I’m picking up on a post my friend Matt wrote on Monday, regarding Neil Diamond and The Who. The post centers around this recent Rick Rubin quote:
“Neil Diamond is one of my all-time favorite artists,” the producer [Rubin] says. “The live show is simply amazing. [Diamond’s 1972 double-album] `Hot August Night’ is probably my favorite live album. He’s got better songs on it than [The Who’s] `Live at Leeds.'”
While Matt thankfully claims he has nothing against Neil Diamond, he does proceed to poop on Rubin’s claim that “Hot August Night” has better songs on it than The Who’s “Live At Leeds.” This is a really, really tough call. Sadly, when you say the name Neil Diamond today, most people immeadiately direct their thoughts to sequins, 1970’s lighting and cheesy early ’80s ballads “Turn On Your Heart Light” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” What a lot of people don’t realize is that Diamond’s rise to prominence was far more about leather, smoking weed and rock ‘n’ roll. Really. “Hot August Night” showcased Diamond’s stunning stage presence backed up by hit after hit after non-hit of stellar performances and songs. That album is a live rock album and it’s a complete tour de force.
Take the last five songs, for example. “Song Sung Blue,” “Cracklin Rosie, “Holly Holy,” “I Am….I Said” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation” run the gamut from pretty ballads to catchy pop songs to rawk, baby. Rawk! It is, quite possibly, one of the most energetic live rock albums ever laid to wax. If you don’t think songs like “Cherry Cherry” or “Done Too Soon” will move your ass, you are mistaken.
Naturally, Matt’s perceived claim about Live At Leeds certainly holds water. As a live act, The Who were simply unstoppable. Mean, lean, hungry and full of loud bite, Live At Leeds is a rock band at it’s peak. I’ve recently been treated to some early live Who on the HD channel Comcast offers and everytime I watch a piece of it, I feel like that Maxell guy sitting in his recliner from those ads in the 1980’s. You just feel like someone hit the gas and you’re doing 140 mph after 8 seconds. They were a rocketship of a band. On “…Leeds,” in fact, listening to the rat-a-tat-tat of “Substitute,” “Happy Jack,” and “I’m A Boy,” in succession is about as delightful as it can get, as those are probably three of my favorite Who songs.
Force me to choose, though, and I have to agree with Rick Rubin. Diamond’s “Hot August Night” has the better song selection and the ranges Diamond offers are more appealing to me than the all-out assualt of “Live At Leeds.” What I love about Earth and being alive is that I’ll never have to choose. They’re both powerful statements from powerful artists.