Neil Diamond’s first album for Capitol Records, Melody Road, has met with approval from his co-producers and label executives, but he has a final hurdle: his mother.
“She’s 96,” Diamond told a small gathering at Capitol’s Studio A on Monday night, assembled to hear six of Diamond’s new recordings. “We all have crosses to bear. (She’ll say) ‘why are there so many strings?’ It still has to be put to that test.”
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Diamond’s mother will hear an album rich in orchestration that retains the dark rustic qualities of his last two studio albums of original material, 12 Songs and Home Before Dark. “Something Blue,” the most commercial of the songs played Monday, has the classic Diamond mid-tempo lilt; the ballads “The Art of Love” and “(Ooo) Do I Wanna Be Yours” offer springboards for Diamond’s still-potent voice; and “Seongah and Jimmy” is a eyewitness account of a romance between a woman from Korea and a man from Long Island.
Diamond’s brother-in-law, Jimmy, got engaged to Seongah and he attended their engagement party. A guitar was passed around and Diamond was “inspired by the moment” and started improvising a love story about this couple living in Brooklyn.
“This lovely couple filled with the excitement for their new life to come,” Diamond said. “They were engaged without ever sharing a word in a common language except I love you.” The couple heard the final version on their wedding day.
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Melody Road, set for release on Oct. 21, was co-produced by Don Was and Jacknife Lee. Diamond brought the demos for the album to Was, arranged in the order they appear on the album. They chose to record them in that order, a first for Diamond, with a band Was hired of “good listeners and generous musicians.” “They tried to stay out of the way of his voice,” Was said.
While some of the germs of the ideas for the songs date back 10 years, all were written specifically for the new album. Unsurprisingly, they are all love songs in one way or another.
“I don’t understand (love) and I want to understand why it’s so powerful,” Diamond said. “I always want to ask that question and give an answer that suits me, whether it’s true or not.”