12 Songs

( 8 )

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Mark Schwartz
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 ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Mark Schwartz
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.
All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Calling 12 Songs Neil Diamond's best album in three decades may be a little misleading: truth be told, it doesn't have much competition in his discography. While Diamond never stopped making albums, he did seem progressively less interested in recording sometime after the Robbie Robertson-produced 1976 album Beautiful Noise. Following that weird, ambitious album, he pursued a slicker, streamlined course and started writing less original material. For a while, this paid off great commercial dividends, culminating in his 1980 remake of the Al Jolson film The Jazz Singer, but after 1982's Heartlight he slowly drifted off the pop charts. Over the next two decades, he toured regularly, turning out a new album every three or four years, and their patchwork nature of a few covers and a few originals suggested that Diamond wasn't as engaged in either the writing or recording process as he was at the peak of his career. With 2001's Three Chord Opera he delivered his first album of all-original material since Beautiful Noise, which was also his first non-concept album since 1991's Lovescape he spent the interim cutting theme albums, such as a record devoted to Brill Building pop or a country-oriented collection. While it was uneven, it did suggest that Diamond was re-engaging with both writing and recording, and as he prepared material for a new record, he received word that producer Rick Rubin -- the man responsible for Johnny Cash's acclaimed '90s comeback, American Recordings -- was interested in working with him, and the two combined for the project that turned out to be 12 Songs. Rubin was the first producer to push Diamond since Robbie Robertson, but where Robertson indulged the singer/songwriter, Rubin drove Neil to strip his music down to his essence. As Diamond's candid liner notes reveal, Rubin wasn't a co-writer, he was a precise and exacting editor, encouraging Neil to rework songs, abandon some tunes, and to keep writing. The process worked, as Diamond wound up with a set of 12 songs actually, 13 on the special edition that contains two bonus tracks, including an alternate version of "Delirious Love" featuring a delirious Brian Wilson contribution that result in his most consistent set of songs ever. This is entirely Rubin's doing, since he's the first producer to exercise such tight control over one of Diamond's albums. Where Tom Catalano, the producer of Neil's '60s and early-'70s work, let Diamond indulge in flights of fancy and sheer weirdness, Rubin keeps him on a tight leash, only allowing a couple of light, cheerful songs into the finished product. Instead of encouraging Neil to write these rollicking, effortlessly hooky pop songs, Rubin brings the moody undercurrents of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" and "Solitary Man" to the forefront, pushing Diamond toward somber, introspective territory that his music suggested but never truly explored in the past. To highlight this mood, Rubin keeps the arrangements spare, even skeletal, reminiscent of the monochromatic nature of his Cash collaborations. 12 Songs also shares with American Recordings a creeping sense of mortality, but where that sounded natural coming from Johnny Cash, it's slightly affected here, since even when Diamond attempts to reach inward it's offset by his natural inclination toward hamminess. And that flair for the theatrical almost begs out for arrangements that are a little bit more fleshed out than what's here -- not something as slickly cold as what he did in the late '70s, but something similar to the rich yet fruity orchestrations Catalano brought to Diamond's best songs. But if 12 Songs does occasionally come across as slightly affected in its intent and presentation, it also is inarguably Neil Diamond's best set of songs in a long, long time. Diamond's writing is not only more ambitious than it has been in years, but it's also more fully realized; the songs are tightly written, with the melodies bringing out the emotions in the lyrics. Similarly, Diamond also sounds engaged as a performer, singing with passion and unexpected understatement; it's his most controlled, varied vocal performance ever, and even if Rubin's production is a bit too stark, it does force listeners to concentrate on the songs, which makes this a better case for Diamond's talents as a songwriter than most of his other albums. And that's why 12 Songs is, in a way, even more welcome than American Recordings. Where Cash's comeback confirmed what everybody already knew about him, this presents a side of Neil Diamond that's never been heard on record and, in the process, it offers a new way of looking at the rest of his catalog -- which is a pretty remarkable achievement, but the best thing about 12 Songs is that it's simply one of the most entertaining, satisfying albums Diamond has ever released.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/8/2005
  • Label: Sony
  • UPC: 828767750828
  • Catalog Number: 77508
  • Sales rank: 106,065

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Oh Mary (5:12)
  2. 2 Hell Yeah (4:25)
  3. 3 Captain of a Shipwreck (3:55)
  4. 4 Evermore (5:18)
  5. 5 Save Me a Saturday Night (3:31)
  6. 6 Delirious Love (3:12)
  7. 7 I'm on to You (4:27)
  8. 8 What's It Gonna Be (4:04)
  9. 9 Man of God (4:21)
  10. 10 Create Me (4:10)
  11. 11 Face Me (3:27)
  12. 12 We (3:50)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Neil Diamond Primary Artist, Acoustic Guitar, 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 Jr. Piano
Technical Credits
Neil Diamond Composer, Essay
David Campbell Horn Arrangements, String Arrangements
Jimmie Haskell Arranger
Rick Rubin Producer, Audio Production
Andrew Scheps Engineer
Greg Fidelman Engineer
Mark Linnett Engineer
Vlado Meller Mastering
Jason Lader Engineer
Reina Katzenberger Art Direction
Mark Linette Engineer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    The best since "Moods"

    To hear Neil Diamond as he said,down to basics is simply saying he's never forgot where he came from!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Pre-Fab Diamond Hardly in the Rough and in Peak Form Thanks to Rubin

    What a genuine surprise to hear a Neil Diamond album that doesn't make me instantly wish I was listening to one of his golden hits of the early 1970's. An expert performer who still draws devoted throngs of baby boomers, Diamond has let his relevance as a singer-songwriter diminish over the past thirty years in favor of easy listening radio and lucrative concert tours. In fact, it's easy to forget that he hasn't done anything that has challenged him artistically since 1976's "Beautiful Noise". Enter Rick Rubin, a renegade producer who has done landmark albums for the likes of the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and most relevantly, the late Johnny Cash on his acoustic 1994 return to form, "American Recordings". The equally unlikely collaboration between Diamond and Rubin has yielded, hands down, one of the best Neil Diamond recordings ever. Rubin obviously forced Diamond's hand in abandoning the performer's predilection for overproduction and variety showmanship in favor of a leaner sound that allows him to move toward a more introspective and resonant direction. Such emotional consistency over the course of a full album never reflected Diamond's personality. For instance, in the past, he could not sing a romantic ballad like "Hello Again" without including crowd-pleasing bombast such as "America". However, even with the tonal constraints put on him, Diamond still shows an unfettered knack for composing songs with compelling melodies and sharp hooks. The opening track, "Oh Mary", is a sweet ballad where Diamond repeats the title as a forlorn mantra. The familiar-sounding "Hell Yeah", "Captain of a Shipwreck" and especially "Evermore" (which instantly recalls "I Am I Said") showcase his theatrical sense within an atmosphere of intimacy. He expresses a palpable yearning on the pop ballad, "Save Me a Saturday Night", that aches with a slow dance tempo. With its powerfully rhythmic guitar chords, my favorite song is the percolating "Delirious Love", which soars with Diamond's testosterone-driven romantic energy. "I'm on to You" brings a nice jazzy vibe to its finger-snapping tale of romantic deceit. The loping, country-twanged beat on ''What's It Gonna Be" reflects a world-weariness in the singer that makes the chorus turn into a resigned ultimatum to a straying lover. Moving toward higher ground, Diamond takes on spiritual renewal with the gospel-tinged "Man of God", and as an appropriate follow-up, Billy Preston's Hammond organ opens the touching "Create Me" as if it's the beginning of a church procession. A Mexican standoff between two lovers marks the romantic melodrama of "Face Me", which sounds eerily like the tumbleweed theme of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. The Dixieland melody of "We" is the closest Diamond comes to kitsch here, but he keeps it in check with the catchy lyrics. The core ensemble - Diamond, Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Smokey Hormel on guitars and another Heartbreaker, Benmont Tech, on keyboards - perform expertly throughout. This is a pop masterwork by a talent too long in the artistic trenches.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    The songs beg me to learn them and sing along.

    It'll be easy to sound like a goofy uber-fan, but this album turned me into one. I saw him on Oprah, and looked up the CD to satisfy my curiosity. I was hooked immediately. I find myself playing it on a continuous loop on the weekend because it keeps revealing new aspects while it becomes more familiar at the same time. I've been generally interested in his music, but never enjoyed the teflon aspects (when his songs slid right out of my ears, and never stuck in my head). These new songs make me happy, glad I bought the CD, and give me respect for his musical accomplishment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    12 Songs

    I've been a Neil Diamond fan for about 5 years now, and it was exciting to see him live in October. I gave this to my mom for Christmas, so we could always remember our special night. This is the kind of music you'd expect to hear playing in the background at Starbucks, and we both love it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A Great CD

    It was interesting reading about how this CD came to be and I'm glad it did. Neil Diamond continues to delight music lovers young and old. He is certainly one of the GREATS.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    12 Songs

    I just gave this album to my mom for Christmas, and we love it!! We were fortunate enough to see Neil in concert in October, and I wanted this to remind her of our special night. This music is very acoustic-guitar and piano driven, and really nice to listen to. 'Delirious Love' makes me want to take up guitar and play along! Overall, highly enjoyable, especially if you already love Neil Diamond!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Unbelievable

    I could go on and on, any true Neil Diamond fan needs to purchase this. You can hear the true Neil Diamond come through. Brought tears to my eyes, you really need to listen through the 1st time, hear his lyrics and music. What an experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Neil Diamond ain't Johnny Cash, and he won't make much of it off this turkey

    STARK ain't the word when it comes to describing this acoustic to the point of madness dungpile. I can't believe Columbia didn't reject this loser of an album outright. It competes with Lovescape and other travesties as Diamond's worst album.

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews