A New Listen for Old Friends: Neil Diamond’s ‘Classic Diamonds’

Neil Diamond with the London Symphony Orchestra — Classic Diamonds

What a pairing: a classic pop songwriter with a classical symphony. If this doesn’t put you into a good mood, then nothing will. Pick any track on Neil Diamond’s new album, Classic Diamonds, and you’re sure to spend at least the next few minutes with a smile or at least a sighs. Partnering with the London Symphony Orchestra on such favorites as “Sweet Caroline,” “Song Sung Blue,” and “I’m A Believer,” Diamond proves that the songbook he provided the world is as powerful as ever.

The real standouts are the songs that benefit from the ample orchestrations and instrumentations here — the dramatic storytelling songs like “Love On The Rocks,” “I Am… I Said,” “Hello Again,” and, especially, “September Morn.” The symphonic treatment nicely contrasts the gritty musical vision of these Neil Diamond musical monologues. Despite a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s, his vocals sound strong and rich. It is a voice that, not unlike Charles Aznavour’s during his lengthy career, only burrows more deeply into the music; Diamond’s baritone and his notes and his words are one.

If we don’t get to hear him live in concert much these days, let’s be grateful that he’s still making, and refreshing our experiences of, the music we love. Here’s hoping that a new year brings something really exciting — like a Broadway show filled with his songs — that will run forever.

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