Two years ago, shortly after he married for the third time, Neil Diamond told The Times that he intended to write his next album “on the run.” He owed his new wife a honeymoon, he said, and she’d given him the OK to work while the two were traveling.
Judging by the love-drunk tone of “Melody Road,” Diamond followed through on his plan. “Marriage is not an easy thing / But look at all the joy it brings,” he sings in “Marry Me Now.” Elsewhere, the 73-year-old rhymes “what a little bit of love can do” with “took me to a place that I never knew.” Imagine scribbling in a notebook aboard a yacht somewhere; these are precisely the sort of lyrics one might create.
A shift from the gloomy austerity of his recent collaborations with producer Rick Rubin, “Melody Road” sets those optimistic thoughts against swelling arrangements lacquered with strings and brass — the secular-gospel sound, more or less, of classic Diamond hits like “Sweet Caroline.” Are these new tunes likely to move arena audiences in the same way? Nah. But Diamond sings as though they will. He’s still a believer.