Neil Diamond

12 Songs (Columbia)

Of course, it's the producer who gets the performer into these pages; does this look like People magazine to you, huh? Fact is, anybody other than Rick Rubin produces this thing and it's forgotten day before yesterday. But the expectation outweighs the result, so here we are some three decades after he was, he said, wondering if the Jewish Jumpsuit's been given a credibility reprieve à la the Man in Black. And damned if I can tell if it's any better or worse than what preceded it — I haven't intentionally heard a Diamond dog since 1978, when Ma and Pa Shtetl schlepped me down to Reunion Arena for a night of square music played in the round. Far as I can tell, though, it's more of the same-ol' with just a little less for cred's sake — the Hebrew Hammer oversinging his overwrought lyrics ("If your gold mine comes up empty/I'll be there to work for claims/If you're captain of a shipwreck/I'll be first mate to your shame") against a knowingly sparse backdrop of acoustic guitar and piano and the inevitable strings to make sure you haven't forgotten this is intended to be his last schmaltz. Brian Wilson's here too, on one of two cream-cheesy "bonus" songs; apparently, Barbra Streisand was too busy working on her disc with Jon Brion.

 
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