“Oh Mary” – Neil Diamond

Here’s one that may come as a shock to most of you.  A simple, beautiful, soulful ballad by one of the most popular … and underrated … singer / songwriters of all time.   Neil Diamond is a great singer / songwriter undone many times over the years by his bad taste in arrangements and Vegas-y style.  If you want to hear the most comically awful cover of all time, check out Diamond’s Vegas-y cover of “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables” … a song that should not only never be sung by a man, let alone in studly Sinatra-style fashion, but when you change the devastating last line of the song into something more “positive,” you’ve completely destroyed it.

Yes, I do enjoy Diamond’s bad taste stuff on one level (as do millions of others, ironically and non-ironically, who are devout fans).  But Diamond’s album “12 Songs,” that he recorded with legendary producer Rick Rubin in 2005, makes me hate the fact that he ever put a sequined shirt.  The arrangements are subtle and dignified.This is a beautiful, heartfelt, moving album of songs that highlights Diamond’s amazing voice,   Just as he did with Johnny Cash, the Dixie Chicks, and many others too numerous to mention, Rubin has a knack for distilling what’s great about a performer, cutting out the bulls–t, and allowing people to be their best.  Rubin’s collaboration with Diamond is an out-and-out masterpiece.

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