Capitol 602435318059 (59:43)

One of my choicest albums in 2020 was historic recordings of Mantovani and his orchestra used to back the present-day tenor Joseph Calleja (Decca 4850894); and recently there have been a number of releases – some more successful than others – where original recordings by the likes of Cash, Crosby, Orbison and Presley have been allied to new arrangements played by symphony orchestras.

Now, here is another with a big difference: the vocals are also newly recorded in the USA by the 80-year-old singer, whose distinctive voice that can bring a tear to the eye is still strong.  The orchestra is Sir Simon Rattle’s premier band, the 70-piece LSO, conducted by William Ross and recorded in January 2020 at the famous Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood.

Neil Diamond is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, having sold over 130 million records worldwide.   The album has 14 tracks – Beautiful Noise, I’m A Believer, Song Sung Blue, September Morn (with Stevie Wonder on harmonica), Holly Holy, Love On The Rocks, Sweet Caroline, et al – two of which are not familiar to me: Heartlight, written by Diamond (as are all the tracks) with Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, and I’ve been this way before, given what is described as a hymnal-like treatment.  The arrangements are by the album’s producer Walter Afanasieff and the conductor, who is a prolific American award-winner.

The accompanying booklet sets the standard for the rest of this year: it includes an introduction by the main man, the executive producer Jay Landers’ story of how the album came to fruition and its recording together with knowledgeable notes on each song, and the names of all the musicians and backroom people involved in the recording.

Not outdoing but complementing the originals, this is a release to give delight throughout the new year and beyond.

Peter Burt

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