November 09, 1998 12:00 PM

Neil Diamond (Columbia)

There’s nothing in pop music as scary as the feeling that Neil Diamond is revving himself up for a big finish to a song, and he does plenty of revving on this two-disc set of famous movie songs—from “Unchained Melody” to “The Windmills of Your Mind.” There are two good things about the package: 1. Since all these songs were written by other people, there’s none of Diamond’s old sleight-of-language lyrics (like ” ‘I am,’ I said…and no one heard at all, not even the chair”); 2. The arrangements are generally subtle, except for a peculiar, neo-cha-cha version of “The Way You Look Tonight.” Diamond, of course, still has to cope with his less-than-elegant Brooklyn diction, so that “can” comes out “kin” and “longing” sounds like “longh-ghing.” And his humorless approach makes him sound more zombielike (as in “Puttin’ on the Ritz”) than Peter Boyle did in Young Frankenstein. Hardcore Diamond fans will love this album. The same can’t be said of hardcore fans of great film music.

Bottom Line: Alas, Neil can’t quite redeem himself for The Jazz Singer

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