Surely the fate of Neil Diamond's last album, 12 Songs, must rank high on the list of incidents in which artists get royally screwed by their record company. Diamond recorded 12 Songs with producer Rick Rubin, the same guy who managed to land Johnny Cash on the best-seller list, wrote his best bunch of songs in years, and generally put his heart and soul into recording the album. Music critics went nuts, and for the first time ever Neil Diamond was cool (okay, anyone who has ever heard Hot August Night knows that Neil Diamond has always been cool, but suddenly nobody felt the need to keep that fact a deeply shameful secret).
Diamond seemed poised for the kind of late career renaissance that Cash, Dylan and others had experienced when the album debuted at #4 on Billboard Top 200 Album Chart. There was just one problem, the geniuses at Sony/BMG put a program on the CDs that prevented people from ripping the music to their computers (unless they owned a Mac). Worse than just being an unpopular copy-protection scheme, the program was actually malicious (and illegal) spy-ware. So just as Diamond was receiving tons of love from the critical establishment and fans were looking for his new album at Wal-Mart, it was pulled from the shelves and unavailable for weeks.
Diamond, who was unaware of Sony/BMG's plans for his CD, was reportedly devastated by the catastrophe that resulted from this idiotic, and ultimately doomed, scheme. I hope a better fate awaits Diamond's latest collaboration with Rubin, Home Before Dark.