Neil Diamond's five-decade career as a singer, songwriter, and performer has certainly been a successful one by any standard. He’s sold well over 115 million records worldwide to date and has had eight number one singles ("Cracklin Rosie," "Song Sung Blue," "Desiree," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," "Love on the Rocks," "America," "Yesterday's Songs," and "Heartlight"), and if he hasn't always generated the kind of critical respect he probably deserves, he’s been a steady and dependable artist who has managed to keep his large core audience happy. This 23-track set surveys the whole of Diamond's recording career, collecting his key and signature sides, beginning with his first hits for Bang Records in the mid-'60s through his commercial peak for Uni/MCA between 1968 and 1972, cuts from 1980’s The Jazz Singer (a soundtrack album that went platinum five times over on Capitol Records), and ending with tracks from Diamond's two Rick Rubin-produced albums, 2005’s 12 Songs and 2008’s Home Before Dark, on Columbia Records.
The emotional content, lyricism and direct appeal of Gavin Bryars’s music are unique, reflecting a contemporary composer’s absorption and transformation of several centuries of musical craftsmanship in order to reflect his, and our, own epoch. Originally written for harpsichord, After Handel’s Vesper is a strong illustration of Bryars’s post-minimal interests in early music repertoire. Ramble on Cortona, derived from 13th-century music, makes expressive use of the piano’s resonant qualities, while in the highly-coloured, almost impressionistic The Solway Canal, landscapes pass by as if in a dream.
Never realised the breadth of the "Pop-Sike" genre until I heard Fading Yellow, a really fine compilation that hangs together beautifully as an album. That most of the tracks are obscure isn't surprising: everything is a little odd, a little ramshackle, with a strong melancholic undertow and not a little creepiness. Of course, this music is also specific to a particular time in Western pop music history so there's a strong nostalgic element, but the knowledge this music could never be exactly replicated is what also makes it so fascinating. Recommended, in a warm and loving 60s way.