- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NEW YORK — Neil Diamond, who is releasing a new album next month and embarking on a new tour this summer, says both projects mark the best — and hardest work — of his career.

“This is the most technically challenging show that I’ve ever done,” Mr. Diamond says in a phone interview. His upcoming tour kicks off July 19 in St. Paul, Minn. and is scheduled to end Oct. 30 in Jacksonville, Fla.

The tour will include performances in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Houston and in the District at the Verizon Center on Aug. 5.

As for the album — “Home Before Dark,” due out May 6 — Mr. Diamond says: “This record represents a giant step in my evolution as a writer and a recording artist … you will see I’ve gone deeper. It was more painful to write this — maybe the most difficult album I’ve ever written, and maybe my best.”

For “Home Before Dark,” the music legend reunited with Grammy-winning producer Rick Rubin, who was at the helm of his critically acclaimed 2005 CD, “12 Songs.” Mr. Diamond, 67, says he felt more confident recording the new disc — but not because of its predecessor’s good reviews.

“Critical acclaim is always helpful; any kind of encouragement for an artist is helpful, but my music is going to be written or recorded with or without critical acclaim,” he says. “I appreciate it when it comes, but it will not stop me for a moment when I don’t get it. It’s unpredictable.”

Instead, it was the growing relationship between Mr. Rubin and Mr. Diamond that provided the boost.

“That first ‘12 Songs’ album was more of a testing of the waters and a ‘getting to know you’ album,” he says. “This one is ‘we know each other and respect each other, and let’s try and knock people’s socks off,’ and that’s what we went for, and that’s what we [did].”

Mr. Diamond plans to debut several songs from the CD on his tour, but he also promises plenty of his classic hits, which include “Sweet Caroline,” “Love on the Rocks” and “September Morn.”

“It’s always difficult to introduce new music in a show, but not this time around,” Mr. Diamond says. “This music suits itself perfectly for the show, and I think these songs will go over beautifully with the audience, and they will get as many hits as well.”

Mr. Diamond says fans will be wowed by the show, which includes what he calls “technical wizardry … we can do things on this stage that we’ve never dreamed were possible.”

Still, when asked to give details, he was mum.

“I can’t, because then I’d give it away, and then there’s the surprise factor,” Mr. Diamond says. “I want people to come and see it. You have to be there; you have to experience it.”

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