In his entire career, I don't think Neil Diamond ever sat down and recorded an album of someone else’s music. The legendary songwriter tackles 14 songs of some of his favourite songwriters on his new CD Dreams. The results show Diamond letting loose and having some fun, without the stresses that come with writing your own album.
It’s nice to hear the Diamond touch added to classics like Midnight Train To Georgia, Hallelujah, and Desperado, but one of the coolest songs on the album is his own rendition of I’m A Believer, the Diamond song originally made famous by The Monkees. I’m A Believer adds a new vulnerability to the song through its mellow and soft approach. I never thought the upbeat and catchy song could have been a sweet ballad, but one listen to the Diamond version and the lyrics jump out as an honest and beautiful ballad – “I’m in love and I couldn’t leave her if I tried.”
The album includes music that deeply influenced Diamond as a young man growing up in Brooklyn, starting with “Let It Be Me,” popularized by the Everly Bros. in 1960. He also beautifully renders The Beatles’ stunning and spare “Blackbird” and the mournful “Yesterday,” Leon Russell’s underrated classic “A Song for You,” Gilbert O’Sullivan’s heart-stopping “Alone Again (Naturally),” Bill Withers soulful “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and includes a host of other well-known classics from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Diamond also tackles hidden gems from his musical contemporaries such as “Don’t Forget Me,” from the late Harry Nilsson, and the Randy Newman compositions, “Feels Like Home,” and the poignant “Losing You.”
Another standout is his version of The Eagles Desperado, which showcases Diamond alone and indefensible with only a single accompanying guitar.
Neil Diamond sounds better than ever on Dreams and hearing his take on I’m A Believer sheds a new light on one of rock’s greatest songwriters.