Neil Diamond: Dreams (Sony)

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Neil Diamond: Midnight Train to Georgia
Neil Diamond: Dreams (Sony)

After trying for the same late-career revival as Johnny Cash with producer Rick Rubin - to lesser commercial and critical success -- Diamond now delivers the album he has said he's always wanted to do: a collection of covers, including his own early song I'm A Believer made famously a hit by the Monkees.

Diamond is a man who always seems to take himself, and a lyric, seriously and often imbues songs with an emotional weight which some don't deserve. The result is that just about everything here has a gravitas (even I'm a Believer which is given a slow, almost word-at-a-time reading, and he doesn't sound like a man "in love" as the joyously redemptive lyrics suggest).

Which isn't to say that this is leaden, far from it: his almost Appalachian-style version of McCartney's Blackbird sounds like one of his own songs, and he does a fine version of Midnight Train to Georgia. And against the odds Gilbert O'Sullivan's existential angst on the groom-still-waiting Alone Again Naturally comes off well.

But he doesn't bring much to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and McCartney's Yesterday which hasn't been explored by many others. And on Harry Nilsson's beautiful, ironically real Don't Forget Me there is a failure of nerve when he substitutes "and when we're older, it's hard to get around" for Nilsson's original line "and when we're older, full of cancer . . . "

All of these song are beautifully arranged and played of course, and in a few instances that is the attraction. But his earnestness on every song makes for an album that is unleavened . . . so while not hard going (the familiarity of the songs gets you over the lesser moments like the laboured Let It Be Me) you wish he took himself and some of the music a little less seriously.

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