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Album Review

Dreamy covers from Diamond

November 1, 2010

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Unlike many artists of his generation, Neil Diamond still pumps out original music; witness his fine singer-songwriter records with producer Rick Rubin in recent years. So Diamond can be excused an occasional covers album, especially when it is as strong as his new “Dreams,’’ in which he smoothly interprets some of his favorite tracks from the rock era. Don’t expect any AC/DC or Van Halen, but instead revel in Diamond’s casually resonant baritone as he breathes new life into tunes by the Beatles, Randy Newman, the Everly Brothers, and others who have deeply affected him. This album is flush with easy-listening ballads, but they are often wondrously rearranged by Diamond, who continues to be a restless experimenter. The Beatles’ “Blackbird’’ is transformed with fiddle and an Appalachian feel. Newman’s “Feels Like Home’’ is buttressed by Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles on high harmonies. Diamond later does the Eagles’ “Desperado’’ (without Schmit), turning it into a spiritual missive on aging, a subject near and dear since Diamond soon turns 70. Another song exploring this territory is Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me,’’ which also received a worthy treatment by Neko Case not long ago. Most of the tracks have a spare, acoustic sound, as though this were a hushed, fireside performance. And it’s never dull. Diamond adds fresh inspiration to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah’’ and even finds new ways to interpret hoary chestnuts such as Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine’’ and Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.’’ (Out tomorrow)

STEVE MORSE

ESSENTIAL “Hallelujah’’