On Melody Road troubadour turns rock tropes on their ear.
  • On Melody Road troubadour turns rock tropes on their ear.
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“Would that make it a better song?” Lou Reed asked a caller into an NYC radio show. Caller wanted to know if the dead girl in “Street Hassle” was real. Lester Bangs didn’t print the caller’s next move, but ruminated spot on: “There is so much beauty mixed in with the ugliness.”

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"The Art of Love," by Neil Diamond

From Neil Diamond's latest, <em>Melody Road</em>

From Neil Diamond's latest, Melody Road

Thirty-six years later Neil fires a shot in the other direction, danced through that same tango. “Seongah and Jimmy” fall in love to that tango, swoop around the flute and the trumpet and inevitably swelling strings. Nobody dies. Nobody takes drugs. No sobs in the darkness.

And Seongah and Jimmy turn out to be real people. Will that make it a better song? I’m not sure. If I didn’t know they were real, I’d have to push a little to believe such people exist and the roof doesn’t fall in on them.

And that’s not a problem I ever had with “Street Hassle.” Is it me, or which troubadour I first learned to take seriously…

Neil never talks sex talk, but his stalwart sex/love conflation leaves “First Time” richer. “Nothing But a Heartache” breaks a heart quietly but turns up hope like a collar. The Jacknife Lee/Don Was backgrounds hang sweetly sad, but the singer always sounds confident. Not hot-blooded confident in love, in success, but confident that he’s coming across. So you believe that Juliet up at the window in “(Ooo) Do I Wanna Be Yours,” she’ll eventually toss down the keys. You smile, knowing his next steps.

  • Album: Melody Road
  • Artist: Neil Diamond
  • Label: Capitol
  • Songs: (1) Melody Road (2) First Time (3) Seongah and Jimmy (4) Something Blue (5) Nothing But a Heartache (6) In Better Days (7) (Ooo) Do I Wanna Be Yours (8) Alone at the Ball (9) Sunny Disposition (10) Marry Me Now (11) The Art of Love (12) Melody Reprise (Reprise)
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