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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars they sure don't make albums like this anymore!
12 Songs is a rare treat this holiday season:Not another cynical
Best-Of cd to cash-in.Not another covers cd.And not cold studio-pop.12 Songs is music that goes for the heart in a very honest and natural way.And it does.

Neil's albums have lacked good production for a long time.Otherwise good rock songs softened into easy listening mush in the studio.But...
Published on November 30, 2005 by Mark H

3.0 out of 5 stars Neil Diamond is Good
I am not a HUGE fan, so I picked this up when a gal recommended a few songs that she thought reminded us of each other. They did.
Published 12 months ago by Andrew M. Ignash

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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars they sure don't make albums like this anymore!, November 30, 2005
This review is from: 12 Songs (Audio CD)
12 Songs is a rare treat this holiday season:Not another cynical
Best-Of cd to cash-in.Not another covers cd.And not cold studio-pop.12 Songs is music that goes for the heart in a very honest and natural way.And it does.

Neil's albums have lacked good production for a long time.Otherwise good rock songs softened into easy listening mush in the studio.But with Rubin,like with the 1976 Robbie Robertson-produced Beautiful Noise,a rock producer makes Neil shine! Neil's distinctive deep-bass of a voice and a natural way with hooks and melodies are not burried by orchestras and background singers.

also great are the lyrics.Neil Diamond hasn't run out of things to say at age 64.He has a whole life to reflect on.Lessons to share.Memories that are sometimes happy,sometimes heartbreakingly sad.And Neil is looking ahaid.If only more of his peers stuck in an elevator of pop standards would do the same.The lyrics are gutsy.

here is a track-by review rating of the 12 Songs

"Oh Marry"
a haunting death-ballad against a backdrop of creepy piano that gives me chills.I wonder who 'Mary' is.A metaphor?an angel?A lover from a long time ago?A pretend-lover in those lonely nights?the music?the song is so gentle yet so moving.

"Hell Yeah"
Reminds me of "Lady Magdalane" in that it starts with a guitar and brooding lyrcs,but grows into thunderous intenity and power.In a way,"Hell Yeah" is "I am I Said" over 30 years later.He found the self worth he was searching for.Found peace being lost between two shores.And even offers motivation and hope for listener to not be afraid to follow their dreams.Powerful!

"Captain of a Shipwreck"
"Fear no flood in stormy weather/Fear no fire if winds arise/
Flesh and blood, I'm yours forever/And forever,it never dies",a very poetic and pretty ballad.

one of the most beautiful songs I ever heard.The way the intensity builds and builds as Neil reflects on how and why relationships die is so powerful.

"Save me A Saturday Night"
the only song that sounds like it could have been written in Neil's Bang days.Has the same kind of vibe as songs like "I Got The Feeling Oh No No" and "Shilo".The dreamy organ and bells.The
beautiful words.I just love this song!

"Delirious Love"
the albums big rocker.But this time Neil rocks with just an acoustic guitar and minimal back up.The melodies and hooks are addictive.The vocals and lyrics express an exciting and fresh relationship.

"I'm On To You"
my favorite song of 2005-just so cool and jazzed-up sexy,even if the lyrics have the "Every Breath You Take" kind of vibe.

"What's It Gonna Be"
"One way or another,You need a new direction/Make a new connection/Hey, what's it gonna be?"
this song has the late-night-only-the-lonely-at-a-jazz-club feel.It is Neil facing his fears and doubts,and making the listener do the same.I love it!

"Man of God"
"Man of God" has a simple beauty that is mesmorising.Like Neil stopping at a southern church singing and making the whole congregation go wild!

"Create Me"
This song would not feel out of place in "Phanton of the Opera".It reminds me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull:The dreamer searching for a higher purpose then our daily boring routines.

"Face Me"
continues "Create Me"s gothic broadway vibe,a bitter goodbye ballad to an ex.

a piece of innocent ragtime-pop that could have been sung by Jolson in the 1930's.A heavenly closer.

I'm addicted to this cd.Actually look forward to getting on the train every morning on my way to work,closing my eyes and getting lost in this great album.I hope both Neil and Rick win a grammy!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just sit down and listen for this veteran songwriter has something to say., December 2, 2005
This review is from: 12 Songs (Audio CD)
Why do we like the music we like? Music is a very personal thing for some people. To judge a persons musical taste is like telling someone that you think their new bride is ugly. I have read professional reviews of this CD and they seem to be more about Mr. Diamond now being cool or being in with whatever is mainstream today. I like this CD because the song lyrics are very intimate and personal to the songwriter. The real life inspiration that created these songs is clearly reflected in each. Sit down, relax, put your headphones on and just listen to the music. This collection of songs is a quality effort from a veteran songwriter who still has something to say. Neil Diamond has been part of the American pop culture for years and whether you like him or not his music will live on for decades after he is gone. He didn't have to make this kind of CD for he really has nothing left to prove. Like I said before, just listen... you may find that some of these songs really hit home.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A man and a guitar, December 8, 2005
This review is from: 12 Songs (Audio CD)
A die-hard Neil Diamond fan might like this album from the first listen, but for younger music fans it may take a few repeats to get into it. The simplicity of the man singing to the accompaniment of a guitar might seem quite unusual in this era of loud backing music, but this is Neil Diamond, one of the few who can carry it off in style.

This is a slow, laid-back Sunday afternoon sort of album, with some of the tracks sounding like vintage Diamond of the "Sweet Caroline" and "Song Sung Blue" era.

Songs to take note of are "Evermore", "Delirious Love", "Hell Yeah", "What's It Gonna Be" and "Captain of a Shipwreck."

With this album, we can almost forgive him for that awful rendition of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", but unfortunately it will probably be best remembered as one of the last of the infamous Sony spyware discs, and that would be doing the album a great disservice.

Amanda Richards, December 8, 2005
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Listen to it three times and you will be hooked, December 1, 2005
This review is from: 12 Songs (Audio CD)
If you are a fan of the bombastic Diamond of "America" or "Forever in Blue Jeans" this album may not be for you. If you have longed for the Diamond of the classic album "Moods" and his earlier simple pop, this is a grammy caliber effort.

The best song from here is "Evermore."
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How about 6 stars?, April 12, 2007
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: 12 Songs (Audio CD)
Of course I'm prejudiced; I've been a Neil Diamond fan since I was a young teen... I had all his albums until I moved some years ago and had to regretfully streamline my collection of "stuff". I have since replaced all of them with CD versions and they are better than ever.

Neil has a powerful sense of melody - a certain taste for something deep, nostalgic and soul-full - and I always thought that he was never appreciated as he should have been. Even when they were B class, his lyrics still had a certain thing about them that is hard to describe. His "Done too soon" and "Coldwater morning" always sent an arrow into my heart. Yeah, I know that he went in for some really overdone back-up music but I just saw this as an untapped classical potential, and some of his stage performances were seriously criticized by the "snobs", but heck! He was having fun with it! What's wrong with that? Some of his music would be well-suited for orchestral arrangement and performance in my opinion.

When I heard about a new album, I was afraid to listen - afraid that maybe my impressions had been illusory and I would have to encounter a Neil Diamond who wasn't what I thought he was.

Well, I'm so happy I bought the album! It's more Neil, real and deeper and just being himself to the max. There are songs on this album that are so catchy that they are absolutely classic! It's as though he writes songs that NEED to be written...

I understand that the album is also the last ever performance by organ player Billy Preston, who died in June 2006. That's especially poignant when you listen to "Man of God" with the strong organ back-up.

The more spiritual songs such as "Create Me" and the above mentioned "Man Of God") are among my favorites.

For the critics of Neil, I say listen to "Hell Yeah".
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last - the Neil Diamond album I have waited for for 30 yrs, August 13, 2006
This review is from: 12 Songs (Audio CD)
I grew up with Neil Diamond and followed the majority of his career. His earlier songs and works still enspires me to this day with Hot August Night (1972) for me, probably the peak of his career.

Since the late seventies though, I started missing cutting edge Neil Diamond and he had less and less to say - almost as if he lost insparation and tried to cover it up with streamlined studio effects and artificial trimmings. His magical voice also did not come to it's full right.

What happened to Neil Diamond of Song Song Blue, I am I said, Canta Libre, And the Singer sings his song, (and many others)?

I actually stopped even listening to the more recent Diamond albums... until I was alerted of this new album by a good friend.

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Enspired though every song, Neil Diamond takes the listener through moments of hope and joy winged by his magical unforced voice that adds a golden touch to each and every one of the 12 songs. Why did we have to wait 25 years until the dawn of his career to listen to the old Neil Diamond magic again?

More raw, less refined, and unpretentious, perhaps more flawed in places, but staight from the soul! Twelve precious songs containing cutting lyrics telling the story of the artist coming of age after a long journey.

The album is an absolute must for every true Neil Diamond fan, and a good platform for new ones. Let's hope there is more where this came from for future albums!

In his own words on Hell Yeah:"He finally got it right, hell yeah he did". You surely did Neil, you surely did!

Long live Neil Diamond!
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Comeback Kid, December 12, 2005
L. Quido "quidrock" (Tampa, FL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 12 Songs (Audio CD)

Rick Rubin has been around. From rap and hip hop (LL Cool J), hardcore rock (Red Hot Chili Peppers, System of a Down), to the sound of legends (Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Mick Jagger) Rubin has lent his skill as a producer to a variety of sounds. (Rumor has it, he is producing the Dixie Chicks, next). Rubin's got an eye and ear for what rings resoundingly for each artist, no matter the genre. He was apparently eager to get Neil Diamond back in the studio to find the songwriter again. Diamond's songwriting skills have disappeared over the decades as he's turned to sequins, larger than life stages, big, big orchestras and an audience that has aged and aged.

I've never been a big fan of Neil Diamond. I recognize that he has talent (sort of like Manilow)but he seems lazy....simplistic lyrics and big arrangements, the same themes over and over. It blew me away when I first heard some noise about "12 Songs", and Diamond returning to his roots.

A friend convinced me to buy by saying it was the best CD he's heard this year. He wasn't far from wrong. Rubin apparently hammered it home to Diamond that what was real was his own guitar and some time taken to really focus and write the songs. And what they've achieved together is a CD that is surprisingly focused and thoughtfully written, and well-performed. Of course, you can get me to buy just about anything that features legends Billy Preston on the Hammond and Larry Knechtal on piano; but the real gem is the acoustics of Diamond's sound and the rasp and reality of his voice. Rubin adds musicians from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers and gives us a really strong sound. There are no bad songs in this collection.

There are two bonus tracks: "Men Are So Easy" (a ballad that's not a favorite of mine, because they aren't easy) and an alternate version of "Delirious Love" with guest artist Brian Wilson, who gives the tune an authentic Beach Boys feel.

The highlights?

"Oh, Mary" and "Hell Yeah", the first two tunes, seem to be gtting the most attention. "Hell Yeah" asks the question, "Will you ever take a chance?"...much as Rubin and Diamond did here...and the answer, most assuredly is "Hell, Yeah." There are some acoustic riffs in both songs that are as old as time, and as exciting as if they were fresh and new again. Rubin allows Diamond to raise the temperature in "Hell Yeah", making it a personal anthem....where he "finally got it right".

The CD lights up on track "6" with "Delirious Love". I prefer the first version, Diamond alone with no other voices, to the echo sounds of Brian Wilson in the extra cut...this too, would be picked out by anyone as a Diamond song, but unlike some of his 80's stuff, this song really does have heat, as well as some delicious guitar playing. "I'm On To You" is the lament of a man with a cheating lover....Diamond gets a jazz beat going in the song, and it's a nice flow from "Delirious Love". "I'm On To You" could be a jazz standard in the hands of a number of performers. Diamond goes country in the next track, "What's It Gonna Be", and again, the topic is a cheating love. The back to back positioning of both songs, with such different genres, sharing one topic, is pretty strongly indicative of Rubin's fine hand in the production.

In "Man of God" and "Create Me", Diamond returns to his spiritual roots. Preston is in evidence on the Hammond in "Man of God", on the opening riff, and particularly in the center break. Spanish guitar adds to the drama of "Create Me". It's a powerful ballad, not one of my favorites, but musically rich and full of the escalating word tracks that Diamond gave the world on "You Don't Bring Me Flowers".

The liner notes are Diamond's own words about this recording experience and a lot of black and whites of Diamond working in the studio. Would that they would have included the lyrics instead.

Certainly one of the year's best, and perhaps the best "comeback" album I've heard in a long, long while. Even if you're not a Neil Diamond fan!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The comeback album of the year, December 24, 2005
This review is from: 12 Songs (Audio CD)
This album confirms that Neil Diamond is a major talent and Rick Rubin is a genius.

This is easily Neil Diamond's best album in over thirty years. I've always believed that Neil Diamond was an immensely talented songwriter and superb singer whose abilities had been crushed under over production. I have no problem with theatricality in music, but all too often Diamond's frequently marvelous songs have been submerged in hideous over orchestration. The word that springs to mind in listening to recordings of some of his songs is: bombast. What Neil and his producers seem to have forgotten is: less is more.

Enter Rick Rubin, who understands better than anyone that less is more. Rubin performed miracles with Johnny Cash by getting him out of the clutches of the tasteless producers that have destroyed the talents of so many superb performers. Cash had never really done a great album, but instead had been a singles artist who was best experienced through collections and anthologies. But Rubin miraculously created some superb albums by taking away just about everything other than Johnny's voice and guitar. It was like separating the gold from the dross. Here Rubin performs much of the same magic. The songs here are as far removed from the gaudiness of "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" as can be imagined. The drama isn't entirely lacking, mainly because Diamond possesses an innately dramatic voice. But the overall effort is towards a minimalism that calls attention to the songs and Diamond's voice, much like his original recording of "Solitary Man."

This is a fine set of songs, which is somewhat surprising since its been a quarter of a century since Diamond heyday as writer of compelling pop hits. I personally loved the songs on this album the first time I heard them, but this in part was because I always preferred Diamond's less over-the-top compositions. I adore songs like "Solitary Man" and "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," but have always been put off by the increasing overproduction that afflicted his work as he moved into the 1970s. This album seems to correct everything that went wrong with his work after his initial burst of stardom.

Another pleasantly surprising thing is how superb Diamond's voice remains. At 64-years-old his voice is as strong and vital as ever. It has perhaps darkened very slightly (though he was always more of a baritone than a true tenor), but despite all the decades it retains a remarkable freshness. The strength of his voice makes one conscious of how very, very few strong singers are active today. It is hard to think of any singer today under 35 who can match Diamond or such contemporaries of his such as Tim Buckley.

Fans of Neil Diamond are going to rejoice over this album. Those for whom he is only a name from a previous generation are going to be delighted by what they find. Definitely the comeback album of the year.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell Yeah!, June 25, 2006
This review is from: 12 Songs (Audio CD)
the 2006 version of the classic singer/songwriter movement probably is not that different then that of the early 1970's.Neil Diamond still is rock n roll's outsider.Put in some ridiculous
Easy Listening catagory all while taking the singer/songwriter form of rock roll to some exciting and original and risk taking places.

12 Songs is a captivating listen that at times can haunt you.Both lyrically and musically.The opening "Oh Mary" first sounded like a simple love song.But with each listen,its many layers reveal themselves to the listener.Now the song is much deeper to me-the letting go of the one true love.Only to search for it years later in a form of a dream.What also makes the song great is Neil doing his own harmonizing.It gives the song a solitary feel.

While the music is stripped to its bare essentials,Neil Diamond is not the type of singer who likes to express his fears and fustrations in low key.Which is a huge plus for the music.Because there are a lot of gut wrenching "I Am I Said reprise" type moments on 12 Songs.But instead of "I Am..I said,I Am I Cry I Am....(string section takes over),now it is the "Why?Tell Me Why?Dont Know Why (string section takes over...for a while) in "Evermore".But "Evermore" is just as personal and powerful as "I Am I Said" was.So is "Hell Yeah".Both songs start slow and build and build and build in intensity as the stories build.

"Save Me A Saturday Night" is the type of song that is a perfect soundtrack at a bar before its closing and people drinking their last drinks.Just a beautiful song with beautiful words.And it even gives props to a Neil Diamond oldie-"I Got The Feelin' (Oh No No No)!

all the 12 Songs have something special about them-the way "Captain of a Shipwreck" FEELS like the story of two surviving lovers in a shipwreck. The jazzy sexiness of "I'm On To You" and "Whats It Gonna Be" mash nicely with the lyrical putdowns."Man of God" shows that Neil Diamond is great doing gospel songs that could make the whole congregation boogy."Delirious Love" is a great rocker to blast loud and sing along to."Create Me" and "Face Me" sound like something out of a gothic musical.All work great in the overall sound and mood of the album.

I also love the album's closer "We".The lyrics might be a little corny,but the bouncy beat and ragtime feel are great.An interesting album closer in that it goes back to a simpler time in music(and probably the narrator's life).After looking at the present and the future with unflinchingly honest eyes.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pre-Fab Diamond Hardly in the Rough and in Peak Form Thanks to Rubin, December 5, 2005
This review is from: 12 Songs (Audio CD)
What a genuine surprise to hear a Neil Diamond album that doesn't make me instantly wish I was listening to one of his golden hits of the early 1970's. An expert performer who still draws devoted throngs of baby boomers, Diamond has let his relevance as a singer-songwriter diminish over the past thirty years in favor of easy listening radio and lucrative concert tours. In fact, it's easy to forget that he hasn't done anything that has challenged him artistically since 1976's "Beautiful Noise". Enter Rick Rubin, a renegade producer who has done landmark albums for the likes of the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and most relevantly, the late Johnny Cash on his acoustic 1994 return to form, "American Recordings". The equally unlikely collaboration between Diamond and Rubin has yielded, hands down, one of the best Neil Diamond recordings ever.

Rubin obviously forced Diamond's hand in abandoning the performer's predilection for overproduction and variety showmanship in favor of a leaner sound that allows him to move toward a more introspective and resonant direction. Such emotional consistency over the course of a full album never reflected Diamond's personality. For instance, in the past, he could not sing a romantic ballad like "Hello Again" without including crowd-pleasing bombast such as "America". However, even with the tonal constraints put on him, Diamond still shows an unfettered knack for composing songs with compelling melodies and sharp hooks. The opening track, "Oh Mary", is a sweet ballad where Diamond repeats the title as a forlorn mantra. The familiar-sounding "Hell Yeah", "Captain of a Shipwreck" and especially "Evermore" (which instantly recalls "I Am I Said") showcase his theatrical sense within an atmosphere of intimacy. He expresses a palpable yearning on the pop ballad, "Save Me a Saturday Night", that aches with a slow dance tempo.

With its powerfully rhythmic guitar chords, my favorite song is the percolating "Delirious Love", which soars with Diamond's testosterone-driven romantic energy. "I'm on to You" brings a nice jazzy vibe to its finger-snapping tale of romantic deceit. The loping, country-twanged beat on ''What's It Gonna Be" reflects a world-weariness in the singer that makes the chorus turn into a resigned ultimatum to a straying lover. Moving toward higher ground, Diamond takes on spiritual renewal with the gospel-tinged "Man of God", and as an appropriate follow-up, Billy Preston's Hammond organ opens the touching "Create Me" as if it's the beginning of a church procession. A Mexican standoff between two lovers marks the romantic melodrama of "Face Me", which sounds eerily like the tumbleweed theme of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. The Dixieland melody of "We" is the closest Diamond comes to kitsch here, but he keeps it in check with the catchy lyrics. The core ensemble - Diamond, Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Smokey Hormel on guitars and another Heartbreaker, Benmont Tech, on keyboards - perform expertly throughout. This is a pop masterwork by a talent too long in the artistic trenches.
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12 Songs by Neil Diamond (Audio CD - 2005)
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