Capitol Records; ℗ 2020 Neil Diamond, under exclusive license to UMG Recordings, Inc.
Classic Diamonds With The London Symphony Orchestra Tracklist:
I have really enjoyed this album and have been listening to it over and over again for several days. The beautiful new arrangement and rendition of “I Am ... I Said” is one of my favorites. Neil Diamond’s superb voice and musical creative skills continue to peak, age doing nothing but making his already unmatched skills even finer. This album was a welcome gift during a pandemic year with so much pain. It is a calming and spirit filling musical work.
I'm always a tad wary whenever an artist releases an album of new versions of older material: plenty of albums like this have been released over the years, attempts at either recontextualizing old hits to meet a newer market, to simply play around with what the listener already knows and loves about a set of classic songs, or to just try and justify the release of yet another Greatest Hits album. I suppose you could consider this sort of thing brave at times, but more often than not these things fall flat on their faces, and will always have to overcome the listeners' established biases favoring cherished older material. Forgetting for a moment whether this sort of thing works or not, the orchestrations on this album are top notch, and Diamond's voice, at almost 80 years old, sounds as fresh and velvety as it ever did (something I can't even say about Johnny Cash's voice during his American Recordings era). By all of the more objective criteria, this album is phenomenal, and if you're a new listener with no prior knowledge of these songs, somehow, then this is a top-shelf production. So, the real question becomes, "How well will these songs go over for fans who've heard the original versions a million times over, especially when the sheer number of Greatest Hits albums and boxed sets, many of them perceived as uneeded, has become something of an in-joke amongst fans?" For the most part, I'd suggest the answer is, "surprisigly well." None of these will ever replace the originals, mind you. But when he sticks to what made the original songs work in the first place, orchestration like this only serves to make the song deeper than what it already was. The songs that were already made for lush orchestration in the past are definitely the songs which work best here: "Hello Again," "I've Been This Way Before," and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" work well. Perhaps the most surprising is how well this version of "September Morn," one of Diamond's more middle-of-the-road love ballads, from one of his most middle-of-the-road albums released during his most middle-of-the-road era of music, works incredibly well here. However, songs like "Play Me" and "I Am...I Said" take an orchestral approach which renders them barely recognizable, with significant alterations to even the basic melodies. It's certainly not a BAD album in any way shape or form, just one that will likely be a bit divisive depending on what you're looking for from this sort of project. It reminds me a good bit of John Denver's Earth Songs, where a handful of rerecordings were excellent, one or two might've been preferred to the original, and the rest leaving you just wondering, "Why?!" If all you want is some deep, orchestrated music that wouldn't feel out of place in the background, or as mood music, as you drive home for the holidays, then this is your ticket. If you're looking for something revolutionary, or something more than a barely-disguised Greatest Hits album, not so much. It might have worked decidedly better on all fronts if Diamond had chosen a less-obvious set of songs for this.
I was skeptical. Symphonic arrangements of Neil’s most famous songs? I hated his “Movie Album” in the 90’s and feared this would be a return to that. Good news: It’s not. It’s super fun hearing these gems reinvented with brand new orchestral arrangements, and Diamond’s voice in full form. And while I LOVE new, original Neil Diamond albums, I’m kind of hoping there’s another few volumes of this. Not many artists would dare change one hair on the head of their biggest hits, but with this album Neil Diamond is bold enough to mix things up and bring different colors to his work..and it’s the perfect gift for a troubled year.
I really didn’t expect to love this album as much as I do. My first reaction was..oh no another compilation. This is SO MUCH MORE! Neil’s voice is still strong and the nuances he brings to this outing make this very familiar material feel new. Holly Holy definitely a stand out! Rock on, Mr. D and stay well💎💎❤️
After hearing Heartlight, I couldn’t wait for the release of the rest of the album. Beautiful renditions of all my favorite Neil Diamond tunes. I am a lifelong fan of Neil... my 6 yr old grandson is also a fan. He requests his music when he needs confidence before swim lessons and falls asleep listening to his “Meal” Diamond favorites. 😀
I cant wait to hear the others!! I do wish he added some more deeper tracks also though. like Lady Oh or say maybe. but I can REALLY use this album right about now. and Neils voice sounds AMAZING.
I love listening to Neil, his music brings back so many memories of my dad who always had him playing. Neil’s music is uplifting and positive. His music will always be special to me. #missingyouinheavendad❤️
I’m very excited for this to come out. I’m a 26 year old police office who just loves Neil. I play his music even with inmates in the backseat and they even like it. Neil reaches across all age groups. Love ya Neil. Would love to meet this man