"I was born in late 1969, and my parents must have bought this album shortly thereafter, for I have always known it. These songs are interwoven into my earliest memories. Consequently, it's probably not possible to write an entirely objective review. But I think my judgment may have matured to the point where I can separate at least some of the musical wheat from the chaff of my childhood. This album was obviously a labor of love for Neil Diamond. Everything about it was lovingly wrought, including the packaging. In fact, my only complaint about the CD reissue is the loss of the gorgeous design work of art director John C. Le Prevost, designer Virginia Clark, photographers Jim Metropole and Larry Bartome, and calligrapher Jonzarr Haber. The original album cover had a satisfying heft to it, being printed on incredibly heavy, textured stock. Although it housed a single record, it folded out like a double album, revealing the other half of the moody, introspective photograph that began on the front cover and continued on like a Cinerama movie screen. Included inside was a booklet, printed on fine writing paper, supplying the lyrics for 'Childsong,' 'I Am The Lion,' 'Soolaimon,' and 'Missa' (in both English and Swahili) in earthy sepia calligraphy. Additionally, it included Neil Diamond's own explanation of the concept of the album: "When rhythm and blues lost its sensuality for me I fell in love with a woman named gospel. We met secretly in the churches of Harlem, and made love at revival meetings in Mississippi. And loving her as I did, I found a great yearning to know of her roots. And I found them. And they were in Africa. And they left me breathless. The African Trilogy is an attempt to convey my passion for the folk music of that black continent. -n.d." Sadly, this inscription and the other extras were left off of the reissue CD. Gone are the printed lyrics, the quality paper, the calligraphy, the credits, and all the other features that gave `Tap Root Manuscript' its air of earnest dignity. The CD merely has a glossy photo of the front cover. Gone is the other half of the photograph. The spine is generic. There are no liner notes, and inside is a jarringly anachronistic and graphically ugly advertisement listing other MCA artists. If I were Neil Diamond, I would be peeved. Heck, I'm not Neil Diamond and I'm still peeved.Nonetheless, the music remains, and what others have said above is true. `Tap Root Manuscript' beat Paul Simon's `Graceland' to the punch by a good 15 years. It also foreshadowed David Byrne's Brazilian epic, `Rei Momo.' But neither Byrne nor Simon were brave enough or honest enough to include something as overtly Christian as `Missa' (in English, "Christ, Christ, Christ, I shall meet him... A child has been born. Christ, gloria.") Neil Diamond remains the only artist to acknowledge the explosion of Christianity in Africa and to link it to American gospel music, though at times `African Trilogy' sounds more like traditional choral music and chant than gospel.On another technical note, I am grateful that the CD returns to the original continuity of the album. Like the Sergeant Pepper album, some of the songs on of `Tap Root Manuscript' were contiguous, without the standard five seconds or so of silence in between. When MCA released the cassette version, they arbitrarily stuck in some pauses that didn't belong, with a result that sounded careless and disjointed. The CD version wisely restores the original, continuous format. This is one of the few albums I own that is good all the way through. It is also one of the very few that seems to appeal to all generations. My boomer parents, my classically trained wife, my 70-year-old mother-in-law, and my Radiohead-loving brother all have embraced it. I recently played 'I Am the Lion' for my three-year-old daughter, and it captured her imagination with an immediacy that echoed the me I must have been thirty years ago. I had forgotten all about that. It's sort of nice to be able to recapture it."
Intriguing Experimental Neil Diamond Album!
Barron Laycock | Temple, New Hampshire United States | 07/17/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At the time of his greatest popularity, Neil Diamond was quite experimental in some of his albums, which boldly showed his unusual willingness to take chances in pursuit of broadening his musical abilities and interests. This album, "Tap Root Manuscript", was the result of one such effort to experiment with African sounds and instruments, and one which paid off in terms of his commercial success and also with a number of top ten hits coming directly from the album. Some of the songs, like "Crackling Rosie", were not part of the concept, while others such as "Soolaimon", definitely were. At any rate, the combination of the two aspects of the album made for a number one Billboard rating. Included here are other popular songs like "Done Too Soon", and a cover of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother". I especially like the whole African song cycle, from "Childsong" through its reprise at the end of the album. "I am The Lion", "Madrigal", and "African Suite" are all interesting and quite innovative for the late 1960s time frame of the original recording. This was a trend-setting album and another notch in the growing body of recordings Diamond produced in his reign as one of America's favorite singer-songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s. Enjoy!"
A Modern Concerto
James R. Whalen | Fairfax, VA | 01/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This may be my all time favorite album. I originally had the vinyl which is now replaced by a CD. This is beautiful music to listen to on many occasions, particularly the old "side 2". The musical themes cycle through the whole album and reappear under haunting and different circumstances. If you like the way classical composers weave in and out of different mucical themes and instrumentation, you'll love Neil Diamond's explorations of several patterns in this album. Some seem based upon African music which I generally don't appreciate. But this album is an exception. I think the greatest appreciation of it comes from listening to the whole thing at once. It'll give you goosebumps."
bill | austin, tx United States | 01/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought the original vinyl for TapRoot in 1970. I still have it,but, through the years, it has gotten . . .well used. The CD brings back all the richness of the beautiful beat and sumptuous sounds of the African veldt. I sa Neil D last year in Austin Texas, and I prayed he would do "Solaimon" - hope I got the spelling right. When he did I went nuts! The album is a must for Diamond-heads! Glorious music ahead of its time. One of the only albums, and artists that both I and my dad agreed upon as I grew up. I'm 55 today and my dad passed on 15 years ago at age 71. I know he still listens to this music."