If you’re a Neil Diamond fan, the latest entry in our songwriter series is a no-brainer must-have. For starters, it collects 11 of the songs Neil wrote during the 1963-1969 timeframe that is its purview, but has never himself recorded. Among the numbers he gave away are the Monkees’ ‘Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)’ (heard here in the unique mix used on the original television broadcast) and Jay & the Americans’ ‘Sunday And Me’.
Deep Purple’s remake of Diamond’s ‘Kentucky Woman’ was a hit just a year after his own version. Heavy, man! Further covers from his impressive run of over 50 chart singles are represented, most in styles vastly different from his versions, the infinite adaptability a testament to the quality of the material. Tony Tribe was the first, in 1968, to cut a reggae rendition of ‘Red Red Wine’, UB40’s self-acknowledged template for their wildly successful release of the song a quarter-century later. Jackie Edwards’ performance of ‘Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon’ is so tender that the original sounds almost gruff by comparison.
No matter how you feel about Neil Diamond, if you’re a femme-pop fan, you’re going to need this disc for the tracks by Lulu, Marcie Blane, Jan Tanzy, Sadina and Billie Davis. If you favour the fellas, Cliff Richard’s ‘Just Another Guy’ sounds like a cross between the Everly Brothers and Bobby Vee filtered through Dion, while Jimmy Clanton appropriates the slogan of American greeting-card company Hallmark, “When you care enough to send the very best”, to suit his romantic needs. Ronnie Dove delivers an uncharacteristically energetic performance on the horn-and-handclap-propelled ‘My Babe’ and Billy Fury makes the Pitney-esque ‘Where Do You Run’ his own.
How do you like your soul music? Bobby Womack takes an expressive approach to ‘Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Felt So Good)’ that makes palpable the joy conveyed in the lyrics. Approaches as diverse as the Memphis sound (B.J. Thomas, the Box Tops and Arthur Alexander), Chuck Jackson-style big city soul (the Solitaires), and Motown (Four Tops, Jr Walker & the All-Stars) are all successful and satisfying. Adding still more diversity to the mix are the Rocky Fellers’ ‘We Got Love’, with their trademark marimba-driven Pacific Islander sound, and the surprisingly effective garage-rock stylings of the Music Machine and the Wanderer’s Rest, cementing the status of these songs’ universal appeal and versatility.
If you didn’t think you were a Neil Diamond fan, it’s time to reassess your position, at least in terms of his formidable, diverse and affecting abilities as a songwriter.
BY DAVID A YOUNG