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," Diamond said in a phone interview. His upcoming tour kicks off July 19 in St. Paul, Minn., and is scheduled to end Oct. 30 in Jacksonville. The tour is slated to come to the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa on Oct. 24; tickets are not yet on sale.
The tour also will include performances in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles and Houston.
As for the album — Home Before Dark, due out May 6 — Diamond said: "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. Diamond, 67, said 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 said. "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 Rubin and 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 said. "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)."
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 Morning.
"It's always difficult to introduce new music in a show, but not this time around," he said. "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."
Diamond said 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, Diamond was mum.
"I can't, because then I'd give it away, and then there's the surprise factor," he said. "I want people to come and see it. You have to be there, you have to experience it."