New style for Neil Diamond


12 SONGS, Neil Diamond (Columbia)

If you think you know Neil Diamond and his music through his hits and major tours, this disc encourages you to think again, because these 12 songs show another side of him.

Working with producer Rick Rubin and musicians including, from Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, Benmont Tench on keyboards and Mike Campbell on guitar, Diamond sings in a voice that is weathered, lived-in, and just right for the mellow, low-key acoustic guitar-led opening cut “Oh Mary.” It’s Diamond unplugged, but more than that, because these aren’t hits reworked. They’re new songs with resonant melodies, thoughtful lyrics, and convincing vocals. The pace is slow for the most part, though “Delirious Love” is enthusiastically uptempo. And there are no swelling orchestral crescendos, no bravado.

The arrangements are subdued with a piano, organ, or guitar providing accompaniment on cuts including “Captain of a Shipwreck,” “Evermore,” “Face Me,” and “Man of God.” The disc concludes with the perky track, “We,” which sounds rather out of keeping with the tone of the rest of the disc. But it’s a positive note on which to end a collection that reveals a new facet of Neil Diamond.

_ RICHARD PATON

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