CD Review of 12 Songs by Neil Diamond
Columbia Records
Neil Diamond: 12 Songs

Reviewed by Red Rocker


t’s really too bad that Neil Diamond has just released his best new album in two decades. 12 Songs is a triumphant return for one of the most unmistakable and beloved voices of our time. Rick Rubin, The Chosen One, was hired to provide the same Midas touch that revitalized Johnny Cash’s career a few years ago, and his engineering, coupled with a who’s who of session musicians (including Billy Preston, Mike Campbell, and Smokey Hormel) certifies and legitimizes this mission from the outset. Problem is, you’ll be a sorry fool for buying it.

Sony BMG Corporation, in all its infinite wisdom, has shackled down this great CD with a now-infamous rootkit technology (classified as spyware) in a failed attempt at copyright protection. In short, Sony is installing their rootkit technology to hide and protect its DRM (digital rights management) software. By all means, this is a futile shot at preventing the duplication of this recording. It is preposterous when you consider the people most affected by this often-catastrophic spyware are the very Sony customers who played by the rules, and paid retail for the CD in stores!

Potentially computer-crippling spyware aside, the CD is well worth having (notice I said having, not buying). From the lush acoustic bedtime ballad “Oh Mary” that opens 12 Songs, to the frisky giddiness of “Delirious Love” (which might even recall “Sweet Caroline” for the old faithful) to a tuba and player piano ditty called “We” that could’ve served in the Tombstone soundtrack, Diamond really overachieves here. Forgoing his sequin stage costumes and typical concert bombast, settling instead for flannel and a room full of acoustic guitars, the Jazz Singer not only performed but he composed all 12 tracks. “If your goldmine comes up empty, I’ll be there to work for clay,” he pleads on the affectionate “Captain of a Shipwreck”, a faultless construction of piano and acoustic guitar that pushes Diamond’s unshakeable vocal to the forefront. “Save Me a Saturday Night,” though subtle and tender, hits like a ton of bricks, far beyond any epic ballad Bon Jovi/Sambora have penned to date.

With the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Slayer, and Mick Jagger already on his unrivaled résumé, Rick Rubin can sit back and smoke his holiday stogie knowing that, once again, he has saved the day for rock and roll. Other than a Christmas special or chance collaboration, the great Neil Diamond had been put on a shelf, like Johnny Cash, and thought never to be heard from in the new release aisles of Best Buy again. Who knows, maybe 12 Songs is just the beginning, ala the American Recordings anthology Rubin spun for Cash. Regardless, 12 Songs will stand as one of the unexpected over-accomplishments in recent memory. It’s a shame that $13 isn’t good enough any more for Sony, and most fans will now have to resort to illegal downloads or file-sharing for their uninfected copy. Dylan was right: The times, they are a’ changin’.

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