New Neil Diamond album is return to star’s folk roots
After more than forty years as a Columbia recording artist, renowned singer-songwriter Neil Diamond signed with Capitol Records earlier this year, moving back to Universal, Capitol’s parent company. He has history with both. His earliest hits were on Bang, a Universal imprint, and Capitol released the multi-platinum soundtrack for The Jazz Singer in 1980, which earned the Grammy-winning artist three Top 10 singles. Diamond’s debut release under the new Capitol agreement is Melody Road, his first new original studio album since 2008’s Home Before Dark. In addition to being Diamond’s debut as a Capitol artist, a news release states the new album represents a new chapter in his career, while also reconnecting him with his past.
Diamond, 73, describes Melody Road as a homecoming, taking him back to the start of his musical journey and reflecting his lifelong love of folk music that was influenced by artists such as Pete Seeger, the Weavers, and Woody Guthrie. The vocals were recorded live—just as they would have been decades ago—and while the instrumentation is lush, the arrangements are traditional. In short, Diamond’s full circle journey is a return to what propelled his career: the simple joy of translating life into song.
Diamond began working on Melody Road by writing several new songs and struggling to complete a few he started more than a decade ago. He says he couldn’t find the “motivation or willingness” to address the subject matter that initially inspired the uncompleted compositions, adding, “They weren’t yet ready to be born.” With an emotional assist from his wife, Katie, Diamond eventually completed the tracks and soon had enough material to record an album.
Melody Road unfolds story by story, and song by song, with the final sequence in exactly the same order of Diamond’s original demos for the album. He enlisted the help of super producers Don Was (Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones) and Jacknife Lee (R.E.M., U2) along with a “masterful group of musicians” including pedal steel player Greg Liesz, keyboardist Benmont Tench, guitarist Smoky Hormel, and vocalists the Waters Family. While the album was built on guitars in true folk tradition, some of the tracks expand on the sound by incorporating keyboards, flutes, horns, and a full string section.
The album stays true to folk heritage by having each song on the album tell a story. For example, the track ‘Seongah and Jimmy’ is a song about Diamond’s American brother-in-law and Korean sister-in-law, who met and fell in love before they had learned to speak each other’s languages. Despite the specificity of the song, it addresses a universal theme: Melody Road is largely autobiographical, but the stories Diamond tells are not his alone.
Neil Diamond launches a 2015 world tour February 27 in Allentown, Pa., hitting major cities in the U.S. and Canada before embarking on a European leg next summer. The tour also features Diamond's first-ever concert in Mexico City (April 23). The set list features songs from Melody Road as well as many of his classic hits. “The depth and power of the Neil Diamond songbook, from his early hits, right through to [Melody Road] will be a treat for fans everywhere,” says Live Nation Entertainment President and CEO, Michael Rapino.
Watch Neil Diamond in the official music video for new single ‘Something Blue,’ and watch a behind-the-scenes trailer about the making of his new studio album Melody Road.
As A Matter of Fact…
* Neil Leslie Diamond was born January 24, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York. He began singing and playing the guitar as a teenager after seeing a performance by folk legend Pete Seeger. After high school, Diamond attended New York University on a fencing scholarship and was a member of the 1960 NCAA men's championship team.
* During his senior year at NYU, a music publishing company offered Diamond a job writing songs for $50 a week. He later signed his first recording contract as an Everly Brothers–type duo with high school friend Jack Parker called Neil and Jack. Two unsuccessful singles by the pair in 1962 prompted Diamond to sign with Columbia Records as a solo performer.
* Columbia released the single ‘At Night’ b/w ‘Clown Town’ in July 1963, but it failed to chart. Columbia then dropped Diamond from the label and he returned to writing songs for other artists. His first success as a songwriter came in November 1965 with ‘Sunday and Me,’ a Top 20 hit for Jay and the Americans. He also wrote several songs recorded by The Monkees including No. 1 smash ‘I'm a Believer’ and ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,’ which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
* In 1966, Diamond signed a recording deal with Bang Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic. His first release for the label was ‘Solitary Man,’ which became his first hit and was reissued in 1970. He would go on to rule the pop and adult contemporary charts for the next 15 years with a string of Top 40 hits that includes No. 1 classics ‘Cracklin’ Rosie,’ ‘Song Sung Blue,’ and a duet with Barbra Streisand titled, ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.’
* Diamond has charted 56 songs on the Billboard Hot 100—including 37 Top 40 singles, 13 Top 10 hits, and 16 Top 10 albums—amassing a total of 72 multi-platinum, platinum, and gold albums. He has sold more than 128 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time and third best adult contemporary artist behind Barbra Streisand and Elton John.
* Neil Diamond is a Grammy winner, Kennedy Center Honors recipient, and member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award recipient also has a Golden Globe Award, 13 Grammy nominations (winning in 1973 for Jonathan Livingston Seagull as Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture), and was named MusiCares Person of the Year in 2009.