Mitchell: All the Neil Diamond you’ll ever need

Former American Idol winner Daughtry has blessed his dwindling fan base with a fourth album.

Daughtry; Break The Spell [RCA]

Former American Idol winner Daughtry has blessed his dwindling fan base with a fourth album that cuts back on his leather-lunged emo (music biz lingo for emotional) rock aspirations for a disc heavy on arena ballads.

But I think the writing is on the wall for a career in decline where the sky-scraping power ballad Crawling Back To You has made a leap backwards on the radio play charts from number 81 to 91 this week with almost no one complaining or maybe even noticing other than his recording label.

This is a dreary album that seems to drone on forever with overheated power ballads and hollered lyrics and highly compressed sound that is irritating and too loud at any volume.

Break The Spell is unnecessarily strident, pedestrian and predictable meaning this disc will probably be here today (it made its debut in the album charts domestically at #12) and gone tomorrow.

But in the event that anyone cares, take note that this release also comes as a Deluxe Edition with more of ‘more of’ the same.


Neil Diamond; The Very Best Of [Columbia]

There are too many Hits and Best Of packages on the market from Neil Diamond to even contemplate.

I have a few but as of today I only have one and it is this fabulous, all encompassing, multi-label retrospective The Very Best Of that is loaded from pillar to post with 23 gems stretched at nearly 80 minutes on a single CD.

Every one of Diamond’s biggest hits is here as the recording labels have come to realize that in order to survive, they have to give good value in an era where people are downloading music for free or nominal fees.

Hence every Diamond significant hit is here including ear worms like Forever In Blue Jeans, Beautiful Noise, Cherry Cherry, Cracklin’ Rose, Sweet Caroline, America, Solitary Man, Kentucky Woman, Shilo, Red Red Wine (that UB40 made their own as a reggae tune), Song Sung Blue, I Am…I Said, Hell Yeah, I’m A Believer, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (with Babs Streisand), Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon and more!

Furthermore, Diamond offers notes to each song giving them some sort of resonance other than just old memories.

Diamond may have never been a critics darling, and except for the very dedicated who want all the albums with all the dreck, Best Of anthologies are the only way to go and this 2011 collection is the best yet.



Landau Eugene

Murphy Jr.; That’s Life [Columbia]


This is the debut album from the winner, L.E. Murphy Jr., of the sixth season of America’s Got Talent.

I never saw an episode as I am not a fan of TV reality shows, but apparently Murphy blew away the judges and audiences with his winning version of the old Frank Sinatra chestnut My Way (as written by Paul Anka a few decades ago) that closes out this 11-track CD with a new studio version.

In fact this disc, titled That’s Life, dabbles in the Great American Songbook through many nuggets that were hits for Sinatra with handsome string and orchestra augmented versions of Fly Me To The Moon, Witchcraft, Night & Day, I’ve Got The World On A String, I Get A Kick Out Of You and Ain’t That A Kick In The Head.

When Murphy performs one of the two duets here with Judith Hil (sic), it is with another Sinatra hit titled Something Stupid that was a smash for the duet between Frank and daughter Nancy back in the ’60s.

The other duet is a seasonal evergreen and one of the best renditions here with an ultra cute take of Baby It’s Cold Outside.

I don’t think Murphy is going to seriously challenge the top flight careers of Michael Buble, Rod Stewart or Harry Connick who all thrive off these old pop gems, but it is interesting to note that Murphy is a black man singing material mostly covered by white saloon and stage singers for the last several decades.

In the old ’50s/’60s Vegas Rat Pack days headed up by Sinatra and Dean Martin, the latter was often fond of picking up Sammy Davis Jr. on stage and saying “I would like to thank the NAACP for this award” as a way to mock and break through the then prevalent colour barrier. It is probably a stretch to say that Murphy’s breakthrough is the payoff but it is Murphy’s solid baritone that pulls this disc off satisfactorily.


The Rolling Stones:  Some Girls Live In Texas ‘78 (Eagle Rock)

Earlier this year The Rolling Stones re-released their five star, double album opus Exile On Main St. with a newly remastered, vastly upgraded sound and a few songs hitherto unreleased.

The band is doing the same with another of their five star albums Some Girls with a variety of formats that includes a double CD with several unreleased and alternate take songs.

There is also a Blu-Ray with CD, a vinyl reissue and this package that was sent to me as a DVD/CD combo.  The video portion is of course of the concert held in Texas at the time of the release of the album where the band is in remarkably fine form performing many cuts from Some Girls as well as a few evergreens such as Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little 16, Let It Rock (the best song here) and better bits of their back catalogue like Happy, Tumbling Dice, Brown Sugar, Honky Tonk Women, and Jumping Jack Flash.

The Stones have released a few live sets over the many decades and some of them are woefully substandard but this Some Girls set is excellent.

In 1978 The Stones felt the pressure of the emerging punk scene and the disco craze that was threatening to make them passé.  As a result they recorded their own ersatz disco/blues hit with Miss You that hit number one and their concerts took on a new vitality.

I don’t think the group was playing out of fear but out of confidence in their abilities and you can hear that in the tight, blistering pace on these concert takes.

The live versions of Star Star and When The Whip Comes Down are better to my ears than the studio ones.

A solid collection in any format for the big Rolling Stones fan.




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