Neil Diamond

Sweet Caroline

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Although he managed to place three singles in the charts after joining Uni Records in 1968, Neil Diamond did not achieve a real hit record on the label until March 1969, when his fourth Uni single, "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," got into the Top 40. Naturally, Diamond quickly assembled an album to support the single, and it was released the following month. On it, the singer/songwriter to a certain extent followed the lead of the gospel-tinged hit, a tribute to a rural evangelist, by giving a country feel to the arrangements of such songs as "Long Gone," "Glory Road," and even the novelty "You're So Sweet, Horseflies Keep Hangin' 'Round Your Face," which, with lines like "You're more loyal than my dog Sam/And twice as pretty," was really a country parody. At times, the album betrayed the speed with which it had been put together, with songs like "Dig In" and "River Runs, New Grown Plums" coming off more as unfinished sketches than developed compositions. Diamond seemed to write on the guitar, and sometimes his up-tempo numbers didn't get much beyond the stage of being basic rhythmic strums, a rudimentary melody, and a few catch phrases. (The arrangers tried to hide this sketchiness behind strings, horns, and female choruses.) His ballads seemed more considered, making songs like "And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind" (a Top 40 hit for Mark Lindsay in 1970) the album's strongest. But Diamond may have been aware that the material was mostly second-rate. Normally, Uni would have been expected to pull another couple of songs as singles, but instead Diamond quickly delivered a new single, "Sweet Caroline," within two months of the LP's appearance. When that song became a breakout Top Five hit, Uni added it to later pressings of the album.

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