ALBUM REVIEW: Neil Diamond, The Jazz Singer

I have to first off state that I have never seen the movie The Jazz Singer, but I will correct that soon. So this review will be strictly over the music and hopefully not completely out of context. Forgive me, I am just more of a music man then a movie man.

Neil Diamond has been a staple in music and pop culture since 1963 when he released neil-diamond-the-jazz-singerhis first solo single, “Clown Town.” Although this was predicted to be a hit, it failed to chart successfully. Diamond began to spend the majority of the following years songwriting. He wrote for many legendary performers, including Elvis Presley and the Monkees, and wrote some legendary tunes including “I’m a Believer” and “Sweet Caroline”.

His first hit came as an artist in 1966 with “Solitary Man.” He began performing and opening for many big name bands and artists, but began to feel restricted by his record company. He then switched over to MCA Records and his solo career gained serious traction with a string of hit songs and albums. He also became extremely well known for his stage performances.

In 1980 he had planned on starring in a movie with Barbra Streisand titled after the song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” He instead opted to star in a remake of The Jazz Singer. He agreed to write songs for the film, thus my album review starts.

TheJazzSingerNeilDiamondalbumcoverFrom this soundtrack/album alone I am amazed at Diamond’s songwriting. It takes a lot to be a songwriter, but he has a special quality I feel many don’t. That’s adaptability. He was able to adapt his lyrics to a storyline, instead of writing from just his personal experiences.

The album opens with the hit “America.” I think most Americans know this song, even if they don’t know where it came from. It’s an anthem for every American and could be considered an anthem for many immigrants. The songs talks about coming to America for freedom, a home, and ultimately to pursue a dream, all set to an uptempo musical style. The last seconds of the song use lyrics from the classic song “My Country Tis of Thee.” A great ending to an optimistic ode to this great nation.

The album then goes into the classic “You Baby.” A definite concert pleaser and a tune you are slightly embarrassed to admit you dance to alone. The next gem comes with “Love on the Rocks.” The lyrics tie in a double meaning, not only is there a love relationship that is over, yet there is also slight drinking involved. My favorite line, “Love on the rocks, ain’t no surprise, pour me a drink, I’ll tell you some lies.” This ballad goes on to explain how love can often be a hardship. He actually encourages one to leave a relationship once “they” know they have you. Lesson to be learned: don’t ever totally give yourself to one entity, for that provides the furthest fall.

I enjoyed the religious references in “Amazed and Confused” and “Jerusalem.” It seemsjazzsinger that, although “Amazed and Confused” is from a movie where Judaism is prominent, it has much to say to Christians. It talks about someone waiting on the other side of the Jordan (As a Christian, I would say Jesus), casting stones as they cross (sins), but that they will abide (God’s grace and law).

Lastly, I just have a slight comment on “Acapulco.” This song seems to be an 80’s version of the Andrew Sisters “Rum and Coca-Cola.” This sensed connection had to be expressed.

For me, this is a prelude to the movie. I have read where the movie was not quite as successful as the album, but the songs were recorded live on set. This is a huge testament to Diamond’s vocal talent as well. Although, the title of the album and movie can be a misconception, for there is not any jazz, but pop music performed.

So although there is no Jazz actually performed, the soul and heritage of Jazz are portrayed within the music. Jazz is about hurt, emotion, and overcoming obstacles. It’s in the genre’s history. This album’s title is a perfect correlation to these facts.

This movie is Diamond’s first and last. It has taken the hit of ridicule and acclaim, but the music is golden. Unfortunately, I now want to see this movie, and Netflix never has that one movie you need.

I guess today I will be off to all the used DVD stores.

ALBUM REVIEW: Cher and Gregg Allman, Allman and Woman

I am completely confused about this collaboration between two highly regarded musicians, Greg Allman (a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee) and Cher (an everlasting performer who has set more trends than anybody).

In 1975 Allman and Cher were married just days after her and Sonny Bono’s divorce was finalized. This wasn’tCher and Greg 1 a complete shock when looking at the lifestyle that Cher and Bono had been leading. They had both been pursuing different “lovers” for around 3 years, but remained publicly married for their successful namesake. Allman and Cher had been dating for around 6 months when they sporadically married in Las Vegas.

Cher filed for divorce 9 days later, citing Allman’s heroin and liquor abuse…then they reconciled for a few years. Quite conventional.

During their tumultuous tenure, they made one album, Two The Hard Way. There wasn’t a more suitable title and thank goodness that this was Cher’s last duet album.

This album is a divorce party album. It is the most forced vocal and emotional connection between two artists who were clearly infatuated with each other but were completely wrong for each other. Although, even that infatuation was limited. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine Allman stated that he didn’t feel Cher had a good singing voice, but a good talking voice. She responded with an atomic bomb.

Well, it was really just an f-bomb to be precise.

According to some, this is both artists’ worst musical endeavor, but there is some respect. A few songs stick out, and they do cover a range of genres. One can feel disco, pop, r&b, and rock throughout the album. Although there are two things to keep in mind, Allman was a southern rocker teetering on country and Cher was a pop singer who went with any popular musical wave to remain successful. I’m all about experimenting, but some chemicals just don’t work well.

Cher and Gregg 2The opening song “Move Me” is a decent song. There’s not too much to it lyrically, it just confirms they like the way they move each other. Insert your interpretation, but it’s a fun listen. They also do a rather interesting rendition of the Smokey Robinson penned “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me.” I’d stick with the original on this one, but this cover isn’t the worst. Add it to a “Cher Complete” box set and it will sit well in the 70s section.

The two best songs are the songs Allman and Cher decided to perform solo. Although not completely memorable, they could easily be filers on one of their individual recordings. Allman wins with “Shadow Dream Song.” His vocals are natural and pure. The song should be extracted from the album and judged by itself. Cher sings the only song Allman co-wrote on the album “Island.” Since I have a certain appreciation for Cher, I’ll plead a hard 5th on this one.

In the end, Allman’s vocals are completely out of place portraying discomfort and many other different oddities. Cher’s vocals are decent, many times resorting to her belting ability, a safe area for the already seasoned singer.

Cher and Greg album

The cover of the album should act as a warning just as an explicit sticker does. The cover shows Allman and Cher’s hair blowing in the wind while Allman is positioned uncomfortably over the pantyhosed Cher (can’t really tell what she is wearing, but that’s nothing new). The cover should immediately provide hesitation. It’s that feeling you get when looking at awkward family photos. The one with the dreadful flute from middle school band or basically any picture in this post.

If this album is found in a record store look over your shoulder and make sure nobody is looking and sneak it into your stack. If it’s your only album you can find worth buying take Cher’s above approach.

Drop an f-bomb and reconcile…..with their solo recordings.