Stream the new Neil Diamond

The new man in black.

Yes, everything you heard is true: with Johnny Cash dead and headed for his definitive silver-screen enshrinement, Rick Rubin promptly grabbed another washed-up legend, locked him in a room with a guitar, and made him write a comeback album, thereby saving Neil Diamond from a sad, empty life playing "Sweet Caroline" for tens of thousands of people a night and raking in gazillions of dollars a year. Lucky him.

Last we heard, Neil was still touring with a full band -- full as in, like, two drummers and backup singers and a couple of keyboard players -- but 12 Songs (hmm . . . almost a Fugazi reference) is stripped to bare-bones. There's a rumor that this is the first time Neil's played guitar on a record since his Brill Building salad days. It's got all that stone-faced, Mt. Rushmore-ized stoicism that made us fall in love with Johnny all over again back on American Recordings. It's got a little rated-PG vulgarity ("Hell Yeah"). It's got a duet with Brian Wilson. It's got a cowboy song by Glenn Danzig. OK, kidding about the last one. But you get the idea. Just one question: didn't Neil pull this schtick a few years ago?

And now, yes, Neil Diamond wants to friend you on MySpace, where you can also stream all 14 songs (not kidding) from 12 Songs -- albeit with the fast-forward and rewind buttons disabled, so you've gotta listen from beginning to end. So forget about rewinding to scribble down those death-defying couplets. You may think that's an inconvenience, but it beats playing the actual copy-protected CD -- which, if recent example is any indication, could very well be a Rootkit-infested trojan horse that will spy on you in your sleep.

LISTEN: Neil Diamond, 12 Songs (stream)
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