The end of the night

Tickets for Neil Diamond’s August show at our local arena went on sale the other day. They sold out in an hour.

A review copy of his latest album, “Home Before Dark,” also arrived last week. That’s as close as I’m going to get to Neil Diamond in Green Bay.

It’s been a long time since I sat down and listened to a Neil Diamond album. “Tap Root Manuscript,” the African-flavored album he released in 1970, was one of the first albums I ever bought. I played it a lot in my early teens, then moved on to other artists, other styles.

“Home Before Dark” is an acoustic album produced by Rick Rubin, his second collaboration with Diamond. I enjoyed its music, its arrangements, its performance. It’s laid back, yet elegant. Diamond is nicely complemented by a group of old pros that includes Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Yet judging from his liner notes, Diamond seems insecure, even after more than 40 years in the music business. He wrote a dozen deeply felt songs, then fretted over them as they were recorded. Perhaps all the great ones do, and Diamond is one of the great songwriters of our time.

“Home Before Dark” is full of music for the end of the night, the time for quiet introspection, the time to ponder paths taken and not taken.

“Don’t Go There” and “Forgotten,” Neil Diamond, from “Home Before Dark,” 2008.

“Don’t Go There” is about the risk of bad choices when lust shows up before love. “Forgotten” could well be the insecure Diamond pondering his career.

Speaking of which … I realize it isn’t 1970 anymore, but this kept running through my mind as I listened: Jeez, Neil, does every song have to be a densely written 6-minute epic? Do you have so many serious, ponderous, important things to say that you can no longer write a pop song in which we get in and out in just 3 minutes?

Just sayin’, is all.

1 Comment

Filed under May 2008, Sounds

One response to “The end of the night

  1. Shark

    It seems as though Neil Diamond’s pop songs like “Sweet Caroline” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” are 3 minutes or less in length, while his ballads are much longer songs. “Holly Holy” is 4:27 and “Heartlight” is 4:19. Even after 26 years, “Heartlight” is still a great song…it was one of the first songs I played on WNAM in Neenah/Menasha (Wisconsin) when I began working there in 1982.

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