Diamond hasn’t touched a guitar in three decades. But for the surprisingly moving 12
this week, the legendary songwriter and Caesar’s Lake Tahoe veteran is
completely dialed in, finger-picking his six-string and singing as if he actually
means it, not as if he’s crooning for a convention center’s worth of Shriners.
Who do we have to thank for this? You guessed it, the man who gave us Run
D.M.C. and Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” that bearded audio alchemist Rick Rubin.
How did a guy who cut his teeth on acts like Slayer and
System of a Down coax a stripped-down album of unadorned ballads out of a
40-year veteran of the music business who could sell out Branson, MO, for the
next quarter century without setting foot near a studio? Perhaps he gave him
the hard sell: With Diamond's 65th birthday fast approaching – Jan. 24, if you
want to send a card – Rubin might have dropped a hint about canceling his
Medicare supplement. Whatever the case, it’s a bold move, even for a guy who
once signed Andrew “Dice” Clay to a major label and convinced Johnny Cash to
tackle the works of Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails.
it work? You bet. It’s been more than 30 years since
Diamond sounded as spirited and sincere as he does on “Delirious Love” and the
smoldering “What’s It Gonna Be,” which find the savvy sexagenarian backing his
familiar croon with a blistering slide guitar. So whether Rubin had to hide his
singer’s Geritol or subject him to indie-rock fruitcake Rivers Cuomo’s strict
diet of vipassana meditation – the same new-age magic that produced “Beverly
Hills”! – he’s accomplished the (almost) unthinkable: He’s turned a
sequin-shirted showman from the senior circuit into a relevant artist again.
Score one for the Rick.