“Love on the Rocks” – Jonathan Davis

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Korn’s Jonathan Davis does a pretty cool and transcendent cover of Neil Diamond’s “Love on the Rocks,” recorded for the “Wonderland” soundtrack in 2003. I call it transcendent because Davis sounds like he’s taking the lyrics VERY seriously and treating them with all the gravity and desperation they allude to.

I’ve talked about “Wonderland” before on Dave’s Strange World and it’s the James Cox-directed docudrama about the infamous Wonderland Murders of 1981, which involved down-on-his-luck porn star John Holmes. Imagine the “Sister Christian/Jessie’s Girl” sequence from “Boogie Nights” expanded to feature length and that will give you an idea of what an unremittingly intense experience “Wonderland” is.

The accompanying video is a montage of scenes from “Wonderland” set to the this Davis cover. Not safe for work.

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“American Boy: A Profile of Steve Prince” (1978) dir. Martin Scorsese

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During Martin Scorsese’s notorious “lost weekend” period when he had a serious cocaine problem, he still managed to produce a lot of interesting films. With the exception of the big-budget musical “New York, New York,” the documentary about the Band’s last concert, “The Last Waltz,” is probably the most famous and highly regarded. However, the least known (and arguably, best) film from this period is Scorsese’s documentary “American Boy: A Profile of Steve Prince.”

Prince is probably most famous as the scary gun salesman in “Taxi Driver,” but prior to that he was Neil Diamond’s road manager (among other jobs) and was a heroin addict. During one moment in the film, Prince relates a tale about reviving a woman who overdosed with a medical dictionary, a shot of adrenaline, and a magic marker that’s … um … very similar to a scene in the Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film “Pulp Fiction.”

The film is a fascinating look at the life of someone on the edge … a life that Scorsese obviously identified with considering his drug-intake and near-death at the time. Not only did Scorsese survive (and subsequently make many classic films), but so did Prince, who was the subject of a sequel in 2009 called “American Prince” directed by Tommy Pallotta.

“Oh Mary” – Neil Diamond

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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.