wed 24/05/2017

CD: Neil Diamond - Acoustic Christmas | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Neil Diamond - Acoustic Christmas

CD: Neil Diamond - Acoustic Christmas

Brooding versions of seasonal classics provide a fitting end to the year

'Acoustic Christmas' is imbued with a country-folk sensibility, giving it a little more sophistication than the seasonal norm
Diamond: sage-like vocals

Being the Jewish Elvis has never diminished Neil Diamond's Yuletide enthusiasm. His first seasonal offering was 1992's Christmas Album, featuring vocals as cosy as a log fire. Then came the sequel The Christmas Album II. Both have both been subsequently re-issued and repackaged. Now, however, Diamond is in more of a stripped-down-and-gravelly phase of his career. And he's inviting us around for an Acoustic Christmas.

This time round things are a little less traditional. Certainly anyone looking for that rich baritone served up with all the trimmings may be disappointed. But nor is the album overly wholesome. Rather Acoustic Christmas is imbued with a country-folk sensibility, lending it a little more sophistication than the seasonal norm. The tracks fall into three categories: the carols, the Christmas songs, and the originals.

There are plenty of tasty morsels here to chew on over the holidays

The album starts with a plaintive reading of "O Holy Night", followed by a pretty, weary-yet-wise version of "Do You Hear What I Hear". Next up, "Christmas Prayer", an original, feels a little sentimental but segues effectively into the centre of the album. The backbone comprises three big carols, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", "We Three Kings" and "Silent Night" which have a sombre, brooding quality. But it's with the Christmas songs that Diamond's slightly-cracked vocals really start to produce some magic.  "Mary's Boy Child", "Go Tell it on the Mountain", and "Children Go Where I Send Thee" have an almost Dylanesque other-worldly air.

Unfortunately, that's where the good stuff ends. "#1 Record for Christmas" jumps right to the other end of the musical spectrum. It's truly dreadful - like something Jimmy Osmond might have recorded in the early Seventies. "Christmas Medley" isn't much better. Still, avoid these, and there are plenty of tasty morsels here to chew on over the holidays.

@russcoffey

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