en: 12 Songs (Neil Diamond album) [info]
While Rick Rubin (of Beastie Boys fame) used his production skills to make Johnny Cash's legend more resonant, with Neil Diamond he had a harder job to do. For while Diamond's status as a huge selling star and writer is unquestionable, his iconic rating was never even close to Cash's.
With this in mind, Rubin has taken some of Diamond's most committed songcraft in years and stripped it back to its bare bones. It leaves Neil's voice up close and personal, defiant and markedly opposed to his long-standing reputation as a purveyor of sunshine pop trivia. Especially on the bullish "Hell Yeah".
What shines through is a man who's master of his idiom, he's in full possession of his power to use words to move. It may have been wiser to play down the spiritual side of his persona ("Create Me", "Man Of God"), but 12 Songs may just finally make Neil Diamond hip.