Neil Diamond to Release “Dreams”
I’ll weigh in on this a little at the end, but first here’s the press release:
Five decades into his career, Neil Diamond has finally made the album of his dreams. On Tuesday, November 2, Columbia Records will release Dreams, a new 14-song collection of the legendary singer/songwriter’s interpretations of his favorite songs of other composers from the rock era.
“You never know how long you’ve got and a lot of these songs have been waiting for me to record them for 40 years,” says the soon-to-be-70-year-old musical legend.
Known primarily as a quintessential songwriter and record-breaking stage performer, Diamond showcases his distinctive skills as a singer on Dreams.
The album includes music that deeply influenced Diamond as a young man growing up in Brooklyn, starting with “Let It Be Me,” popularized by the Everly Brothers in 1960. The listener gets to time travel with Neil as he beautifully renders The Beatles’ stunning and spare “Blackbird” and the mournful “Yesterday,” Leon Russell’s underrated classic “A Song for You,” Gilbert O’Sullivan’s heart-stopping “Alone Again (Naturally),” Bill Withers soulful “Ain’t No Sunshine” and other well-known classics from the ’60s and ’70s.
Diamond also tackles hidden gems from his musical contemporaries including “Don’t Forget Me,” from the late Harry Nilsson, and the Randy Newman compositions, “Feels Like Home” and the poignant “Losing You.”
Diamond gets down to the basics on this album, accompanied by a single guitar for Glenn Frey and Don Henley’s cautionary “Desperado” and a breathtaking performance of Leonard Cohen’s celebrated “Hallelujah.”
Diamond even includes a never-before-heard reinterpretation of his own evergreen, “I’m a Believer,” the biggest selling record of 1966 and a massive hit for The Monkees in a year when The Beatles dominated the airwaves.
“Neil is performing others’ songs he’s always loved and in doing so it shows us why his instantly recognizable voice has made him one of rock and pop music’s most consistently vital and beloved artists,” says Steve Barnett, Chairman, Columbia Records. “His song choices reflect the songwriting qualities he admires most, while his sublime vocals reveal his deeply-felt connections to this music. Dreams is an important addition to Neil’s amazing catalog.”
Across a musical career stretching nearly 50 years, Neil Diamond has sold more than 128 million albums worldwide. He has charted a staggering 37 Top 10 singles and 16 Top 10 albums. His last studio album, Home Before Dark (2008), debuted at #1 in the U.S. and internationally. His 2009 DVD, Hot August Night/ NYC, has been certified double platinum. A Grammy Award-winning artist, Diamond is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the highest honors bestowed upon songwriters. Diamond’s many other achievements include a Golden Globe Award and 12 Grammy nominations. He was NARAS’s 2009 MusiCares Person of the Year.
Ain’t No Sunshine
Alone Again (Naturally)
Feels Like Home
Midnight Train To Georgia
I’m A Believer
A Song For You
Let It Be Me
Don’t Forget Me
(End of press release)
First, the good: the cover kicks ass.
Other than that, I’ll give it a chance but I’m very worried by several things. Not necessarily that it’s a cover album, but by some of the very obvious choices here. I can’t wait to hear his take on “Hallelujah” or “Blackbird,” but “Desperado”? Seriously? And don’t get me started on “I’m a Believer.”
Also there is no mention of Rick Rubin anywhere.
Neil, as the press release states, is indeed one of our best living songwriters, but he is also a fine interpretive singer as he has proven on material like “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” and his album Stones. At the same time, he has also released some real clunkers: see The Movie Album and Up On the Roof: Songs of the Brill Building.
After the sheer brilliance of 12 Songs, Home Before Dark, and even their predecessor, the underrated Three Chord Opera, this feels like a step backward.
Mainly I’m concerned that a singer-songwriter I have nothing but respect for, but who, after an amazing 10 year run of classic records spent 25 years releasing Barry Manilow-like MOR albums before being rescued from easy listening hell by Rick Rubin has fallen back off the wagon.
I am a true believer in this man and his songs and I want this story to have a happy ending. I want Neil to gain back any respect he may have lost because of “Heartlight,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” and their ilk. Releases like this make me question whether or not that can happen.
But I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve actually heard it.