THE ORIGINAL: Neil Diamond (1967)
This song is only 2:40 long, but feels more like six minutes long. The tempo is excruciatingly slow, like Neil is really suffering a hangover from drinking a few bottles of red wine last night to help him forget some broad, he dragged himself off the living room floor, staggered into the booth and this is the result.
The arrangement makes it sound like a country song — loud bass, low, twangy electric guitar and some slow, sad strings. His vocal sounds desperate. Poor Neil.
THE COVER #1: Tony Tribe (1969)
Tony Tribe’s version is classic reggae to the bone! A spare arrangement of the jumpy beat, heavy bass, brushes on the drums, a smattering of organ and the call-and-response background vocals, that all sound like this was recorded in an old soup can. This bippity-bops along, putting a skip in your step. I love it!
THE COVER #2: UB40 (1983)
UB40’s popular 12 inch cover follows the Tony Tribe version, but more cleaned up. The recording is clear and shiny. It’s an interesting combination of Neil’s slow and sad, with a little of the traditional reggae lilt.
It has a little “toasting” part, performed by Astro, which serves as the bridge, but then continues through the last two minutes, which is a little too long for me. All he does is repeat himself. The arrangement is a loud bass, a little organ and an echoed computer drum part – so modern for 1983!
WHO DOES IT BETTER?
I gotta give this to Tony Tribe! This is a perfect song for a reggae artist to cover and he crushed it. UB40’s version pales in comparison, and Neil? Oh poor, sad Neil.
NOW YOU DECIDE!