Compiled and released no doubt to abet 12 Songs and Home Before Dark, Diamond's two Rick Rubin-produced projects released in 2005 and 2008 respectively, Neil Diamond is Forever makes a case for legacy for someone thought by most serious music fans to be a histrionic clown.
Seeing his career presented in Forever makes him into something other than the ironic joker that he has been for most of his post and pre Hot August Night career. The latter, based on a series of shows at Los Angeles' Greek Theater, came out of the blue and showed Diamond in a new light—a sincere, studied musical pro who knew how to use a real band—that he never again approached until most recently with the aforementioned Rubin projects.
Which means that this is a book that chronicles the life of a man who was creatively misunderstood. That he launched his career as a Tin Pan Alley-lackey who wrote music for a hit-making machine never helped, even though he did pen "I'm a Believer," perhaps the best Monkees tune this side of "The Porpoise Song." And discovering that he wrote and released "Solitary Man" in 1966, a truly wise and wicked song, gives a new sheen to Diamond as a neophyte songwriter. Yea, he could write, and here are the pictures and press releases to prove it.
Which is really what something like this book is all about—check the handbill for Diamond co-billed with The Association in Wichita, Kansas in 1967. 50 cents got you in for that one. Picture sleeve for a “Sweet Caroline” 45. Ticket stubs from all the years-people were payin' $17.50 to see him at The Arena in Oakland in 1985? Damn...
Forever is a history lesson and a museum in pages, 300 photos and trinkets of memorabilia, backed up by some decently written accounts of his career even though Diamond himself didn't contribute to the story.
You don't even have to care about the music—and much of it was really bad. This type of book exists for other musical acts, and almost always, they are a treat—Zeppelin, the Stones, Pink Floyd, Kiss—even if you don't care for the subject, the history lesson is enticing.
Yea, Diamond's sequined shirts that supposedly ran him five grand a shot were damn silly. But this book is a fun walk through a small piece of music legend
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