By Kathy Olivarez
For those who loved the music of Neal Diamond during their youth, singer Ralph Kuster has put together a show featuring the best of Diamond’s music from his many albums such as “Cracklin’ Rosie,” which tells the story of two fellows sharing bottle of a cheap wine and lamenting their lost loves.
The show debuted Saturday, January 14, at Mission Bell Resort.
Other Diamond songs were in a totally different tone such a “He Ain’t Heavy; He’s My Brother.” Kuster used a background screen with pictures and showed a young boy carrying a smaller boy in his arms in the background as he sang.
Kuster decided to develop the tribute show because Diamond was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2018 and can no longer tour. He describes Diamond as a deep-thinking man with religious roots that comes out in his music in a variety of ways.
“Shilo” was based on Diamond’s visitation to a Jewish retreat near Jerusalem where soldiers go to rest and relax and center themselves again after a battle.
“Soolaimon” was written after Diamond’s trip to Kenya, where he went on safari. Shots of lions, zebras and many other African animals are shown on the screen as Kuster sings.
In “Heartlight,” Diamond encouraged his fans to let the love in their hearts show. Kuster used scenes from the movie “ET,” where Eliot and his friends rescue ET, the alien from outer space, and help him return home, avoiding capture by the government men who wanted to trap him and study him.
Diamond also wrote a number of fun songs in a romantic genre that are memorable. “Forever in Blue Jeans” and “Cherry, Cherry” are examples.
Kuster said Diamond was once asked which of his many songs he would put in a time capsule for future generations to know about his music. “Cherry, Cherry” was one of them. The other was “I Am…I Said.”
Songs like “September Morn” where two former lovers reunite, and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore,” have a more poignant theme. On the album, Diamond sang a duet with Barbra Streisand. Both were from Brooklyn and went to the same high school but did not know each other then.
Kuster sang medleys with parts of Diamond’s favorite songs. Other times he sang the entire song.
No show would be complete without the all-time favorite of many, “Sweet Caroline.” Kuster ended his show singing the song with the audience swaying and calling out “So Good, So Good!”
The audience enjoyed the walk down memory lane as Kuster sang the favorites of the favorite performer of their youth, Neil Diamond!
Kuster will be participating in Gospelfest, a charity event to be held at Fun N’ Sun Resort, 1400 Zillock Road in San Benito on Tuesday, February 7, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. He explained there is no set admission. The event is to raise funds for charities
The committee selects the charity. Often there are three different charities, one for each hour of the event.
The Neil Diamond Tribute Show can be seen again on Wednesday, February 1, at Paradise Resort Estates in Pharr at 7 p.m.