Here’s one that may come as a shock to most of you. A simple, beautiful, soulful ballad by one of the most popular … and underrated … singer / songwriters of all time. Neil Diamond is a great singer / songwriter undone many times over the years by his bad taste in arrangements and Vegas-y style. If you want to hear the most comically awful cover of all time, check out Diamond’s Vegas-y cover of “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables” … a song that should not only never be sung by a man, let alone in studly Sinatra-style fashion, but when you change the devastating last line of the song into something more “positive,” you’ve completely destroyed it.
Yes, I do enjoy Diamond’s bad taste stuff on one level (as do millions of others, ironically and non-ironically, who are devout fans). But Diamond’s album “12 Songs,” that he recorded with legendary producer Rick Rubin in 2005, makes me hate the fact that he ever put a sequined shirt. The arrangements are subtle and dignified.This is a beautiful, heartfelt, moving album of songs that highlights Diamond’s amazing voice, Just as he did with Johnny Cash, the Dixie Chicks, and many others too numerous to mention, Rubin has a knack for distilling what’s great about a performer, cutting out the bulls–t, and allowing people to be their best. Rubin’s collaboration with Diamond is an out-and-out masterpiece.