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 his 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 came 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 them film, thus my album review starts.
From 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, and 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 tallest fall.
I enjoyed the religious references in “Amazed and Confused” and “Jerusalem.” It seems 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 sang. The title seems to commit homage to the original, 1923’s Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer.
So although there is no Jazz actually performed, the soul and heritage of Jazz is 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.