Neil Diamond unveils some of the most stripped-down, heartfelt material of his storied career on “12 Songs,” due Nov. 8 via Columbia. As previously reported, the project was produced by Rick Rubin, who encouraged Diamond to play guitar on one of his own albums for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Of a piece with such vintage songs like “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind,” “I Am, I Said,” “If I Never Knew Your Name” and “Juliet,” the music here finds Diamond’s instantly recognizable voice front and center, much in the vein of the “American Recordings” albums Rubin made with Johnny Cash in the latter years of his life.
With a nod to the melody of his 1976 song “Beautiful Noise,” “Hell Yeah” finds Diamond questioning whether he’s made the most of his life: “This crazy life around me / It confuses and confounds me / but it’s all the life I’ve got until I die.”
On “I’m on to You,” the narrator struggles to end a so bad-it’s good relationship: “Wrong to be staying so long / Was I out of my head? / Should have known it was dead but it’s good.” The jubilant “Delirious Love” revels in the early days of a romance, while on “Captain of a Shipwreck,” Diamond pledges to stay by the side of a friend even “when life brings the day uncertain,” offering to “soothe you with my song.”
“12 Songs” features subtle backing by guitarist Smokey Hormel and Mike Campbell, keyboardists Billy Preston, Benmont Tench and Roger Manning Jr., guitarist/upright bassist Jonny Polonsky and percussionist Lenny Castro.
The digipak version of the album will feature the bonus track “Men Are So Easy” plus an alternate version of “Delirious Love” with a guest appearance by Brian Wilson.
Diamond is in the midst of a North American tour that hits Dallas tonight (Oct. 14).
Here is the track list for “12 Songs”:
“Captain of a Shipwreck”
“Save Me a Saturday Night”
“I’m on to You”
“What’s It Gonna Be”
“Man of God”