Neil Diamond

The Best Years of Our Lives

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This album came when Neil Diamond was firmly entrenched in his adult contemporary niche. A/C can be so pandering it's insulting sometimes, but when it's done with heart and smarts it can be sublime. Diamond apparently gets that and for the most part makes adult contemporary that is actually for adults. It takes a master to croon "Cause I do believe in forever/it's a place that lovers find" without making the sentiment cringe-inducing. And Diamond pulls it off. Despite that, even he can't keep from sounding creepy when he sings, "Ooh, babe, you're a hot little number" on "Everything's Gonna be Fine." Both he and this album are classier than that, and once you're into the song it's undeniable -- it becomes a feel-good anthem, and it works. Diamond was wise enough to co-write a number of these songs with master producer/songwriter David Foster. Foster writes his share of pabulum, but when he's good he's great, and on this album he's in fine form. Diamond was also wise enough to tone down the production so that his rugged voice and the melancholy melodies are able to shine through. The Best Years of Our Lives is an album that is romantic and sentimental without being manipulative, and despite a couple of overproduced ballads that are outweighed by the other tracks, particularly the high-spirited and hopeful title cut and the subtle remorse of "This Time," it is a strong entry in Diamond's oeuvre.

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