Neil (Leslie) Diamond Joe Goldberg - Essay

Joe Goldberg

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Both in conception and delivery, Diamond tends toward melodrama. The spiritual progenitor of some of his most effective numbers, like "I Am … I Said," is the "Soliloquy" from [Richard Rodgers's and Oscar Hammerstein's] Carousel. On a bad day, he can slip over into the sentimentality of a Rod McKuen or the bathos of a Vegas lounge act singing "My Way" after dedicating it to The Chairman of the Board [Frank Sinatra], but he usually manages to keep his head above water. And this time, he's come up with a remarkable record [Beautiful Noise]….

This is by no means a perfect record. Despite the variety of subject and musical approach, the songs have a certain sameness when heard all at once. Some of them are reminiscent of other music, some of Diamond's own work.

I can see that most of what I've written here extends praise with one hand and snatches it away with the other. That's not quite what I mean. Diamond is an artist somewhat like Leonard Bernstein: prodigiously gifted, trying to surpass himself and the form he's working in, and so commercial and so much a street boy that there's a slight taint to the best things he does. Sometimes, you don't like yourself for liking him.

But he's accomplished one very important thing with this album. Unlike Broadway shows, albums are to be experienced many times…. Beautiful Noise doesn't diminish with repeated playings. It grows. The more you listen, the more you hear.

Joe Goldberg, in a review of "Beautiful Noise," in Creem, Vol. 8, No. 5, October, 1976, p. 69.