Neil Diamond was born on January 24, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York. He is a great song-writer, composing most of his own songs, and some for others. Neil Diamond is actually his real name, but early in his career, he considered changing his name to Noah Kaminsky! He had written for The Monkees TV show, and also wrote the score for the movie Jonathan Livingston Seagull. He also starred in and composed the music for The Jazz Singer in 1980.
Neil Diamond has 56 charted singles on Billboard Hot 100, with three number 1 hits: Cracklin’ Rosie, Song Sung Blue and You Don’t Bring Me Flowers. He has over 60 charted albums on Billboard 200. Personally, he is one of my favourite singers. I have 48 Neil Diamond CDs and 19 LPs, including the collector item: his first album The Feel of Neil Diamond.
This latest release, The Very Best of Neil Diamond on Columbia/Legacy label reached #45 on Billboard 200. If you are a Neil Diamond fan, you probably would have noticed that in the past, his greatest hits usually included “live” versions. This is finally corrected in this set, with all the songs being the original versions in the studio. Secondly, this album actually covered three different labels: Bang, Uni and Columbia. His only association with Capitol Records was his soundtrack The Jazz Singer.
In this set, there are 23 songs, covering his entire career. The sound is very well remastered, as per usual high Neil Diamond standards.
Besides the music, the gem in this release is the 6 page booklet, with Neil Diamond writing the liner notes, giving us his personal insight into each song. This is a must-read. For example, Neil got the idea of Cracklin’ Rosie from a Canadian fan, telling him the story of an Indian tribe on a reservation in Canada, deficit in the number of women. This meant that those unfortunate single men would buy an inexpensive bottle of wine called Crackling Rosé to keep them company on Saturday nights. This wine would become their date for the evening, and they called her Cracklin’ Rosie.
As for Red, Red Wine, it was recorded just prior to his departure from Bang Records. After he left, the people at Bang Records began to release everything he had ever recorded, whether it was complete or not. In this case, they decided to throw in some violins to this very understated track and released it. Neil did not like this version, but swallowed it and moved on. Years later, UB40 released the reggae version of this song that went all the way to Number 1. Neil said that the fact that UB40’s record went to No. 1 helped soothe his hurt pride. He also said that #1 records have a way of making all the hurt go away!
He ended his liner notes by thanking all the producers, arrangers, musicians, engineers, who spent long days and nights in studios around the country to make these recordings vibrate and thrill. He also said that as a songwriter, he can only humbly bow down and thank them all from the depths of his heart for giving wings to his dreams. How touching and sincere!
There are 23 songs (their label, chart position and year included)(BB Pop=Billboard Hot 100; BB AC=Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart):
01 Forever in Blue Jeans (Columbia 10897)(BB Pop 20/1979; BB AC 2(2)/1979)
02 Beautiful Noise (Columbia 10452)(BB AC 8/1976)
03 Love on the Rocks (Capitol 4939)(BB Pop 2(3)/1980; BB AC 3(3)/1980)
04 Cherry, Cherry (Bang 528)(BB Pop 6/1966)
05 I Am…I Said (Uni 55278)(BB Pop 4/1971; BB AC 2(2)/1971)
06 Sweet Caroline (Uni 55136)(BB Pop 4/1969; BB AC 3(3)/1969)
07 Cracklin’ Rosie (Uni 55250)(BB Pop 1/1970; BB AC 2(1)/1970)
08 Play Me (Uni 55346)(BB Pop 11/1972; BB AC 3(2)/1972)
09 I’m A Believer (Bang 586)(BB Pop 51/1971; BB AC 31/1971)
10 Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon (Bang 542)(BB Pop 10/1967)
11 Holly Holy (Uni 55175)(BB Pop 6/1969; BB AC 5/1969)
12 Solitary Man (Bang 519)(BB Pop 55/1966)
13 Song Sung Blue (Uni 55326)(BB Pop 1(1)/1972; BB AC 1(7)/1972)
14 You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (Columbia 10840)(BB Pop 1(2)/1978; BB AC 3(2)/1978)
15 Hello Again (Capitol 4960)(BB Pop 6/1981; BB AC 3(4)/1981)
16 Red, Red Wine (Bang 556)(BB Pop 62/1968)
17 If You Know What I Mean (Columbia 10366)(BB Pop 11/1976; BB AC 1(2)/1976)
18 Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show (Uni 55109)(BB Pop 22/1969)
19 Pretty Amazing Grace (Columbia)(BB AC 30/2008)
20 Kentucky Woman (Bang 551)(BB Pop 22/1967)
21 Shilo (Bang 575)(BB Pop 24/1970; BB AC 8/1970)
22 America (Capitol 4994)(BB Pop 8/1981; BB AC 1(3)/1981)
23 Hell Yeah (Columbia)(uncharted a-side, 2005)
Neil Diamond has an illustrious career, a great singer with song-writing talents. He is also dynamic in his live concerts, still going strong at the tender age of 71. If you do not have his early releases on Bang Records, this set is a good way to collect his best releases during that era. You can listen to this record again and again…with so much variety and vibrancy, and never get tired of it. Neil is that good. The bonus is the insightful liner notes written by Neil himself…a must-read! Naturally, this set is highly recommended.
on 10 March 2014
I am a long-time fan of Neil Diamond although I don't like all of his output. This is mostly a charming album with all the classics on it, some of them reworked to suit his voice now. I do miss the depth and power of his voice when he was a younger man, but this is still mostly very listenable.
Not sure I would recommend this to people who are not already fans, think there are other more accessible albums.
I would recommend this supplier again.