The fact that this album makes me (never a Neil Diamond fan) want to take a second look at his immense back catalogue is a good sign. It’s his second disc produced by Rick Rubin, who worked a similar kind of magic for Johnny Cash. Sparse arrangements strip away bombast and pop trimmings, putting Diamond’s voice and songwriting at the foreground where they belong.
Beware of Cash comparisons, though. Diamond will never have the Man in Black’s powerful grasp of darkness, and without a bit of sappiness I would’ve thought I’d picked up the wrong album. This is understated folk pop, and as a result, some may be disappointed by the lack of big pop hooks. However, for those of us who always found Diamond overwrought and too extroverted, this restraint is refreshing and welcome.