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Andrew Wyeth

A couple years ago, my wife had business in New York and I came along. One afternoon I walked over to MOMA to enjoy, among other things, the special exhibit on abstract expressionism. I walked through rooms of Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, and Newman, and also enjoyed seeing art by Warhol, Lichtenstein, and others. Still looking at paintings, but also momentarily disoriented with respect to the exit, I wandered through an opening into another room, turned the corner, and realized I was standing in front of “Christina’s World,” which I’d forgotten was located at MOMA. What a change from the expressionists! I’d seen the photos of this painting–which is about 3 feet by 4 feet—many times, of course.

Long before I started writing about “the sense of place,” I enjoyed Andrew Wyeth’s art. In the early 1980s I purchased Thomas Hoving’s Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth (Houghton Mifflin, 1978), in which Wyeth discusses with Hoving his Kuerner and Olsen paintings and his relationship with the two families. Interestingly, Wyeth commented that people wrote him about “Christina’s World,” saying that he expressed their own lives in the picture; and yet those people didn’t notice that Christina was disabled. At the time I lived in a very rural area and I appreciated Wyeth’s ability to artistically depict great, unspoken significance in natural scenery and everyday objects. Wyeth told about his unplanned moments of inspiration, as when his friend Karl Kuerner pulled some homemade sausage off meat hooks on the ceiling. Wyeth, noticing the ugly hooks, used them in the painting “Karl.”

When our local Borders store closed, my daughter and I sadly stopped by and took advantage of sales. (We had loved our Borders in Ohio, which closed several months ago.) I noticed Anne Classen Knutson’s Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc, 2005) and purchased it. The book explained well the artistic and subconscious reasons why many of us love Wyeth’s art. In her essay “Andrew Wyeth’s Language of Things” (pp. 45-83), Knutson quotes the historian Wanda Corn that Wyeth’s paintings frequently feature windows, vessels, ajar doors, and womb-like spaces. “In general, the objects he paints fall into three categories: still lifes in nature, vessels, and thresholds” (p. 45). Knutson writes, “Many of the natural and domestic objects that Wyeth foregrounds in his paintings have long been used in western rituals of mourning and death. Flowers, trees, and other organic matter are traditional metaphors for death and the fragility of life, and the enduring properties of granite and other rock symbolize the persistence of memory… Vessels are often used in memorials as metaphors for memory storage, and thresholds suggest transformation, a concept often explored in images of mourning. When Wyeth is not representing the transience of life, he often tries to freeze time in his paintings, just as nineteenth century postmortem photographs were sometimes placed within the face of a stopped clock” (p. 47). His paintings also depict the ephemeral quality of life: the Olsen’s house in “Weatherside”, for instance, seemed to be dying and disappearing (p. 68).

Little wonder that Wyeth’s paintings are attractive and compelling to many of us because memory, death, mourning, and a consciousness of life’s impermanence are universal! Someone could do a phenomenology of Wyeth’s images and symbols via the philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s “poetics of space” and the way (if I recall Bachelard’s argument correctly) those images and symbols are ontologically prior to their expression.

Knutson comments that although Wyeth’s paintings seem realistic, “[h]is realism is magic realism, prompted by drams and imagination rather than observed reality” (p. 47). (The first essay is by Michael R. Taylor, “Between Realism and Surrealism: The Early Work of Andrew Wyeth”.) Interestingly, Wyeth’s paintings are often inspired by but do not depict powerful personal memories. For instance, the painting “Indian Summer”—a nude woman, seen from behind, who is looking into darkness—was inspired by a angel figurine that was a Christmas tree ornament (p. 47). “Winter, 1946,” a hill down which a boy runs awkwardly and uncertainly, has its background in the accidental death of Wyeth’s father, as does “Christina’s World” (pp. 58-59).

Like the latter two paintings, Wyeth often “merges” human figures with the landscape. But compared to some paintings, the Helga pictures are more consistently about vitality and rebirth rather than loss. My family and I visited the Helga exhibit at the Canton (Ohio) Museum of Art in 2004. In those drawings and paintings, Helga becomes a kind of embodiment of nature (Knutson, p. 61). But although as strong and “other” as a landscape—unlike Christina, Karl, and some others, Helga never makes eye contact with the viewer—her significance is not simply landscape. As David Kuspit puts it: in people like Christina Olson and also Wyeth’s African-American models, “[A]gain and again we see Wyeth looking for signs of ego strength in people in whom one doesn’t expect to find it. But Wyeth always takes a lingering, searching second glance, discovering strengths of character in everyday people–a self-respect oddly rooted in respect for the body, whatever its problems” (David Kuspit, “The Meaning of Helga,” Andrew Wyeth’s Helga Pictures (exhibition book), Washington, DC: International Arts & Artists, 2004, p. 9).

Wyeth died in 2009. His obituary in the New York Times gives an interesting overview of his life and career: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/17/arts/design/17wyeth.html

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A while back, I saw a feature on “CBS Sunday Morning” about the artist Ed Ruscha. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed his art before—my own fault. I’d love to have a print of paintings like “Standard Station, Amarillo Texas” (1963) or “The Canyons” (1979) or the graphite “Twentysix Gasoline Stations” (1964) (or the photographic book), or the painting “Noise, Pencil, Broken Pencil, Cheap Western” (1963), and others, and I want to look for his art at the MoMA when we’re in New York next spring.

Born in 1937, Ruscha (pronounced roo-SHAY) is an LA-based artist, photographer, filmmaker, and printmaker. As this article from a recent exhibition in Stockholm indicates, Ruscha has been identified with both pop art and conceptual art, and his work has commonalities with surrealism and Dada, but, according to this article, Ruscha’s art isn’t wholly identifiable with a particular movement(http://www.modernamuseet.se/en/Stockholm/Exhibitions/2010/Ed-Ruscha/Fifty-Years-of-Painting). He is a contemporary of artists like Warhol and Lichtenstein, was influenced by artists like Jasper Johns and Edward Hopper, and was featured in very early exhibitions of pop art. His West Coast subject matter makes him an interesting artist in the pop and conceptual art traditions.

After the “Sunday Morning” report I ordered the heavy retrospective history, Ed Ruscha by Richard D. Marshall (New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2003). Leafing through the book, I loved the quality of his art explained in the above Moderna Museet article, “Ruscha’s overarching theme is words and their constantly shifting relationships with context and message. In all his paintings there are tensions and frictions at play: between foreground and background, between text and image, and between how words look and what they mean.”

Unfortunately, the print in Marshall’s Ruscha is small, and gray rather than black—a strain for this middle-aged person—so I’m still dipping into the text as best as I can while enjoying the many reproductions. Meanwhile, I enjoyed an article by Laura Cumming (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/oct/18/ed-ruscha-hayward-baldessari-tate). Cumming notes how Ruscha “painted words out of context, giving them a non-verbal life of their own as figures in a landscape; and he pictured words as images.” “His humour is perennial but it coexists with profundity.”

I found another article, an interview with Ruscha by Martin Gayford (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/6224022/Ed-Ruscha-interview.html). Gaylord writes that Ruscha’s work “gives one the feeling of being on an endless road through an immense landscape, interrupted by puzzling messages on billboards, at once folksy and mysterious, a journey through a wide space the only features of which are logos, gas stations and parking lots. Joan Didion – another literary admirer – wrote that Ruscha’s works ‘are distillations, the thing compressed to its most pure essence’. They are also sometimes surprisingly funny, in a laconic, Marcel Duchamp-meets-Clint Eastwood sort of way. Ruscha invented an entire artistic genre – one of several in his repertoire – that consists of nothing but words and phrases, floating in vaguely defined space: All You Can Eat, ½ Starved, ½ Crocked, ½ Insane, Chicken Rivets, Girls Girls Girls, Defective Silencer Units, Etc, and – especially ironic in the current circumstances – I Don’t Want No Retro Spective, a pastel from 1979.”

As with these other referenced articles, that whole essay and interview are worth reading, with many more insights and discussions that I can summarize. I was interested that Ruscha’s friend, with whom he drove Route 66 to California in the 1950s, was the musician Mason Williams, whose pieces “Classical Gas” and “Baroque-a-Nova” have been favorites of mine for over forty years.

In still another article, http://www.beatmuseum.org/ruscha/edruscha.html, the author writes this: “Born and raised Catholic, Ruscha readily admits to the influence of religion in his work. He is also aware of the centuries-old tradition of religious imagery in which light beams have been used to represent divine presence. But his work makes no claims for a particular moral position or spiritual attitude.” As I dig into the Marshall text in the days ahead, this theme is something I’d like to learn more about.

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At Barnes & Noble the other day, I picked up a copy of the November 2012 International Record Reviewfor an article about the composer Thomas Adès. But I noticed a CD review for a new recording: “Concerto for Group and Orchestra” $(KGrHqVHJ!8E9!5Vc!DcBPULqzdQWQ~~60_1by Jon Lord.

I still have my LP of the premier of this piece, at Royal Albert Hall in 1969. The group was Deep Purple, for which Lord (on the far left in this picture) was the keyboard performer and leader for many years, and the orchestra was the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Malcolm Arnold, whose name I didn’t know when I bought the record in ’72 but who I now know was a distinguished composer and symphonist. I also didn’t realize at the time that this was the first Deep Purple LP with the group’s famous “Mark II” lineup. I’d already purchased their albums “In Rock” and “Machine Head,” as well as their first album with the original lineup, “Shades of Deep Purple.” Also, singer Ian Gillan, with his strong voice and famous ability to scream on pitch, was Jesus on the “Jesus Christ Superstar” concept album. All in all, Deep Purple was certainly a group that I loved and played a lot during my teenage years.

Lord composed numerous classical pieces over the years, and as the reviewer notes, his death this past summer (at the jon-lord-deep-purple-1age of 71) lends a sad “full circle” quality to this new release, since the Concerto was an early effort of this kind. The reviewer writes, “The success of the Concerto rests on Lord’s highly effective use of a simple dialectic: group and orchestra opposing each other in the first movement, complementing each other in the second then achieving a new and indissoluble union in the finale…” The work “blazed a trail which neither changing fashion nor the exigencies of fate should have denied its rightful place in post-war British music” (p. 42)

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ImageLate last fall, I listened to the Diane Rehm radio show as I drove to the supermarket, and her guest that day was Eleanor Jones Harvey, senior curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Harvey discussed her upcoming book, “The Civil War and American Art” (Smithsonian American Art Museum and Yale University Press, 2012), resulting in turn from the museum’s exhibition.

I pre-ordered the book once I got home and it arrived in time to be enjoyable Christmas holiday study. Harvey writes, “Surprisingly few American painters engaged directly with the war as it was being fought. There was little market for depictions of Americans killing one another, and artists found it difficult to immediately identify heroes and pivotal battles. Without the luxury of time and reflection, these artists approached the Civil War in a more elliptical matter” (p. 1).

That elliptical manner and use of metaphors are among the things so fascinating about the paintings depicted and discussed in this book. For instance, George Caleb Bingham painted Order No. 11 (1865-1870), depicting a forced evacuation of homesteaders from western Missouri, but Bingham protests the evacuation by invoking 15th century paintings Expulsion from Paradise by Masaccio and The Lamentation by Petrus Christus (p. 12-13). The depiction of Arctic ice in Frederic Edwin Church’s beautiful The Icebergs (1861) calls attention to a contemporary image, in Washington DC and elsewhere, that slavery’s end was as inevitable as icebergs melting tropical water (pp. 31-32).

Harvey writes, “During the first half of the nineteenth century, landscape painting was a simulacrum of American Life and values. Landscape metaphors and imagery permeated the American consciousness” (p. 19). Opposite that quotation is the example of Asher Durand’s Kindred Spirits (1849), one of my own favorite paintings. But a common metaphor for the war was ominous weather, and landscape paintings began to look darker, like Martin Johnson Heade’s Approaching Thunder Storm from 1859 and Sanford Robinson Gifford’s A Coming Storm from 1863 (p. 64). A haunting painting is the enigmatic The Girl I Left Behind Me from circa 1872, by Eastman Johnson, depicting a young woman standing in a strong wind (p. 230). Also haunting are a pair of paintings by John Frederick Kensett, Sunrise Among the Rocks of Paradise, Newport (1859) and Paradise Rocks, Newport (circa 1865), the very same scene, but the second painting is so much darker and more somber (pp. 68-69).

There were also battlefield paintings, such as Frederic Edwin Church’s Our Banner in the Sky (1861, p. 38, the one I inserted above), James Hopes’ Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862 and Bloody Lane (p. 7), Winslow Homer’s Sharpshooter (1863, p. 150), his Skirmish in the Wilderness (1864, pp. 158-159), and Gifford’s The Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Frederick, Maryland (1863, p. 126). I’m putting together a future college course about religion during the Civil War, and one painting reflecting that experience is Gifford’s Preaching to the Troops, or Sunday Morning at Camp Cameron near Washington, May 1861 (pp. 116-117).

Artists also movingly depicted the lives of free blacks and recently freed slaves, like Thomas Waterman Wood’s A Bit of War History: The Contraband, The Recruit, and The Veteran (1866, p. 209), Edwin White’s Thoughts of Liberia, Emancipation (p. 210, reflecting the controversial idea of sending blacks back to Africa), Eastman Johnson’s The Lord is My Shepherd (1863), his A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves, March 2, 1862 (1862, p. 201), and Homer’s A Visit from the Old Mistress (1876, p. 219), reflecting “the dismay felt by an overwhelming majority of former slaveholders that their slaves did not in fact love them or wish to be enslaved” (p. 218).

Harvey also examines wartime photography, since the Civil War was the first war in which photography (and the often gruesome images of battlefield casualities) was important.

I love Hudson River School paintings and mentioned a book about the school in my 7/2/12 post. Harvey’s book depicts how the “primal experience of nature” depicted in those earlier paintings carried over into paintings of the 1850s and after—but became more stark and reflective of the national tragedy (pp. 17, 19). It is also an excellent source for those of us who love studying the Civil War, and she quotes many writers and politicians of the time as she discusses the pre-war years, the war itself, Reconstruction, and Reconstruction’s collapse. Of course the photographs and paintings are interesting to appreciate as you leaf through the pages, but the chapters are very informative and interesting.

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I always resented the song “White Christmas,” just a little bit. It’s a lovely song, vastly popular, of course. But I thought it set up the yearly, often disappointed expectation of snow on Christmas day. (The seldom-heard introduction refers to the usually snow-free Beverly Hills which elicits nostalgia for snowy holidays past.) What does it matter if snow falls on Christmas or not?

But I realized there is much more to the expectation of a snowy Christmas! The Christmas 2012 issue of BBC Music magazine has an interesting article, “A Christmas Carol” (pp. 27-34) by David Owen Norris. The author writes that, in pre-Victorian England, harvest season was poised to be a more beloved time of year than Christmas; harvest time rather than Christmas had an appealing narrative of well-being, plenty, and human relationships, while Christmas was just a cold winter holiday that elicited painful longing. However, Norris states that Christmas carols began to make a comeback during the early Victorian period, eclipsing harvest-related hymns. Consequently, Christmas grew in popularity during the 1800s, partly on the basis of this musical appeal.

The real innovation, though, came from Rev. John Mason Neale (1818-1866). He and a colleague produced hymn books for churches. A 16th century Finnish song concerning spring and flowers inspired Neale to write new lyrics, which became “Good King Wenceslas.” What was so innovative about Neale’s song, is that it is the first time a Christmas song links the holiday with snow (p. 31)!  You would think someone would have associated snow and Christmas, but according to Norris, other songwriters (even Scandinavians) had made reference to Christmas cold weather (“The First Noel” is an example) but not to Christmas snow.

Neale’s association of snow and Christmas was brilliant and influential. From the publication of “Good King Wenceslas” in 1853, other poets and songwriters found inspiration in the image of Christmas snow, notably Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter,” but also many others (pp. 31, 33).

The religion-science debates of the era provided a different kind of inspiration for the theme of Christmas snow. The Darwinian debates that threatened to erode religious belief necessitated new metaphors for spiritual truth. Snow—peaceful, beautifying, and descended from above—became a perfect metaphor; as Norris writes (p. 34), “If science was concerned with facts, religion with miracles, then the Victorians found a snowy bridge between them.”

Furthermore, that affirmation of miracles was better expressed through song than prose. “Only song could convey these new meanings of Christmas snow… The familiar yet fundamentally irrational human act of singing together was the perfect medium. (Irrationality is important to us in matters of the spirit: look at the idea of carols by candlelight, which could only become truly symbolic once electricity had made the candles pointless.)….

“The very mirage of a white Christmas… became a new way of thinking about miracles, allowing snow to become the outward sign of an inward grace—a secular sacrament. Snow imagined, snow longed for, makes space for a Christmas miracle” (p. 34).

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Gerald Finzi, 1901-1956

I enjoy reading Gramophone Magazine, a British periodical devoted to articles and CD reviews of classical music. It’s an easy and informative way of learning about this type of music and discovering new pieces. For instance, an issue last winter (Dec. 2011, pp. 114-119) contained an article about Gerald Finzi’s cantata Dies Natalis. During a season when even my favorite Advent and Christmas music wasn’t “moving” me amid an unusually hectic month and down mood, I appreciated a (to me) new work by a favorite composer.

Finzi was an English composer of Italian and Jewish background. Born in 1901, he began to be known for his works during the 1920s and 1930s. He set his favorite poet Thomas hardy’s words to music with By Footpath and Stile (1921-1922), A Young Man’s Exhortation (1926-1929), and Earth and Air and Rain (1928-1932). His other words included Dies Natalis from the 1920s and 30s, the anthem Lo, The Full, Final Sacrifice (1946), his setting of Woodsworth’s poem “Ode: Intimation of Immortality” (1950), as well as the Clarinet Concerto (1948-1949), and Cello Concerto (1951-1952, 1954-1955). His other works include the melancholy Eclogue from 1929 (a slow movement of an unfinished piano concerto).

Andrew Burn, in the notes for the Naxos CD “Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice and other choral works,” writes that “Finzi’s music is rooted in the tradition of Elgar and his lifelong friend Vaughan Williams. It was his response to words, however, that gave his music is particular individuality, resulting in music that seems inevitably to mirror the essence of the poet’s thoughts. As in … Thomas Hardy, a sense of urgency can be felt in the music reflecting his keen awareness of life’s frailty. A further preoccupation wash is believe that adult experience tarnishes the innocent wonder of childhood. Both these concerns may be traced to Finzi’s own early experience when the deaths of his father, three brothers and his teacher [Ernst] Farrar made an indelible impression on him.” Burns reiterates these influences in his notes for another Naxos CD, Finzi’s setting of “Intimations.” He also points out that Finzi had numerous and admirable interests: he revived and championed works of neglected composers, he built an orchard and saved several varieties of English apples from extinction, and he collected over 3000 editions of English poetry and literature.

In that Gramophone article, Jeremy Dibble writes about Finzi’s music generally: “Stylistically, Finzi undoubtedly owed much to that English Romanic yearning established by Parry in Blest Pair of Sirens in the latter part of the 19th century. The falling melodic seventh of Milton’s moving epode, ‘O may we soon renew that song’, finds countless resonances in Finzi’s own voice.” Also, writes Dibble, Finzi was influenced by the counterpoint and contrapuntal textures of Bach, Boyce, Stanley, Avison, Garth, and other 18th century Baroque composers. But English poetry and prose and the rhythms of the English language inspired Finzi’s compositions, so many of them for voice.

I haven’t read the two recent biographies by Diana M. McVeagh and Stephen Banfield, which a Gramophone reviewer a few years ago found complementary. Finzi died in 1956 at the age of 55, which is the age I am this year. He died of complications related to the Hodgkin’s Disease which had been diagnosed five years before. As a Vaughan Williams devotee I had read about him in RVW literature, then I liked his Clarinet Concerto in a CD collection of English concertos (“My England,” on the ASV Living Era label). Later, I found his Requiem da Camera and several other pieces I already named, including the Woodsworth setting, with words I’ve loved for years because they remind me of my hometown:

But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never…
(For the whole poem, see http://www.bartleby.com/101/536.html)

I also love Finzi’s setting of the poem, “God Has Gone Up,” a wonderful anthem. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFaJjeXCTjU

God is gone up with a triumphant shout:
The Lord with sounding Trumpets’ melodies:
Sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praises out,
Unto our King sing praise seraphic wise!
Lift up your Heads, ye lasting Doors, they sing,
And let the King of Glory enter in.

Methinks I see Heaven’s sparkling courtiers fly,
In flakes of Glory down him to attend,
And hear the Heart-cramping notes of Melody
Surround his Chariot as it did ascend;
Mixing their music, making every string
More to enravish as they this tune sing.

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A few months ago I noticed on Twitter that the day was Neil Diamond’s 71st birthday. Just for fun, I posted this news on Facebook along with a YouTube video of “Holly Holy.”  Before too long, I was deep in a nostalgic mood.

Diamond’s provided music for my struggling adolescence. So many great songs were (and some still are) personal favorites: “Sweet Caroline,” “Solitary Man,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” “Kentucky Woman,” “Shilo,” and others. The “Hot August Night” album figured largely in my life: I borrowed the double LP set from a girl on whom I had a painful crush (and I hoped this might be the start of some magic between us, but alas).  I recorded that album on the reel-to-reel tape deck that my parents bought for my birthday in 1972, and I played it a lot.  A little later, smitten with another girl who loved his music, I drew for her a picture of Neil from the 1968 “Greatest Hits” LP, but added his big hair of his “Hot August Night” period.  That sounds very “Napoleon Dynamite”-ish, but I was a pretty good artist, and the girl seemed to sincerely think (maybe?) that it was cool.

I found a site, http://www.scaruffi.com/vol1/diamond.html, that discusses Diamond’s ability to mix elements of soul, gospel, country, classical, reggae, and other styles while also having special talent in catchy melodies and excellent arrangements. His voice was adept at evoking the introspection and emotions of his and others’ songs. To me, even his songs of loss (so prevalent and distressing in the music of, for instance, another of my favorites of the time: Jimmy Webb) left me feeling good. Without thinking too deeply about it, I liked the religious imagery that was explicit in songs like “Holly Holy,” “Walk on Water,” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” but flavored other songs, too.

There was a combination of things going on in my life at the time: I had low self-esteem (and would have for a long time) but was working on getting better; I was able to drive for first time; I loved driving around our small town and taking the back roads on summer days as I passed little country churches and peaceful rural scenes; in my genealogy hobby, I was learning about my family history in our hometown and deepening my sense of belonging to that area; I felt all the more identified with my hometown and its history; I was looking toward my own future beyond high school and wondering what lay ahead. Within all these things, “Holly Holy” became a favorite, meaningful song. I loved the chorus’ A-D-Dsus4-D chord progression and imagery of faith, but I also loved the words from the first verse:

Where I am,
What I am,
What I believe in….

Or, as I felt in my heart: place, identity, and faith.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQwqQwD6OOw

Diamond has been in the news recently because of his third marriage and a resurgence in his record sales. As much as I loved his music, I purchased surprisingly few of his albums back then: only “Double Gold,” I think, and later “Serenade” and “Beautiful Noise.”  But I don’t remember how I had all the other great songs in mind and heart; perhaps I owned more LPs and 45s at the time than I recall. I liked the single “Walk on Water,” which followed “Song Sung Blue” and “Play Me,” but didn’t rise as high on the charts as those two and, as I recall, didn’t stay on the radio as long.  That annoyed me because I preferred the song to the other two, but I had the 45, with the extended piano coda. This past month, just for fun, I found some of his early albums on eBay and our local vinyl shops.

Reading now about his career, I learn things I didn’t think about at the time. That “Double Gold” album represented Diamond’s first two albums on the Bang label, “The Feel of Neil Diamond” (1966) and “Just for You” (1967). Those were the hits like “Cherry Cherry,” “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” “Solitary Man,” “Kentucky Woman,” “Red, Red Wine,” and others.  In fact, “The Feel” LP had “Solitary Man” on the side of the record cover, even though that wasn’t the album’s title.  The author of the website cited above considers his early albums far ahead of other songwriters of the time.

Then Diamond moved to MCA Records (the Uni label) and released the albums “Velvet Gloves and Spit” (1968, and later it had a different cover), “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” (1969, and later it had a different cover), “Touching You, Touching Me” (1969), “Tap Root Manuscript” (1970), “Stones” (1971), and “Moods” (1972).  Although the title of “Touching You, Touching Me” comes from the song “Sweet Caroline,” that single was not on this album or originally on any album.  It appeared on reissues of the “Brother Love” record.  His Uni hits (represented on the “12 Greatest Hits” album) included “Sweet Caroline,” “Shilo,” “Holly Holy,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Play Me,” “I Am…I Said,” “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” “Song Sung Blue,” and others.

Diamond then signed with Columbia, which has been his label ever since. Although the first two albums have never been released on CD, Bang Records issued several compilation albums based on those first two albums, and Columbia acquired the rights to those songs but not to the Uni albums. Thus, the several compilation albums represent different labels, as discussed at http://pw1.netcom.com/~zmoq/pages/repackage.htm

Another thing I didn’t realize: “Tap Root Manuscript” made use of “world music” over ten years before other artists like Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon.  At my divinity school, some African American friends elicited my help for a Afrocentric chapel service by having me play the song “Soolaimón” on the piano as an anthem.  It occurs to me, too, that Neil was ahead of his time in using gospel elements, a few years before some pop and rock artists began to embrace religion and spirituality.

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