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[Off The Record]
Stars graphics
Neil Diamond
THREE CHORD OPERA
(COLUMBIA)

The cover tells the story: a solitary man with a guitar and a snarl wearing a jacket of black leather. It may be Rodeo Drive black leather, but you canít judge a man by where he shops. For 30 years this particular man in black ó Neil Diamond, that is ó has made a very good living doing concerts that are a peculiar mix of bombast and sanctimony, and heís remained immensely popular with an older, older crowd.

On Three Chord Opera heís back to doing what he once did best, which is writing personal, poignant pop songs. With production by the always sensible Peter Asher, restraint rules, in the pleasingly sparse arrangements, in the concise lyrics, and in Diamondís controlled delivery. Even " I Believe in Happy Endings, " a by-design showstopper he might once have ridden over a cliff, has a restrained majesty, more Sir Elton John, less Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. " At the Movies " is clever popcorn seen through the nostalgic prism of Brooklyn rather than the cynical realism of Diamondís own big-screen disaster The Jazz Singer. Three Chord Opera brings Neil back to where he once belonged, before he veered off the Brooklyn roads for the ambivalent rewards of Hollywood. Can he still craft a polished, pleasing three-minute pop song? Iím a believer.

BY WAYNE ROBINS

Issue Date: August 23 - 30, 2001





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