Neil Diamond’s long, serious career

Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker:

10101908Nothing is funny in Diamond’s songs. They can be inexplicably grave and mysteriously worded, even at their sunniest and most catchy. The best ones sound like the pleas of a love-struck man from another place—perhaps a small Eastern European city—who has an unusual gift for melody but who grew up not speaking English. “ ‘I am,’ I said, to no one there, and no one heard at all, not even the chair,” is a typically opaque lyric. Diamond’s new album, “12 Songs,” which was produced by Rick Rubin, exhibits both his chivalrous approach to romance and his awkwardly phrased enthusiasms, qualities that have been evident since the start of his forty-five-year career. Happily, Rubin reins in Diamond’s floridity more than any other producer he has worked with since the sixties, highlighting the weird mixture of guilelessness and gravitas at the center of his work.

Diamond, who grew up in Brooklyn, began writing songs and making records in the late nineteen-fifties, while attending New York University on a fencing scholarship.

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