Although Diamond's slick musical ways have earned him a reputation for being only slightly hipper than Barry Manilow, he's sure one hell of a songwriter. But Diamond gems like "Red Red Wine" and "I'm a Believer" all sounded best when other artists—UB40 and the Monkees, respectively—covered them. Blame it on Diamond's perfect diction and a go-for-the-gusto vocal approach that renders his man-size sensitivity fake and overblown.
And so it goes on the prince of pomp's latest release, an 18-track foray into country and western that was recorded in Nashville. While Aaron Neville and Dusty Springfield scored creatively with their recent salutes to Music Row, Diamond falters because the spare middle-of-the-road arrangements of such tunes as "Like You Do" and "Win the World" magnify the bluster in his baritone, which is better suited to the stately pop of "If I Lost My Way" and "Everybody."
Diamond has excellent taste in talent, though. His collaborations with Waylon Jennings, Hal Ketchum and the Mavericks' Raul Malo bring out the best—as in less bravado equals more—in him. But then on "Deep Inside of You," his guest pop singer Beth Nielsen Chapman is so sweetly fragile compared to Diamond that the whole thing ends up sounding like the Opryland marriage of Beauty and the Beast. (Columbia)