There’s a highly pleasant lightness to nearly all of this album.
David Quantick 2010-09-07
Time never knows what to do with Neil Diamond. He’s been the subject of mockery (see Will Ferrell’s terrifying Diamond sketch on Saturday Night Live) and of serious fandom (comic Rob Brydon is a big fan), possibly because he’s not quite rock and he’s not quite easy listening. His album sleeves look like greetings cards, but his songs are powerful and emotional. His career is hard to pigeonhole.
After writing songs for The Monkees and others in the 1960s (most notably I’m a Believer), he turned his un-sweet croak into a vocal advantage on songs like Sweet Caroline and Crackling Rosie in the 1970s, and in the 21st century has worked with both Brian Wilson and Rick Rubin. (His songs continue to lead an independent existence, from Red Red Wine, revived by UB40, to I’m a Believer, brilliantly remade by Robert Wyatt.)
In the 70s, Diamond was at his peak as a solo performer: middle of the road but with a gravely edge to his work. This 1976 album contains not only the great title-track, a tribute to city sound as music, but also Dry Your Eyes, his collaboration with The Band’s Robbie Robertson, the splendid If You Know What I Mean, and a lot of guitar-light pop-rockers in what would soon be known as the Billy Joel mode. In fact, there’s a highly pleasant lightness to nearly all of this album, which is always good news in Diamond’s case, as he can be a little portentous (he once wrote a song called Be for the soundtrack of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull). Here the instructional tendency is kept to a minimum, with only one song – Don’t Think… Feel – tending towards the instructional.