Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Music Theory: Neil Diamond (No, seriously.)

-First, I'm pumped to announce that we've got someone doing weekly tune reviews for us, so keep checking back. With that I turn it over to C.Clowers:

-I was listening to the drone melodies of NPR the other day when I heard a familiar voice. The voice was as powerful as an ox and it was in dire need of an accompaniment by an acoustic guitar. This voice was the one an only….


As I continued to listen I heard that he just released his 46th album. This is Neil Diamond’s first No. 1 debut on the pop charts and he has been in the music business for almost 5 decades. I was uncannily interested, so I purchased the album. (Click the More link for full post)

The first track ‘If I Don’t See You Again’ starts off with just Diamond’s mournful vocals while playing his guitar. It is a song that represents nostalgia and regret. Neil’s sorrowful singing and his powerful vibrato drive the emotions across to any listener. The album is much like Johnny Cash’s American series (also produced by Rick Rubin). His material is simple, yet powerful such as this line
“It’s time for saying goodbye
‘Cause if I stayed for too long
You’d get to know me too well
And find that something was wrong.”

As the song continues, the rest of the band comes in (all the essential instruments minus drums).

You can definitely hear Rick Rubin’s input come to play on many of these songs through the divine art of orchestration (choosing the right instruments for the right voicing). Rick Rubin likes to compliment the vocals/lyrics on many of his albums by having very warm instruments backing the vocalist. An example would be supporting Neil’s vibrato with a tremolo fixed organ that is smooth yet equal to the texture and mood of the song. Other well-blended instruments would be the choice of dull bass/double bass and an 11-piece orchestra comprised of soft instruments. In contrast to the smoother instruments, Rick reinforces the intensity of some of the melancholy songs by using the piano’s lower registers as the more INTENSE bass line. You can feel the frequency difference in your spine. This method truly delivers the message of the pieces without it having to repeat it’s self.

For a Neil Diamond fan, they will find the melodies in the song ‘Don’t Go There’ as a true Diamond staple. He has a thunderous melody line with bashing back up guitar chords that sound a bit Tom Petty-ish, as they should because his backing band is comprised of the guitarist (Mike Campbell) and the pianist/organ player (Benmont Tench) from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Diamond’s song entitled ‘No Words’ is an upbeat poppy love song. The lyrics are obvious, but heartfelt. The song is about how there are no words to describe his love to his significant other. It is a song that makes you warm and is a total convertible on a sunny day…song. This song is much like a good George Harrison/Beatlesque song with a richer sound.

To summarize the album would be injustice, but I’ll do it anyways. The album is a simple acoustic album filled with sorrow and sentimental feelings all at the same time. The album is carried through the hour and two minutes by the legacy that is…Neil Diamond’s powerful guitar playing and his brawny vocals. The backing on this album can only be described as warm, mellow, and fierce with emotion. Neil Diamond is a master of his craft and truly displays it in this album.

If you liked this album, or want to hear similar albums go buy….

Johnny Cash’s Unchained and/or American series
Tom Petty’s Wildflowers
Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story

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