrong with Liberace, of course. “12 Songs” is a really great album.

  8. rat-a-tat-tat
    July 27th, 2021 at 16:03 | #8

    Great work on this and thanks as always for the insight you bring to your projects.

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