Audio Remasterer: Keith Blake.
Liner Note Author: Steven Chean.
Recording information: 1967-1969.
Author: Neil Diamond.
Photographer: Richard Cartwright.
Neil Diamond may not be the most varied songwriter to ever put pen to paper but what he did, he did masterfully. In his early days he most memorably wrote sunny, gloriously simple tunes like "Cherry, Cherry" and "Thank the Lord for the Nightime" that instantly get the feet tapping and fingers snapping. In the late '60s and early '70s he branched into introspective ballads, but never left behind his prowess at writing instantly familiar choruses. Many bands have had hits with Diamond compositions, and many of them are featured here on Forever Neil Diamond. The collection does two things very well; it showcases Diamond's knack for huge hooks (everything here but especially the Monkees "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You") and shows how easily his songs spanned different styles. From bubbly reggae (UB40's smash interpretation of "Red Red Wine") to grizzly alt-rock (Crooked Fingers' folksy take on "Solitary Man"), smooth alt-rock (Urge Overkill's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon") and drunk-rock (Shane MacGowan's woozy "Cracklin' Rosie") to Motown (the Four Tops' powerful run-through "I'm a Believer") and deep soul (Bobby Womack's fevered "Sweet Caroline" and Arthur Alexander's rock solid "Glory Road"). Diamond's songs prove quite elastic and easy to personalize. Just to demonstrate how far his songs traveled, he was smooth enough to write MOR weepers like "And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind," here ably crooned by a very at-home sounding Elvis, and heavy enough to appear backed by the Band on "Dry Your Eyes in the Last Waltz." There are a couple of clinkers (Deep Purple nearly capsize "Kentucky Woman" with truly atrocious guitar and organ solos, and Junior Walker & the All-Stars take "Holly Holy" to church and lay it on a bit too thick), but for the most part, this is a tight little collection that goes a long way toward establishing Diamond as one of the great writers of the era. As with any collection like this, you can argue choices and plump for the inclusion of your own personal favorite Diamond covers (Robert Wyatt's "I'm a Believer," Altered Images' "Song Sung Blue"), but you can't deny that Forever Neil Diamond is a fun listen from beginning to end. ~ Tim Sendra