Picks and Pans Review: The Best Years of Our Lives

updated 01/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Neil Diamond

Diamond's approach remains astoundingly lacking in dynamics and subtlety. No matter what he's singing about, no matter what the tempo or mood, it sounds as if he had just walked into the kitchen, smelled smoke and is exclaiming, "The toast is burning!" with reasonable interest but hardly passion. This, his 19th studio album, is full of stentorian declaiming. In Hard Times for Lovers, which he wrote himself, he moans about how hard it is "making the scene" these days. In the title track, another Diamond original, he rises to the defense of the workingman and of women's rights in a general, pointless way. He comes closest to sounding as if he is singing about something on (not coincidentally perhaps) the only song on the album he didn't have at least a hand in writing, Tracy Chapman's Baby Can I Hold You. But most of the time this album sounds like a creature that has a hole where its heart should be. Producer David Foster and chief engineer Woody Woodruff captured the musicians' work with crystalline clarity. The brass section, with arrangements by Foster and Jerry Hey, displays enough power to knock the walls of Jericho from here to Timbuktu. Backup vocalists Renée Geyer and Tamara Champlin inject a few moments of emotion into the album when they're allowed to surface. The man himself, though, just drones on. (Columbia)

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