It seems appropriate, in these dark and depressing times, that Neil Diamond like Elton John turns to somber Leon Russell, among others, for comfort with serious music that soothes the soul. The aging superstar once again delivers another solid collection of simply arranged songs that, as with his 12 Songs and Home Before Dark, reflects America in decline.
Dreams is his album of cover tunes, a personal selection of 14 of Neil Diamond’s favorite songs, encased in a handsome CD with a booklet, his brief introduction, and photographs. Songs include: Bill Withers’s lonely “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Russell’s gentle “A Song for You” and a more pronounced version of Diamond’s own “I’m a Believer”. Other tracks are written by Lennon and McCartney, Randy Newman, and Harry Nilsson. Everything here is in order, with guitars, horns, piano and percussion set to Diamond’s familiarly scratchy voice, and, with nothing to prove, he freely interprets these songs in his own way. Standouts include his version of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)”, which is more thoughtful here, and a beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, in which Neil Diamond sings a hymn to life in long, tender notes.