By Chuck Arnold
Updated November 14, 2005 12:00 PM

12 Songs


Let’s just put it right out there: You will be blown away by the new Neil Diamond CD. You will listen to it as if you have never heard him before. And in a way, that will be right, because this is not the same Neil Diamond who has been the ultimate Las Vegas showman in all his sequined, jumpsuited glory for as long as you can remember. This newly unearthed Diamond has boldly ditched the glitz for a stunningly stripped-down affair that, at 64, makes him the comeback kid of the year. The simply titled 12 Songs puts the focus squarely on the singer and Hall of Fame songwriter, who plays acoustic guitar on a recording for the first time in nearly four decades. Helping guide Diamond through these starkly intimate settings, with touches of country, jazz, gospel and Tin Pan Alley pop, is producer Rick Rubin, best known for his work in hip-hop and hard rock. But Rubin pulled off a similar late-career resurrection with Johnny Cash, and he gets the same emotional honesty out of Diamond. On powerful, deeply personal ballads like “Hell Yeah” (“This crazy life around me, it confuses and confounds me/ But it’s all the life I’ve got until I die”) and the hauntingly direct “Face Me,” he really turns on his heartlight.