12 Songs

12 Songs

by Neil Diamond
     
 

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Neil Diamond, "the Jewish Elvis," has been phoning it in for decades, but he owes his success to a bunch of great songs delivered with singular swagger and conviction. Rick Rubin, the storied producer who resuscitated the career of Johnny Cash, saw a no doubt more challenging -- and personal -- project in hisSee more details below

Overview

Neil Diamond, "the Jewish Elvis," has been phoning it in for decades, but he owes his success to a bunch of great songs delivered with singular swagger and conviction. Rick Rubin, the storied producer who resuscitated the career of Johnny Cash, saw a no doubt more challenging -- and personal -- project in his collaboration with Diamond. For Cash, Rubin curated material; with Diamond, his role was to restart youthful creative impulses in a 60-year-old kitsch icon. Against all odds, it's a success. Another triumph of Rubin's less-is-more maxim, 12 Songs is the most vital and focused work from Diamond since the Carter administration. Accompanying himself on guitar, he turns back the years to Velvet Gloves and Spit–era acoustics on a spare set of carefully crafted, dark-hued reflections. In these environs, Diamond's voice retains its melodramatic, stentorian appeal, his lyrics left-of-center yet just right. "If you're captain of a shipwreck, I'll be first mate to your shame," is one of his Townes Van Zant–worthy couplets. Neil's mojo is risin' on "Evermore," with its orchestral crescendo, an elegiac response to a younger man's searching "I Am, I Said." Fans of Diamond's primal rockers will even find satisfaction on this drum-less set in the form of "Delirious Love" (reprised on the essential bonus tracks version with backing harmonies by Beach Boy Brian Wilson), a chugging celebration of lust that would be inappropriate coming from any other senior citizen. The triumph of 12 Songs is that, unlike Rubin's repackaging of Cash for '90s hipsters, the producer simply let Neil be the best Neil Diamond he can be. And in our flash-in-pan youth-focused culture, that's a revelation.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
One has to feel some empathy for the depression Neil Diamond underwent as a result of Sony's dreaded rootkit fiasco. (Rootkit was potentially malicious anti-piracy software Sony installed on a number of its compact disc titles.) Right at the crest of the press acclaim and rising sales -- and the beginning of Diamond overcoming the initial disbelief of aging hipsters that the album was one of his very best recording efforts and not one of his easy listening exercises -- the outcries against Sony's folly caused them to yank the album from retail. Ugh! Thankfully, Diamond gets a second chance just as he and Rick Rubin get to work on a second offering. Along with the original 12 Songs comes a pair of bonus cuts including "Men Are So Easy," and "Delirious Love," the latter of which features Brian Wilson doing his Beach Boys best with rich multi-layered "ooh" harmonies, staggered chorus lines, and handclaps. It's not stellar, and the original is better, but it's certainly worth hearing. In addition, there is a second disc that contains alternates, demos and outtakes from the 12 Songs sessions. They are placed in the same order as the tracks on the finished recording, and therefore add dimension and information about how certain choices were made. This is especially true of the demos. The unadorned versions of opener "Oh Mary," "I'm on to You," and "Face Me" offer an intimate and raw view of an artist whose work has been wildly polished since the mid-'60s. Here are the songs as they emerged and became clear to the songwriter; they become full-bodied in his voice as he moves and struggles to come to grips with them and make them real. Likewise, "Save Me a Saturday Night," with its tentative voice expresses a vulnerability not often evident in Diamond's finished efforts. Likewise, an early take of "Man of God," is chilling in its slowly wandering way, as if the singer is trying to convince himself more than the listener. The alternate take of "Create Me," is among the most moving and tenderly naked pieces the songwriter has ever offered. There is no tentativeness in his delivery; it's perfectly convicted, confidently delivered sung poetry. Likewise, the demo of "Face Me" doesn't just contain the requisite drama of Diamond's best downer love songs; there is real anger here along with utterly believable pain: the realization that this is most assuredly the same songwriter who gave us "Solitary Man" 40-plus years on is a bit shocking at first, but it's a few steps down the road. This is what happens when we need and want, it seems to say, and unless the Beloved looks him straight in the eye and says the words he dreads, he refuses to accept that it's happened yet again. This is Neil Diamond not as a self satisfied musician looking through his past, but the sound of a songwriter hungry for the spark, with an editor, Rubin, who won't let him veer from the path. If you missed this the first time around, get it. If you bought it the first time around, give your copy away and dig into this thing hard. You may find yourself playing the bonus disc more than the original. If you're merely a cynic, then try to pull yourself away from the Bright Eyes and Sufjan Stevens records and try not being cool for a change. You'll most likely be surprised and delighted.

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Product Details

Release Date:
12/12/2006
Label:
Sony
UPC:
0886970395823
catalogNumber:
703958

Tracks

  1. Oh Mary
  2. Hell Yeah
  3. Captain of a Shipwreck
  4. Evermore
  5. Save Me a Saturday Night
  6. Delirious Love
  7. I'm on to You
  8. What's It Gonna Be
  9. Man of God
  10. Create Me
  11. Face Me
  12. We
  13. Men Are So Easy
  14. Delirious Love
  15. Oh Mary
  16. Hell Yeah
  17. Captain of a Shipwreck
  18. Evermore
  19. Save Me a Saturday Night
  20. Delirious Love
  21. I'm on to You
  22. What's It Gonna Be
  23. Man of God
  24. Create Me
  25. Face Me
  26. We
  27. Men Are So Easy

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Neil Diamond   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Billy Preston   Organ,Hammond Organ,Hammond B3
Brian Wilson   Vocals
Pat McLaughlin   Guitar
Mike Campbell   Guitar
Benmont Tench   Organ,Piano
David Campbell   Strings,Conductor,Horn
Lenny Castro   Percussion
Jimmie Haskell   Conductor
Larry Knechtel   Piano
Patrick Warren   chamberlain
Smokey Hormel   Guitar
Jonny Polonsky   Guitar,Upright Bass
Jason Sinay   Guitar
Roger Joseph Manning   Piano

Technical Credits

Neil Diamond   Composer,Liner Notes
David Campbell   Horn Arrangements,String Arrangements
Jimmie Haskell   Arranger
Rick Rubin   Producer,Audio Production
Andrew Scheps   Engineer
Greg Fidelman   Engineer
Vlado Meller   Mastering
Jason Lader   Engineer
Reina Katzenberger   Art Direction
Mark Linette   Engineer

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