Home Before Dark [Bonus DVD]

Home Before Dark [Bonus DVD]

5.0 12
by Neil Diamond
     
 

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For his second album with producer Rick Rubin, and 27th studio disc in a storied career, Neil Diamond digs deeper, producing his most honest -- and searing -- songwriting to date. Home Before Dark features a duet with Dixie Chick Natalie Maines.

Overview

For his second album with producer Rick Rubin, and 27th studio disc in a storied career, Neil Diamond digs deeper, producing his most honest -- and searing -- songwriting to date. Home Before Dark features a duet with Dixie Chick Natalie Maines.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Home Before Dark is Neil Diamond's second collaboration with producer Rick Rubin. Their first, 12 Songs, was sabotaged by Sony's "Rootkit" program that invaded the operating system of any computer it was inserted into and wreaked havoc on it in the name of "copy protection." The catastrophe caused already wholesaled copies of 12 Songs to be recalled from store shelves even as Diamond was getting better reviews than he'd gotten in at least a decade. Sony eventually reissued it in 2007 in a deluxe package but the damage was already done and the songwriter was deeply disappointed -- some accounts claim devastated. Ultimately, Diamond was undaunted, and decided to work with Rubin again because the producer was able to coax something from him that had been missing form his records since Beautiful Noise in the 1970s -- a sense of urgency, a sense of walking on the wire unprotected, at one with the song apart from its production. According to his unusually candid liner notes, Diamond took ten months to write the 12 songs that appear here. Rubin enlisted help from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' keyboardist Benmont Tench and lead guitarist Mike Campbell, as well as studio ace Smokey Hormel to play guitar and bass, and former Chavez guitarist Matt Sweeney. There are no drums, but there are some spare, beautifully arranged, and unobtrusive strings by David Campbell. There is also a duet appearance on the track "Another Day (That Time Forgot)" by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Ultimately, however, no matter who plays on or produces a record, it comes down to the songs: are they there or aren't they? As good as 12 Songs was as an album of new songs, it was obvious that Diamond felt very exposed and perhaps somewhat uncomfortable in such a skeletal setting. He hadn't been in it with other musicians for decades and never as a recording artist. Yet there was obviously something about that particular process of creation that excited him. It's not merely the newfound comfort of the setting, it's the way the songs are written and delivered: presented by a guy with his beat-up guitar letting them rip without restraint, pouring them over the listener with the authority of a writer as well as the vulnerability expressed in newness. The beautiful piano and synth lines, as well as the elegant and/or edgy lead guitar and bass licks in these tunes, are applied with painterly care by the studio musicians in order to set off what is so dynamically and poetically evident in them. Diamond is not a young man anymore and, thankfully, he doesn't write like he wants to be one. That said, he does sound lean, hungry, slightly wide-eyed, and a tad wild. Check the track "Forgotten," with a rock & roll progression that could have come off of one of his Bang singles, yet reflects the travails and anguish of a protagonist whose heart bears hurt without the grace and wisdom age is supposed to bring; its desperate ache expresses the fear that it may be too late to reclaim the self-definition he was once so sure of. The grain in Diamond's voice is raw, tense, and fierce, and it quavers just a bit in the refrain -- as an exclamation point , Sweeney's guitar part nails it to the wall. The irony is that it follows "One More Bite of the Apple," another rollicking song, but this one is about reuniting with the protagonist's beloved -- but that love is not human; it's songwriting. This is an ode to the Muse, and the punch in the twin bellies of complacency and denial that can come with success. This sense of willful malcontent, naked fear, and uncertainty illustrates some of the content in Diamond's liner notes about his writing process. Songwriting, however, is just one topic here; there are some beautiful love songs as well. One is "If I Don't See You Again," the album's opening cut. It's about the bittersweet aftertaste of lost love, experienced by someone who knows the truth of what he's learned. It's classic Diamond; in that languid melody he's conversing with an anonymous "other" who the listener encounters as a reflection, a ghost, or a shared confession. The beautiful drama, the gorgeously crafted bridge, and the accepted sense of loneliness in the protagonist's voice are combined seamlessly with gratitude and a storyteller's authority, all of them unmistakably Diamond at his very best. In the album's first single, "Pretty Amazing Grace," Diamond sings a prayer of gratitude for rescue and restoration to either Divine Providence, his beloved, or both; its ambiguity is no doubt intentional, but jarringly effective when offered inside such an infectious and haunting melody. It's set in fingerpicked minor chords on steel-string guitars with a standup bass as a backbone that stands quiet yet tall in the mix. Tench's piano adds dynamic tension to the ends of lines toward the refrain where the guitars get punched flamenco-style and the tune breaks wide open. Strings tastefully decorate the backdrop, as the lyric goes ever deeper, juxtaposing the present against the past, not as contrast but as a progression from darkness into the sunlight. It's a wonderful choice as a single and video. The duet with Maines, "Another Day (That Time Forgot)," with its shadowy traces of the gentle but brooding intensity of the intro to "Holly Holy" in the chord progression, as fine as it is, is not the best song here. Its tale is the admission made by lovers lost to one another over the course of time, who have no idea how they grew apart, only that they did and love died in the process. The song, despite subtle sweetness in its melody and the empathic dialogue between the protagonists, is, in essence, a tragedy. It suggests that shrugging one's shoulders and walking away from love without a clue as to how you got there is sad beyond fathoming. Tench's piano improv fills the spaces between verses, and his sense of melancholy and foreshadowing is gorgeous. There is no overwrought vocalizing by either Diamond or Maines; no trying to convince the listener -- the melody and lyrics handle that on their own. "The Power of Two," with beautifully entwined acoustic guitar lines by Mike Campbell, is an artful framework for one of Diamond's better love songs. With the fluid movement of the music, his lyric reveals that sometimes the advancement of age and the wisdom gained in experience do go together. The protagonist realizes that he has the ability and courage to embrace another fully; he has the desire to finally allow himself to become a part of love instead of remaining apart from it by protecting his heart. The title cut that closes the set is one of those moments where the best songwriters can take minimal musical elements and parsed-down language, and reveal to the listener the very real sense of one end of overheard yet very intimate conversation. The narrative draws itself out as first-person speech and the melodic structure of the tune and the pop hook are subtle, almost as if to underscore that this song is private, yet its power can't help but draw one in. Home Before Dark offers aesthetic proof that 12 Songs was no fluke. This is a much stronger, less "civilized" album. It doesn't sound like the work of a veteran craftsman/songwriter simply doing what he does best or feels is expected of him. Instead, it sounds more like the honest work of an artist who has, at long last, reached all the way down into the scariest parts of himself and faced them in his work; speaking the truth of what he found there as honestly and as artfully as he can -- without relying on the slick craftsman's bag of tropes, tricks, or artifices. Home Before Dark is the work of an artist who finally realizes that he is, to quote Texas songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard, "condemned by the gods to write," and has to chase the love of that fate for life. Diamond is not reinventing himself here; instead, he's out there trying to prove -- to himself first and foremost -- that not only can he still write great songs, but he can meet his own demands for excellence by delivering them to his peers and an audience convincingly. He succeeds on all counts. [The Deluxe Edition also contains a bonus DVD that features Diamond performing "Pretty Amazing Grace," "If I Don't See You Again," and "Forgotten" live in the studio. However, the real reason to snag the DVD is to see and hear Diamond cover Paul Simon's classic "The Boxer."]
Rolling Stone - Andy Greene
Like Johnny Cash's Rubin—produced American Recordings series, Home Before Dark cuts the music down to its essence, scrapping the overproduction that has marred Diamond's albums since the Eighties.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/06/2008
Label:
Sony
UPC:
0886972807829
catalogNumber:
728078

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Neil Diamond   Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Mike Campbell   Guitar,Bass Guitar
Benmont Tench   Keyboards
Charlie Bisharat   Concert Master
David Campbell   Leader
Larry Corbett   Cello
Earl Dumler   English Horn,Oboe
Chuck Findley   Trumpet
Armen Garabedian   Violin
Gary Grant   Trumpet
Dan Higgins   Flute
Larry Klimas   Flute
Don Markese   Alto Flute
Joe Meyer   French Horn
Linda Press   Background Vocals
Robert Shulgold   Flute
Maxine Willard Waters   Background Vocals
Smokey Hormel   Guitar,Bass Guitar
Julia Waters   Background Vocals
Jonny Polonsky   Guitar
William Frank "Bill" Reichenbach   Trombone
Matt Sweeney   Guitar
Rudy Stein   Cello
Julian Hallmark   Violin
David R. Stone   Bass
Nathan Campbell   French Horn
Rose Corrigan   Bassoon
Ralph Williams   Clarinet
Andrew Duckles   Viola
Michele Richards   Violin
Steven Holtman   Trombone
M.B. Gordy   Timpani

Technical Credits

Neil Diamond   Composer,Liner Notes
Bob Dylan   Composer
Harry Nilsson   Composer
David Campbell   Horn Arrangements,String Arrangements,Woodwind Arrangement
Rick Rubin   Producer
Bernie Becker   Engineer
Andrew Scheps   Engineer
Greg Fidelman   Engineer
Mary Maurer   Art Direction
Jason Lader   Engineer

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Home Before Dark 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A simple, sincere, convicting & beautiful worship song ever written so far, in the 21st Century! One man's genuine expression of how Amazing God's Grace truly is! Thanks Neil for the gift of this gripping worship song to the world at large....I am sure people will take notice if they care to listen! What a treat it will be when people are convicted and gripped by the song....and search the pages of the BOOK you refer to in the song!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Neil's got the touch! This really was a beautiful album. I love the acoustic sound, and the piano parts on the 1st and 4th tracks are lovely. I could fall asleep listening to this (in a good way). Thanks, Neil! Keep them coming!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a huge Neil Diamond fan. I love about everything he does. Sadly, Home Before Dark has been a disappointment to me. If you really like the Rick Rubin-inspired stripped down version of Neil's music, the first Rubin produced CD "12 Songs" was much better. As for me, I'll go back to his older music, such as Three Chord Opera and Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am very pleased with this album. I find the song with Natalie Maines to be the best. Thought-provoking lyrics are outstanding in all his songs, and he does not disappoint with this album
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this CD. Neil Diamond never disappoints but, this time, he's outdone himself! I admit to being stuck in the 60's & 70's musicwise so it's not often that I so thoroughly enjoy an entire new group of songs. It's hard to pick a favorite but Pretty Amazing Grace may just be it with all the rest tied for a close second.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I never thought that the man could get any better but this album is just soul touching. I have just finished listening to "Home Before Dark" and it seems as though he has bared his soul. Simply brilliant.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan since high school - had a teacher who played Neil all the time. I have been hooked ever since. I have been to four concerts and plan to go again this time around. Keep it coming - love, love, love the music.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The words are deeper, the hooks are all there. This is Neil at his most mature and definitely at his best. Outstanding!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a mature, deep, simple yet well crafted song... love it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again and never disappointing
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ihave just watched the 'If I don't see you again' video. Fantastic song, great lyrics, This one will grab you. Neil's voice in its usual superb form. Neil's fans will enjoy this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've always thought "I Am...I Said" was the best song ever written, but "If I Don't See You Again" is right up there with it. I can't seem to stop listening: the lyrics are poignant, the structure is superb, and I don't care if it's 7 minutes long. If this song had been written before the age of video music, it'd have been huge. I hope Neil is as appreciated for this one as he should be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After having the 12 Songs dvd, I did not think Mr. Diamond could top it. Well, I find myself having to hear at least one of the songs every day. They keep running through my head, so I have to hear them again and again. My favorite is "Pretty Amazing Grace"...the music, the words..everything is close to perfect about it. What about his voice....I think I like it even more than I did 30 years ago! What a great CD!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i've been in love with this man's music since junior high, and have seen him 9 times. i'm 54 years old ,and finally i'll see him again in tampa this month. the only song i've never heard him not sing live that i wanted to was the OH NO song. it doesn't really matter, because he can sing whatever he wants!! Tina has her song simply the best, but mr. diamond has far surpassed her and many of the the other greats. as far as your latest cd, it's as good as gold. imagine that!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It has been a long time since I was amazed by a new "take" on such a standard hymn. The whole arrangement was an instant "WOW,I gotta listen to this"! And then add to it that Neil Diamond is singing it! I heard it on American Idol and logged on to look at the whole album which I am now anxiously awaiting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just viewed the video of "If I Don't See You Again, & "Pretty Amazing Grace" from another web site. Both left me speachless. As with every N.D. album I can't wait to hear more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again a song that touches us. Thank you for the beautiful music your fans can always count on. So much changes but at least we have your music to hold on to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This song is fantastic. Sung from the heart. It really moved me. To sustain a listeners interest for 7 minutes plus is a long time and I just didn't want this song to finish.I can't wait to hear the rest of the songs on this album.If they are anywhere near the standard of this one this album will be a sellout very quickly and one you will want in your collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
neil diamond has raised the bar again..can't miss with his words and music,what solo artist has maintain this for over five decades.Mr.Diamond has produced a gem.
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