Rolling Stone (No. 987, p.132) - 4 out of 5 stars - "...[H]e's as direct as he's ever been with his lyrics, which give them an extra poignancy...."
Entertainment Weekly (pp.140-143) - Ranked #6 in Entertainment Weekly's 'Top Ten Records of the Year' -- "Conor Oberst could take a few tips on song structure and understated vocal projection from the old-schooler comeback of '05."
Entertainment Weekly (No. 849, p.67) - "...[T]he singer's well-preserved, Corinthian-leather voice and softy strummed chords are the focus...." - Grade: A
Q (p.125) - Ranked #19 in Q Magazine's "100 Greatest Albums of 2006" -- "Diamond rediscovered the simple joys of guitar and voice..."
Uncut (p.66) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Responding to the intimacy of the settings, Diamond eschews bombast in his performances in favour of a melancholy that seems earned, even Dylanesque..."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.94) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "What makes 'Oh Mary', and much of this album so good, and in many ways shocking, is that it's all about the voice and the song....Consistently engrossing."
Lyricist: Neil Diamond.
Personnel: Neil Diamond (guitar); Jonny Polonsky, Pat McLaughlin (guitar, upright bass); Mike Campbell , Smokey Hormel, Jason Sinay (guitar); Benmont Tench (piano, organ); Larry Knechtel, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. (piano); Billy Preston (organ); Patrick Warren (chamberlin); Lenny Castro (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Greg Fidelman.
Liner Note Author: Neil Diamond.
Recording information: Akademie Mathematiques Of Philosophical Sound Research,; ArchAngel Recording Studio, LA, CA; Oceanway Recording Studio, LA, CA; Sound City Studios, Van Nuys, CA; The Sound Factory, LA, CA.
Photographer: Martin Atkins.
In the 1990s, producer Rick Rubin (renowned for his work with acts ranging from Run-DMC to Slayer) helped to reinvigorate the career of country legend Johnny Cash by bringing him back to the basics of his sound. On 2005's 12 SONGS, Rubin facilitates a similar streamlining with pop crooner Neil Diamond, a not entirely surprising move, as Rubin steered Cash toward covering Diamond on AMERICAN III: SOLITARY MAN.
The Brooklyn-born performer returns to his singer/songwriter roots, leaving the glitzy bombast of past outings behind, in favor of a warm, organic atmosphere that often highlights Diamond's own acoustic-guitar playing. This setting allows his emotive voice and distinctive phrasing to carry the tunes, whether he's pining away on "Oh Mary" or reveling in unrestrained affirmation on "Hell Yeah." Although many of the tunes are strikingly spare, there is room for contributions by stellar backing musicians, including Billy Preston (organ) and Heartbreakers Mike Campbell (guitar) and Benmont Tench (piano and organ). An assured album that features Diamond playing to his strengths, 12 SONGS is a welcome return to form for a beloved American pop artist.