Neil Diamond goes back to basics with covers CD
By NATALIE ROTMAN
Neil Diamond recorded his latest album, “Dreams,” with just a guitar and a microphone, interpreting old classics in a very intimate setting that puts the focus squarely on his voice.
But the 69-year-old legend — who was named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last week — is hoping the stripped arrangement draws listeners closer to the songs’ lyrics. Though he knows people are pretty familiar with the tunes on this album, which include “Midnight Train To Georgia,” “Hallelujah” and “Yesterday,” he wanted to highlight the stories behind them that made them special in the first place.
“On my songs, I worked very hard on the lyrics and I want people to hear them. I felt these songs deserve to be heard, and so they are,” said Diamond in a recent interview, where he delved more into “Dreams,” discussed his affection for Twitter and getting “Sweet Caroline” into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Q. Explain the title “Dreams.”
A. I titled it that because the album is really a dream of mine. It was an idea, a feeling, a desire of mine to do these songs. ... I haven’t been able to do it for my entire career. I just felt at this point, if not now, when?
Q. After two such successful albums with Rick Rubin, what made you want to do covers?
A. I went into the studio just to sing for my own amusement. Just take my guitar in front of a microphone and sing. I didn’t have any new songs of mine to sing, so I went back and just did some of my favorite songs that have been out there. I did it every Friday for months. Just as an upper for me. Kind of a tonic for the rest of the week. ... It was more like an accidental album.
Q. Do you ever get intimidated reinterpreting someone else’s song, like the Beatles song?
A. I’ve never gotten intimidated. I will always try a song. There are certain songs that you just cannot sing. They are not made for you. I did try a Brazilian song on this album, and there was no way I could sing it. It was kind of a bossa nova thing. No way I could get all the words and the notes in. I was very frustrated. I tried, and tried and tried and just said, “It is just not made for me to sing.”
Q. You are on Twitter. Talk about social media and interacting directly with your fans.
A. Yeah, I tweet. Occasionally I do. There is nothing lost in translation. I like that, and it is simple. As a songwriter, you are limited to a very short list of words, a number that you can use in a song. A hundred words, 150 words, that is it. So, to have a medium where I can reach out to people and share part of my life and have only 147 or so characters ... you have to say it very briefly, and I like that.
Q. As a musical icon and grandfather, how do you combine that?
A. Well, I would like my grandkids to be involved in music. I have given them guitars. I have offered them lessons. They just take to it. I’ve never put any pressure on them. If they continue to love it, and want to do it, they will. But, the bottom line is, I want them to have their hearts and minds open to music, because it is nourishment to the soul.
Q. What did you feel when you were finally nominated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
A. My music is very broad. It is based on rock ’n’ roll. But it also has a folk element, it has a country element to it, which is pretty strong. I was never sure they would take me in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They still haven’t, I have just been nominated. But, I am very happy to be a part of that. I think any group that has a Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and the Everly Brothers is a group I want to be a part of.