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Neil Diamond

Columbia

Like most sequels, Neil Diamond’s The Christmas Album, Volume II holds few surprises. The messianic, Broadway-scale delivery that Diamond brings to anthems like “America” is perfect for the overblown “Joy to the World” that opens the disc. Yet Diamond shines brightest when he is spared the effects of Peter Asher’s overproduction, as on his a cappella “Deck the Halls.” Most of the album’s carols are sung to orchestral accompaniment, and the few exceptions—most notably a faux-reggae “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on which Diamond attempts toasting, and a countrified “Away in the Manger” that features an accordion solo—demonstrate the wisdom of this choice. On the whole, though, this is a listenable effort. Besides, only a scrooge could hold a grudge against the man who wrote “I’m a Believer” for the Monkees.