Alan Novey is a self-described Neil Diamond superfan, but not to the point of being crazed.
Sure, his tribute act You In Me, formed in 2011 with Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, shows a level of dedication thats a notch above any average enthusiast. And while hundreds of 45 rpm vinyl pressings of the duos eerily Diamond-esque original singles The Drifter and Hot Coffee (and Mornin Lovin) might occupy Drozds garage and other dusty record collections in the metro area and beyond, Novey insists their obsession is a manageable one.
Novey said hes attending Neil Diamonds 50th Anniversary Tour stop in Oklahoma City 8 p.m. Sunday at Chesapeake Arena, 100 W. Reno Ave.
He has watched the touring veteran perform hits Sweet Caroline, Cracklin Rosie and I Am... I Said during at least three of Diamonds prior OKC tour stops. Novey said he has witnessed many middle-aged female fans throw lingerie and hotel keys onstage while the 76-year-old singer performed, sometimes with their husbands right next to them.
I always wondered how Neil was going to know what hotel room it was, Novey said. Like, do you have to write the room number on there?Noveys day job is video production (he has assisted The Lips in several video projects), and he has turned his fair share of heads with his online videos in which he mimics Diamonds distinguished, textured voice. In December, You In Me unveiled its Yuletide jingle (You Are) My Christmas Wish.
Hey yah, hey yaaaa, hey yah hey, he warbles a playful nod to Diamonds trademark ad-libs. You are my Christmas gift; I gave you my Christmas love.
Three songs and hundreds of vinyl pressings later, some wonder about Noveys motive. He said its nice to get a few laughs while paying homage to one of his all-time favorite artists.
Its also a plus to work with Drozd, whose love for Diamond matches if not exceeds Noveys.
But above all, Novey said, You In Mes main objective is to earn Diamonds attention and approval. Hes confident Diamond would appreciate their work if only he knew of it.
Hes going to fall in love with us, Novey blurted. Hes going to call and hes going to want to fly us out to his ranch or wherever he lives.
Karaoke kingNovey grew up listening to his fathers Diamond albums but became a devoted superfan while in college.
He would later become a practical karaoke pro, but as a young man in the early 2000s, Novey didnt recognize many of the tunes available at local karaoke joints like Cookies and what is now known as Nancys 57th Street Lighthouse. But he did recognize his dads old Diamond favorites.
People immediately began to tell him how much he sounded like Diamond. While Novey admitted he thinks they share some vocal similarities, his familiar, Diamond-esque tunes are more like impressions than duplicates.
After college, Novey met Drozd through his video work with The Lips. The men bonded over their mutual admiration of Diamond and would perform the icons hits at Drozds private holiday parties.
One day, without any expectation from Novey, Drozd called and said he wrote an original song as a shared Diamond tribute. They recorded The Drifter, along with Hot Coffee, at Drozds home studio.
We had met several times, but we had never hung out one-on-one before, so that made it a little awkward, Drozd said during a recent Oklahoma Gazette phone interview. But now were a lot closer.
The duo later decided to get the songs pressed into vinyl 45s. The company rejected their first attempt, saying it wasnt allowed to press Diamonds copyrighted material.
They really thought it was Neil Diamond, Novey said of the 2011 release. We had to sign these affidavits saying, Hey, no; relax. This is not Neil Diamond. Were a tribute group.
You In Me finally released its follow-up in December. Reconciling their schedules between work and family commitments is challenging, especially for Drozd. In preparation for Diamonds return to Oklahoma City, Novey said they recorded My Christmas Wish in a few days, hoping fresh material might help them catch his attention.
We had to try and stay relevant, he said.
The dreamPerhaps the most interesting aspect of You In Me is the dynamic between Novey, a local karaoke enthusiast, and Drozd, a legitimate rock star.
[Drozd] works so fast, and hes patient as well, Novey said. I was a musician as a child in band and stuff, but Im not a paid musician at all.
The Flaming Lips instrumentalist said Novey is not a precision singer but does a great job of capturing the essence or idea of a sound, particularly the gruff and manly qualities that characterize a lot of Diamonds late-60s and early-70s songs. Drozd recalled their first recording session and trying to get Novey to sing an exact melody.
He was just like, Huh? Oh, alright. Hey, lets drink, man, Drozd said.While The Drifter represents mostly Drozds work, Novey has taken a greater hold of the creative reins and wrote the lyrics for My Christmas Wish.
As a teen, Drozds love of Diamond was emboldened by the singers lead role in The Jazz Singer, a lukewarm 1980 remake of the pioneering 1927 classic film featuring music by Al Jolson. The remake ran regularly on cable, and Drozd grew very familiar with Diamonds performance.
There are many Diamond tribute bands and impersonators. Drozd said what separates You In Me from the rest is that its not a cover act and it isnt trying to be the next best thing after the legend. Instead, the pair writes original songs just as Diamond has done throughout much of his career as if the artist had written them.
At its core, You In Me is a fun group, but its not about having fun at anyone elses expense. Drozd said in this case, imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery, and he thinks Diamond would appreciate it.
He seems to have a pretty sharp sense of humor, he said.
Drozd said he wants You In Me to eventually be able to more consistently create new material.
Novey still hopes Diamonds Oklahoma City stop, which might be part of one of his last national tours, will lead him to his goal of acknowledgement from the singer. He also admitted he dreams of singing on stage with him, but Novey said his real hope is that he could make it to Nancys with Diamond without telling anyone.
I would start the song, and then Neil would come up and finish it, he said. Then we just drop the mic and have some whiskey shots.
Print Headline: The feelin, You In Me isnt just any Neil Diamond tribute act. When a local karaoke singer and bona-fide rock star get together, heartlights shine.