Neil Diamond came out of the Brill Building, New York's songwriting factory, with a sheaf of songs that found ready interpreters: the Monkees, Deep Purple, Lulu, even Elvis. When he started recording his own material, he became a steady hit-maker (Song Sung Blue, Sweet Caroline). He's been disparaged a fair bit over the years, but still managed to attract new audiences, boosting a sagging career in 2005 with 12 Songs, produced by Rick Rubin, followed by Home Before Dark, his first album to enter the charts at number one. Dreams is an about-face, 14 songs he's dreamt of recording over the years. It's not the first time he's done others' work. Desirée and September Morn were translations of songs by Gilbert Becaud; and Rainbow features thoughtful renderings of Until It's Time for You to Go, and Randy Newman's I Think It's Going to Rain Today. In Dreams, Diamond strips away the lushness of his output from Serenade on, taking an approach more in tune with 12 Songs and Home Before Dark. The result of the stripping down is focus on the lyrics, a few crisp instruments and his still-resonant baritone. A few gems here can be bought individually online: Ain't No Sunshine, Blackbird (great fiddle), Let It Be Me (encore Becaud), Feels Like Home (ditto Newman).
The Best of
Almost a decade after the release of her summery worldwide smash, I'm Like a Bird, the Canadian songstress has finally brought out a greatest hits album. Out of the 17 tracks here, only three - Night Is Young, Stars, and Girlfriend in this City - are new. If you forget for a moment the previously unheard - and slightly blah - material, this is a great collection of pop songs from an artist who has constantly reinvented herself over the years. I especially like Turn Off the Light, from her first album, and Fotografía, a duet (in Spanish) with the insanely popular Colombian singer, Juanes.