December 4, 2023
June 22, 1970
He Burns His Songs into Your Head
By Beverly Creamer
Neil Diamond does more than just sing at a concert. He burns his songs into your head and leaves them smoldering there long after he’s gone.
Diamond performed Saturday night at the Waikiki Shell. He was gentle and soft, coaxing and cruel. He told them his fantasies; then blew them away with songs of reality–of hope and sorrow.
For me, Neil Diamond’s love songs are his strength. He seemed to want to create something for posterity–the pure song, the perfect melody, lyrics that embrace the whole world. An indication was his sensitive rendering of Joni Mitchell’s “Clouds.”
Afterwards he said: “It hurts me every time I sing that. Maybe because I didn’t write it.”
But Diamond need not envy Miss Mitchell her wonderful song, for he has as many of his own with words as beautiful. For instance, from “Holly Holy”…”And the sea (sic) let it be full with tomorrow…” makes me quiver.
Or, “Sweet Caroline”…”Hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching you, touching me…” tells the story of the kind of love people dream about.
Diamond shared himself with his audience, and told them more than he perhaps intended to. He created an image of a sensitive, rather introverted young man who grew up in Brooklyn but lived in his own make-believe world. “I can remember,” he says, “when I used to get up in the morning and create a fantasy to live through the day with.”
As a youngster of 15, Diamond started writing songs–strongly influenced by country and western stylings. People out of Brooklyn have no heritage of their own,” he says, “so they pick up on other things. My ambition was always to be a great country-western singer.” And you could tell, from his occasional Johnny Cash stances or facial gestures.
But Diamond left country and western behind long ago and now seems to be plugging into all forms of religious beliefs–from African chants, to fundamentalist preaching. One of his most impressive songs Saturday was one called “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.” Standing with his legs apart, one arm grabbing for the sky, he invoked the Lord just like the revivalist minister in his song.
Diamond’s back-up musicians are as flamboyant and distinctive as he is–all but the drummer, who was out of the spotlight most of the time. His bass guitarist, Randy Brandel (?), looks like the lion in “The Wizard of Oz.” Diamond recognizes this and introduces him as such. His lead guitarist is a blond names Carol Hunter who Diamond describes as “a good guitarist and not a bad broad either.” Her high, clear voice compliments Diamond’s own deep resonance.
Altogether they shine with well-polished Diamond songs. Chalk up another hit for Neil.
Diamond debut: a gem
By Wayne Harada
Neil Diamond has everything going for him–reasonably good looks, a hard-as-granite voice, an incredible stable of chart-busters, and a likeable stage warmth.
His music is his medium, and his method is magic. His Honolulu concert debut Saturday night before a near sellout house at the Waikiki Shell was indeed a gem of a show.
The Uni Records artist performed for a full hour. I suspect he would have returned for an encore–he did everything one might expect, yet he omitted his current hit tune, “Soolaimon” (perhaps saved for a grand finale)–but he was visibly strained.
He imparts a conversational manner, a mixture of country and folk charm. His melodies are stamped with haunting, if not repetitive refrains, but they succeed because of the unusual strength with which Diamond delivers them.
Accompanying himself on an amplified guitar, Diamond was backed by a superb threesome: guitarist-singer Carol Hunter, bassist Randy Sterling and drummer Ed Reuben. Despite the smallness of the combo, Diamond was able to generate a consistently forceful musical gale, the kind of fury usually created by groups that are larger, if not louder.
The only non-Diamond sparkler was a gem of a folk hit, “Joni Mitchell’s, “Both Sides Now,” of which the composer-singer quipped: “I’m mad at her, because I didn’t write it.”
Still he showcased his finery. For the most part, Diamond has a predictable melody pattern in his work. The hard-driving rockery, especially, are beautifully crafted in terms of vigor and vitality, despite the fact that several tunes seem to run into each other.
Most obvious examples are the most emphatic hits: “Sweet Caroline,” “Cherry Cherry” and “Holly Holy” are solidly in the rock groove, and Diamond manipulates–perhaps abuses is a better description–his vocal chords to attain a gravel-like substance. The punch comes from deep within; a taxing methodology, no doubt, that Diamond especially soothing on a plaintive “A Singer Sings His Song,” which might have been subtitled doing my thing softly, simply. It was sheer poetry. There was variety, too, or should I say comedy, in Diamond’s parody of country-and-westernisms, a wild one about the guy who feels like the only rooster in the henhouse and a girl with horseflies around her face.
You must be logged in to post a comment.