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The Friday Morning Listen: Neil Diamond

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Aerosmith at the Augusta Civic Center, Augusta, Maine. CANCELLED.

Aerosmith with special guest Cheap Trick. Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, New Hampshire. CANCELLED.

These two non-shows didn’t take place almost 30 years apart. I had tickets to see Aerosmith way the heck back when I was about 16. Man, oh man, was I looking forward to that show. I planned to take this cute girl to it and, whoa, did she get excited (in that way you can get excited only when you’re in your teens) when she saw those two tickets in the palm of my hand.


I heard it on radio station WBLM. I believe the word back then was “bummer”.

So I’ve had tickets to see Aerosmith & Cheap Trick for about a month. Now it’s me and The Wife who are excited. I’ve never seen Aerosmith and she’s never seen either group. To tell you the truth, I was psyched to see both bands as Cheap Trick is a boatload of fun in concert. Yea, there would have been a graying 40-something standing there screaming “Surrender” at the top of his lungs. No doubt about that!

Two nights ago, in the middle of getting my hair cut, I hear it on the salon radio. CANCELLED!! I wanted to toss out an F-bomb but the woman who cuts my hair is just too nice to have such things flung in her general direction.


I had sort of been planning on typing up several paragraphs of slobber about how much fun the show was, and how my voice is screwed from all that screaming, and how it was nice not to be the youngest person in the arena for a change, and I sort of miss the pot smoke at concerts, and how that guy behind me just wouldn’t shut the fuck up! No, that’s not gonna happen. I couldn’t even bring myself to listen to Toys In The Attic or Rocks or Live at Buddokan this morning. Nosiree….I went for the anti-Aerosmith.

Neil Diamond.

I’ve never listened to a Neil Diamond record all the way through. Sure, I’m familiar with a bunch of his songs. He’s written a ton of ’em, first as a Brill Building cohort and then during his own solo career. The man’s got a way with a melody, that’s for sure. Just by happenstance, a couple of days ago I read a Sasha Frere-Jones review of Diamond’s recent 12 Songs. I’d been sort of intrigued by this recording because of the whole Rick Rubin connection. I mean, Rubin had the ears to strip down Johnny Cash to his glorious essence. But Neil Diamond? What’ll he sound like if removed from all of those dramatic song climaxes?

Well, it turns out that he sounds great. I’m not kidding. I really did have my doubts, but no more. I’ll buy a freaking Justin Timberlake CD if Rubin is at the helm. First of all, he brings in a stellar (but quiet) band featuring Mike Campbell and Smokey Hormel (guitars) and Benmont Tench and Billy Preston on piano/organ. Then, the master stroke: he makes Diamond play the acoustic guitar (something related by Frere-Jones and something that Diamond bitched about during the recording process). What’s the big deal? Rubin figured that it would force Diamond to reign in his tendency to go over the top vocally.

Brilliant, is all I’ve got to say. Seriously, if you’d never heard the name “Neil Diamond” before and heard this record, you’d think he was an interesting singer with a deeply textured voice and some great songs.

I cannot believe I just wrote that.

Thanks a lot Steven Tyler.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Saleski, you probably haven’t recruited me but this reads as one of my favorite FML’s yet.

    I will confess the Rubin connection made me curious.

    The Heartbreakers might be the second-best backing band in rock. Tench and Campbell are both terrific session men (both worked with Rubin on Cash’s material and Tench has done work for a ton of different people).

  • thanks.

    oh, and Smokey Hormel (dontcha just love that name?) has played with Tom Waits quite a bit.

  • Oh this was good Sir Mark. As I said before – I didn’t have strong feelings about ND one way or another. Well – I did think of him as a bit corny, yeah. But ever since Saving Silverman I gotta smile whenever I hear Neil Diamond.

    I thought about getting those same tix at the Verizon. With double birthdays next week, it would have been a great idea. Then as my youngest’s BBall team went into the semi finals – with the game being LAST NIGHT – I remember being sorta thankful I didn’t get the tix after all.

    Well – what can ya do.

    Speaking of tix – The Chieftans will be at Symphony Hall Sat night. Doubt I’m going to try to go, but *sigh* – woulda been glorious

  • The good news: This post made me chuckle. Thanks. What terrible (yet literary gold) luck, man. A 30 year deja-vu… crazy. Too bad you don’t have side-by-side pictures of 16 and 46-year-old you, both frowning and ripping up the tickets.

    The bad news: Most younger people probably don’t see much difference between Aerosmith and Neil Diamond. Now don’t hate on me for telling the truth!

    But you are right in that Rubin has hit some home runs as a producer. Sweet Caroline!

  • Now don’t hate on me for telling the truth!

    if your podcasts weren’t so cool, i’d have to smack you upside the head. 😉

  • Yeah, that Diamond album is better than you might think. My thoughts here.

  • Ha! A little smack makes for good podcast sound effects though. Speaking of which, did you ever get to hear Episode 5?

    By the way, I noticed you’ve almost hit your 3 year mark of writing this particular column on BC… kudos.

    Although all the older articles don’t have who you listened to in the title. Maybe you should make an anniversary list for people to peruse. Just an idea. Peace.

  • i did listen to #5. isn’t that the one where you’ve said your off on your book-writing expedition?

    thanks. yep, almost three years. lots of fridays.

  • sir smyth, “wrong-foots the listener” is a perfect way of describing my reaction to this recording.

  • So you spent 18 minutes to listen, but left no feedback? *sigh* Oh well…

    Yeah, expedition… in fact, I’m leaving for my table at the back a Korean deli in NYC right now to type my pipe dreams during my lunch hour. 🙂

  • ooops, sorry. uh…i was awestruck by the podcast’s beauty. yea, that’s it.


  • Yes, much better… you know it’s tough on me when 1 of my only 2 BC listeners don’t check in. Heh.

  • caligirl

    I am so very glad to see that young people have been giving Neil a chance……

  • Vern Halen

    There’s a tune here called “Delirious Love” that most songwriters would give their right arm for. There album is worth that alone, much less the rest, which is pretty good too.

    Interestingly, there’s also on the album a bonus version of “Delirious Love” featuring Brian Wilson. The Beach Boy-ized version is OK, but it just shows how powerful the simple arrangement of the original is.

  • Vern Halen

    PS – I saw the Aerosmith/Cheap Trick pairing on the last tour. The only thing you’d be missing is Bun E. Carlos’ drumming – what a groove that man can lay down!

  • I hate to sound too much like Al Barger here, but I f’ing love Neal Diamond. Sure he’s way over the top and a cheese head to boot, but the melodies are always catchy and fun. I’ll take him over the bloated Aerosmith anyday.

  • Evan

    yep i would too

  • Evan

    well Neil Diamond is not on tour so in the meantime i got Neil Sedaka to look foward to

  • Evan

    Neil Diamond is the best along with Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow