Monday, September 28, 2009

Neil Diamond is Forever... And With Good Reason


There’s a very spirited argument running through my head as to whether Neil Diamond is Forever should be published as a book critique or a music review. This beautiful hardbound monster of a book came in the customary brown mailing envelope and the moment it emerged from hiding, music began flowing through my head. Music more clear than any CD could possibly produce and more vivid than any photograph or painting. From the moment you open this volume until hours after its last page is viewed, Neil Diamond’s music will flow flawlessly through your mind.

You are the sun, I am the moon, here are the words, you know the tune… read this.

Masterful fingers will continuously strum a blessed guitar and strings swell higher than an eagle dares to fly… and I hadn’t even opened the damned book yet. Neil Diamond has an incredible talent for placing images in your mind intertwined with music and though sometimes after a period of years you may forget a lyric or two, the music lives on.

As each page turns you find a new image of a career that has spanned decades; and deservedly so. It’s a book that has to be read twice because you don’t want words to distract from the beautifully reproduced images and the music that can’t leave your mind. “I’ll read it after I check out more of the pictures,” you’ll tell yourself.

Fat chance

The next page always seems to have an image that brings up a long-lost memory that compels you to read its description. You find yourself carried away remembering your old 45 collection; deciding not to explain to your kids what a “45” is for fear of making yourself seem or feel too old just yet. Surprise’ll catch you by the image of a Monkees single, then you read where young Neil was approached by Don Kirshner to submit some music for his new TV show. The pre-fab four’s rendition of “I’m a Believer” originally began as a throwaway tune that was a little bit too “bubblegum” for Neil until he became rich over night from it, setting up his financial freedom to record more masterful works.

And the story of a young delivery boy who made it good in the big city, and then the country, and then the world goes on from there, but it’s the pictures that make this book a worthy addition to any Neil Diamond fan’s collection.

This incredible artist began his career in a long-lost era when music was mostly delivered over 3-inch transistor radios in mono laying face down on a beach somewhere. The only alternative was a single 5-inch car dashboard speaker bouncing off of a flat windshield. To impress someone under that format was a feat in itself. It was a time when AM radio stations played the Mamas and the Papas, the Smothers Brothers, Steppenwolf and Barbra Streisand one right after the other and never batted an eye. There were no synthesized instruments or stolen bits and pieces of other musical artists’ work to hide behind. You usually only had no more than three or four minutes to sell your song because radio stations didn’t want listeners wandering off if they didn’t like what was playing at the moment… so that’s all you had-a moment. If you weren’t good your were relegated to that much-avoided category of “one hit wonder.”

Jon Bream has done a great job of building this 8.5 x 11 inch hardbound collection and it is a testament to just how well the author knows his subject. Within its 160 pages you’ll find 225 huge color and 81 black & white photos leaving you with the impression that there can’t possibly be a single photo of Neil that isn’t contained in this volume. The story of Neil’s life and career is inspiring and noteworthy because of its many triumphs and it’s longevity.
The only regret I have of writing this review is having to reduce the size of the incredibly clear and large photos so that they’ll fit on a little computer screen. If you click on any of the images above they enlarge for a better view! The only question still looming after reading the book concerns wondering why Neil hasn’t been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame yet. The next time you go to a fireworks display and sing along with Neil coming to America you can ask yourself the same question.

I highly recommend this book and it holds an honored place on my shelf.

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©-2009 by Jet Gardner/

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