Spreading the ‘good word of Neil’ | VailDaily.com

Spreading the ‘good word of Neil’

Courtney Riley
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyThe "Surreal Neil," Randy Cordero, performs with his bandmates as Super Diamond, a Neil Diamond cover band. Super Diamond will perform Tuesday night at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre as the second concert in the lineup for the Hot Summer Nights concert series.

Not many bands have a mission statement, but Super Diamond does: “Spread the good word of Neil to good people all across America.”

The six-member Neil Diamond cover band will perform songs written and sung by Neil Diamond on Tuesday at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Vail Valley Foundation’s Hot Summer Nights series.

“We love it there,” said lead singer Randy Cordero, also known as the “Surreal Neil.” “We feel very wanted in Vail. It’s always great to go where you’re wanted.”

Jen Mason, the general manager of the amphitheater, said Super Diamond is a favorite of everyone because of the familiarity of the music.

“Everyone knows all the songs,” she said. “It appeals to a lot of generations.”

Super Diamond has performed twice with Neil Diamond himself.

The first time Neil Diamond performed with the band, he was originally just watching them backstage. But Cordero asked him if he wanted to join them on stage, and he said yes.

Diamond then performed with the group again at the premiere of “Saving Silverman,” along with the cast of the movie.

“That was a blast,” Cordero said. “It couldn’t get any better for a Neil Diamond cover band. I just feel legit, in a way.”

The band was formed in 1993 because the members felt as if Diamond wasn’t receiving the credit he deserved.

“He wasn’t getting any awards for anything, and he wasn’t being mentioned by critics for being a great songwriter and singer,” Cordero said. “I thought he was really underrated. I wouldn’t have started singing his songs if he was up there with the Beatles.”

Cordero said he grew up listening to Neil Diamond’s music, and his first 8-track was Neil Diamond’s “12 Greatest Hits.”

“I’m a very nostalgic person,” Cordero said. “I love music and things that bring me back to childhood. That was Neil all the way. I thought, somebody’s got to get out there and say, ‘Hey, Neil Diamond is great.'”

In the past 10 years, things have changed and Diamond’s been getting the credit he deserves.

“He gets awards all over the place now,” he said. “It’s nothing like the mid-’90s.”

Cordero loves singing Neil Diamond songs, he said, because of the diversity of the music. The songs range from the ’60s to ’80s, including the keyboard power ballads, pop songs and anthems.

“He’s written so many songs, and had so many hits; it keeps us quite busy,” he said.

But the group likes to put its own twist on some of the classic songs, as well.

Super Diamond combines songs by other artists, such as Kiss, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Depeche Mode and ACDC, with classic Neil Diamond songs to create unique mash-ups.

They use songs that sound similar, as well as wordplay, to make new creations. The band’s version of Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” is mixed with Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” to put a spin on the original Neil Diamond classic.

“We just have a great time with experimenting, playing around and dressing (the songs) up with other influences. We entertain ourselves and laugh about it,” Cordero said. “It tends to entertain the audience, as well. You definitely notice a lot of younger fans that get a kick out of it.”

Cordero described their mash-ups as almost like comedy, in a way. The band tries to make its shows fun for the casual Neil Diamond fan, not just the avid one.

“A lot of people come away much bigger Neil Diamond fans,” he said.

Neil Diamond wrote a lot of songs that people don’t recognize as his, Cordero said, such as “Red Red Wine,” performed by UB40.

“So it’s kind of educational, as well, for a lot of people,” he said. “Just about every show someone says they didn’t know he wrote one of the songs we performed.”

Cordero said he thinks the main key to the band’s success is the music itself, and the presentation is secondary.

“His music is fun. … People want to have a good time,” he said.

The band members are always challenging themselves to improve, Cordero said. That’s partly why he quit his day job as an engineer in 1998 to travel the country and “spread the good word of Neil.”

Courtney Riley is an intern at the Vail Daily. Email comments about this story to criley@vaildaily.com.

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