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ROCK

Neil Diamond

Home Before Dark (Columbia)

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Dean Johnson
Globe Correspondent / May 6, 2008

Three years ago, with the release of "12 Songs," Neil Diamond reminded the world that under all the sequins he is a serious and often striking folk-rock songwriter. Producer Rick Rubin was the mastermind behind 2005's stripped-down acoustic gem, and the pair has reunited for Diamond's new album, "Home Before Dark." This year's model is not quite as stark or stirring as its predecessor; the emphatic melodic thrusts and vocal bravado of "Whose Hands Are These" and "No Words" will resonate with fans of Diamond's adult-contemporary glory. But the album remains true to the organic blueprint that casts Diamond's gifts in a fresh, gratifying light. "If I Don't See You Again," the earnest seven-minute opener, sets the album's lyrical tone: love - newfound but mainly long-lost - as personal salvation. Clear-eyed nostalgia is no small trick, but on "Pretty Amazing Grace" and "Another Day (That Time Forgot)," a lovely duet with the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines, Diamond takes stock without bitterness or regret. The most gratifying tracks are the ones that sacrifice every shred of bombast to plumb Diamond's humbler roots. "Forgotten" smacks of the young pop craftsman who composed "I'm a Believer," while country waltz "Act Like a Man" reads like a memo to self - delivered in the humble tones of someone who hasn't given up on getting better.

Essential: "Forgotten"

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