Neil Diamond – Tennessee Moon
Dangit, bangit, and hangit alternapardners, like toothpaste tipped off the top shelf, like an aging rooster in the afterglow, your diatribe scribe Claire O. is crestfallen. Why am I doped with mope? Ponderate the following ponderances: When it comes to putting zing in the sing thing, musical crossdressing has ground new grooves in more than one country artist’s career recently (see Johnny Cash/Rick Rubin, Emmylou Harris/Daniel Lanois, etc.). Ponderance number two: Would it not then follow like buckle bunnies to bronco buddies that an aging pop star looking to put a new angle on his spangle could git it from his country cousins?
Sadly like a sack, Claire O. has grievous like an angel news to Sonny and Cher: Seekin’ a little sequin tweakin’, Uncle Neil the aging city mouse went to the Nashville cats for hip replacement and found out they couldn’t put an edge on an artist if you gave ’em 220 volts and an 80 horsepower Deck & Blacker sidewinder grinder.
Now then. Claire O. has been a Holly Holy roller since the days when this girl would be a woman soon. Few admit it, but heck-a-diddle with a paradiddle, who isn’t? Claire O. believes the reason so many people came “out” in the last decade was because Neil Diamond fans were taking up all the closet space. Snicker like a doodle if you will, but Claire O. is always hungry for a little porcupine pie with a cherry on top. But Tennessee Moon is like a craft shop in a megamall. It’s got country things in it, but they’re all shiny and clean, and sanded down real smooth.
‘Cept for a few warpy high notes, Neil sings charcoal briquette beautiful, and can still put a quiver in my liver. But instead of bending his genre, his Nashville partners parceled out a passel of proto-ballads and then “countrified” them with a limp garnish of steel guitar here, a wilted fiddle flourish there. (Beth Nielsen Chapman and Tammy Rogers are excused; their contributions to “Deep Inside of You” deliver the first real emotion of the album.)
To paraphrase the late Country Dick Montana, what Neil Diamond needed was a firm-handed musical spanking. What he got was his pants pressed. Please O please, someone in Nashville elect Steve Earle mayor and send the National Guard down to Music Row.