This review for Neil Diamond’s 29th(?) album was not an easy one to write. Having followed his career over the many years that he has been recording, I have heard that which I love and that which I cannot tolerate…and that which I accept. For some, the casual listening of a Neil Diamond album is enough, but for others who enjoy the entire lyrical and musical experience, there is a pause and a disappointment when not all cylinders are firing. On Home Before Dark, the cylinders stay somewhat powerless until “Don’t Go There,” four songs in.
Sometimes you have to look closely at the written words that compose a song. When you spend a lifetime attaching significance to many of the meaningful tunes that Neil Diamond has written, and then you come upon self-absorbed obsession with romanticized one night stands that began to permeate his songs later in his career, you become concerned. On “If I Don’t See You Again” there are seven complete minutes that attempts to romanticize a random one-night-stand between two random-chance people that winds up poking a little too deeply into the philosophy of unfound love and the psychology of a man left wondering. Soon, the song degenerates into some poor excuse for a love song that uses awful and cold phrases like, “…we’ve passed the age of consent,” and “we rode that train into the night.” This erodes the song dramatically. Likewise for the disintegration of a relationship that Neil has already explored with Barbra Streisand in “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” the duet (Natalie Maines) of “Another Day (That Time Forgot)” is not as poetically rendered as the former song.
“One Bite of the Apple,” and “Forgotten,” are excellent Diamond compositions that remind of the early years. With my undecided (I like it, I don’t…I like it, I don’t) “No Words” and the perfect “Home Before Dark,” this album balances the well done with the average, weighing a little heavier on the average. Personally, I’d love to see what Don Was could do for Neil Diamond’s next. Or how about T-Bone Burnett? Rick Rubin’s efforts with Neil Diamond on 12 Songs paid off in a very satisfying way, but Home Before Dark leads Neil down the path of mediocrity and we all know there’s better.