Rick Rubin is treading dangerously close to Barbara Streisand territory.
His latest project is producing Neil Diamond, who famously sang “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” with Babs. The single degree of separation is likely as close to Streisand as the co-founder of hip-hop’s Def Jam is going to get.
Then again, who ever thought Mr. “Licensed to Ill” would make an album with Neil “Turn On Your Heartlight” Diamond?
The unlikely collaboration – perhaps rock’s quirkiest since Jack White and Loretta Lynn on her “Van Lear Rose” – is equally unlikely to disappoint. Rubin and Diamond rank among the top of their respective professions: Rubin as a producer, Diamond as a songwriter.
Rubin’s interest in working with Diamond allegedly stems from his production sessions with the late Johnny Cash. Rubin produced Cash’s “American Recordings” set of albums, which included a take on Diamond’s “Solitary Man.”
“Of course I liked what Johnny did with ‘Solitary Man,’” Diamond told the Washington Post in an article last month. “There were a number of other cuts I thought were extraordinary, thrilling and powerful. It wasn’t only ‘Solitary Man’ I got caught up in, so when you get a chance to work with someone like (Rubin), you don’t turn a blind eye to it.”
Spokane fans may get a chance to hear samples of the new album at Diamond’s Spokane Arena show, 8 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are available for $42.50 and $75 through TicketsWest, (800) 325-SEAT or www.ticketswest.com.
Diamond’s self-titled release, scheduled for a November release, is his first since 2001’s “Three Chord Opera,” the same year he and his music were featured in “Saving Silverman,” starring Jack Black and Jason Biggs, about three friends obsessed with the singer/songwriter.
Rubin has shown through collaborations with a wide range of artists such as Slipknot, Tom Petty and Audioslave that his platinum touch is blind to the musical genres.
Diamond’s catalogue – “Coming to America,” “I’m a Believer,” “Soolaimon” – puts him among the great rock ‘n’ roll songwriters.
Pairing one of rock’s greatest songwriters with one of its great producers is sure to turn a heads, but it’s anyone’s guess if Rubin can turn the sequin-clad Diamond into 21st-century cool as he did with Cash.
“I’m not sure if I had expectations,” Diamond said of the album. “I had a lot of hopes.”
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