Neil Diamond's 12 Songs isn't quite the artistic rehabilitation we heard on Johnny Cash's American Recordings. Producer Rick Rubin had the idea of stripping each artist to his essence, but Cash's roots simply ran deeper and truer. Still, Diamond is a genuine touchstone to rock's Tin Pan Alley days, and Rubin manages to steer him away from syrupy pomp. Strumming and singing, he's backed by guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench. Just don't expect Neil Diamond and the Heartbreakers (or a return to his Bang Records days). The disc does offer a garagey pop tune with a whiff of the 1960s ("Save Me a Saturday Night"), a quietly agitated, jazz tour de force ("I'm On to You"), and other small but welcome pleasures.
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