Music Review: Neil Diamond |

Music Review: Neil Diamond

In this image released by Columbia Records, the latest CD by Neil Diamond, "Home Before Dark," is shown. (AP Photo/Columbia Records) ** NO SALES **
AP | Columbia Records

While producer Rick Rubin coaxed some fine songs out of Neil Diamond on their first collaboration, 2005’s “12 Songs,” you could feel the fear of a singer told to stand alone with his guitar in front of a recording microphone for the first time in many years.

With the new “Home Before Dark,” Diamond sounds much more comfortable.

That’s mostly good.

In fact, we’ll defy any singer-songwriter this year to come up with a run of four stronger songs than the ones that open this album. Bookended by the epic “If I Don’t See You Again” and the Natalie Maines duet “Another Day (That Time Forgot),” each song is assured and insightful. Years of crusted bangles and beads prevent many people from taking Diamond seriously as a songwriter. That’s a mistake.

Diamond’s acoustic guitar is the centerpiece of a band that includes Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench and plays with stately elegance.

Some bombast returns with the confidence. “One More Bite of the Apple” is an overused metaphor that Diamond should have known to avoid. He hasn’t quite reached the level of artistry that Johnny Cash did with Rubin, but “Home Before Dark” continues to solidify Diamond’s reputation.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: “Cherry Cherry.” No, we’re kidding. “Pretty Amazing Grace” soars, a love story for a second or third act in life.

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