Neil Diamond doesn't mess with success. That's why he "never doubted" he'd work again with producer Rick Rubin, who steered their 2005 collaboration, "12 Songs," to a No. 4 debut on the Billboard 200,

Neil Diamond doesn't mess with success. That's why he "never doubted" he'd work again with producer Rick Rubin, who steered their 2005 collaboration, "12 Songs," to a No. 4 debut on the Billboard 200, Diamond's best since "The Jazz Singer" in 1982. The album has sold 571,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Indeed, Diamond, 67, says he and Rubin began mulling "Home Before Dark," due this week via Columbia, "within weeks after '12 Songs' was finished. All of those questions you have when you work with somebody new were yesterday's news. We knew what we wanted to do."

So after "14 or 15 months" of writing, Diamond hit the studio with Rubin and an improvisationally leaning band featuring guitarists Mike Campbell, Matt Sweeney and Smokey Hormel and keyboardist Benmont Tench. Dixie Chicks vocalist Natalie Maines chipped in on "Another Day (That Time Forgot)," Diamond's first major duet with a female voice since "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" with Barbra Streisand in 1978.

As with "12 Songs," the material on "Home Before Dark" is drumless, with Diamond's still-commanding voice front-and-center and his rhythm guitar, which he went three decades without playing in the studio, guiding the way for the other instrumentalists. "Working with these guys, and having Rick's ear, made it a great deal of fun," Diamond says. "Of course, I had to have the enthusiasm of the band, and their consent, in a way. They'd be playing along and looking for their places even before I'd finish the first run-through. It was magic, in a way."