Diamond's latest album, Tap Root Manuscript, is a half step at being Artistic.
Side One is the usual—a couple of dynamite singles and a couple of not-so-hot singles. "Cracklin Rosie," which made it to number one nationally, is excellent Neil Diamond. Named after the wine of the same name … Rosie's a good chick. Diamond isn't afraid to throw in a little early-Sixties schmaltz. He has thoroughly bypassed, or ignored "rock"—progressive or otherwise. He's chosen to go ahead with straight pop. But, two things set him apart from, say, Bobby Vee. One is that he has a really knockout voice—once it might have been called a "strong baritone." And two, he's deeply involved with the music he writes.
"He Ain't Heavy … He's My Brother," one of the only songs Diamond has recorded that he didn't write, is a good example of the straight-out-soul that Neil Diamond can sing. "Free Life" is another good cut, although it hasn't made it on Top-40. "Done Too Soon" is one of the duds. Reminiscent of Paul Simon's "A Simple Desultory Phillipic," it's just a rhyming list of famous, groovy people who were ahead of their time—done too soon.
Side Two is the Artistry, open to question. This is The African Trilogy (a folk ballet). It's a varied and ambitious work….
[The music is] certainly far less pretentious than its introduction. The worst of it has been identified as: "wimoweh"...
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