Between the years 1966 and 1983 Neil Diamond was one of the most consistent hitmakers in American popular music. During this period he placed an impressive total of more than 50 singles on the Billboard Top 100 charts. All the while Neil was selling tons of albums and filling concert halls and arenas all across America. But I have always thought of Neil Diamond as primarily a singles artist. For years I have been waiting for a comprehensive anthology of all of Neil Diamond's biggest hits. The problem was that Neil Diamond recorded for three different labels over the years and contractual obligations prevented this from happening...until now. At long last Sony Legacy has mustered all of Neil Diamond's biggest hits onto one 23 track single disc collection called "The Very Best of Neil Diamond: The Original Studio Recordings". As the title indicates these are the original hit recordings you would remember from the radio. This impressive anthology reminds us that that Neil Diamond was not only a terrific recording and performing artist but was also an extremely gifted songwriter as well. As best I can tell Neil Diamond wrote each and every one of the songs included in this collection.
25 year old Neil Diamond burst onto the scene in 1966 with a tune called "Solitary Man". Although it was not a major hit the first time around (it was reissued in 1970) Neil Diamond grabbed the attention of the record-buying public and went on to have a series of hit singles on the Bang label that included "Cherry, Cherry", "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon", "Shilo" and "Kentucky Woman". These are fine examples of Neil Diamond's earliest work which was pretty much just Neil and his guitar. All are included in "The Very Best of Neil Diamond". By 1969 it was apparent that Neil Diamond was becoming a major star and he signed with Uni records which was owned at the time by MCA. Over the next five years he would have a string of Top Ten hits including "Cracklin' Rose", "Song Sung Blue". " I Am...I Said", "Holly Holy" and the venerable "Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good)". You will find each one of these and a couple more of his hits from the Uni days in this collection. I believe this was by far his most creative period as a singles artist.
Neil Diamond was on the move once again in 1974 when he signed a long-term deal with Columbia Records where he has remained until this day. Tastes change and pop music artists come and go but Neil Diamond was still churning out the big hits. Over the ensuing decade he would boast another dozen or so Top 20 tunes including "If You Know What I Mean", "Forever In Blue Jeans" and his touching 1978 duet with Barbra Streisand "You Don't Bring Me Flowers". All of these have been included here as well. And for added measure "The Very Best of Neil Diamond" also features all three of Neil's Top Ten hits from the 1980 motion picture "The Jazz Singer" including "Love On The Rocks", "Hello Again" and his rousing patriotic tune "America". You may recall that Neil Diamond starred in and composed the music for that film. Meanwhile, I was pleased to see that folks who put this package together saw fit to include one of my personal favorites "Red Red Wine" which would become a huge hit for UB40 in 1988. Finally, I feel I would be remiss if I failed to mention a tune from Neil Diamond's 2008 #1 album "Home Before Dark" which has also appears on this disc. "Pretty Amazing Grace" is just Neil and his guitar and brings him full circle back to the earliest days of his career. It is a great song!
"The Very Best of Neil Diamond: The Original Studio Recordings" replaces four different vinyl "Greatest Hits" albums in my collection. As I indicated earlier I was never really happy with any of the numerous Neil Diamond CD compilations offered to date. As soon as I spotted this one I ordered it immediately. Furthermore, I am very pleased with the remastering job on this disc and am particularly happy with the job done on the 60's Bang sides. A great disc for home, car or the office. Very highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Track Notes from Neil Diamond: 1. Forever In Blue Jeans — “Forever in Blue Jeans” was inspired by guitarist Richard Bennett’s wonderful opening guitar lick which he first played for me while we were out on the road. That guitar lick was so seductive that the melody I started singing over his guitar practically wrote itself. When we returned to L.A. we were anxious to get into the studio and put the finished (we thought) song on tape. After running through it with my band a few times, we all realized that we needed to add another musical section to make the record really work. We called a 15 minute break, right in the middle of the recording session, while Richard and I sat down at the piano and hashed out a brand new section with a lyric of its own (“Maybe tonight...” ). This new, unplanned section (instantly orchestrated by arranger Tom Hensley) would become one of my favorite parts of the record. Necessity really did prove to be the mother of invention on this wonderful Bob Gaudio production. 2. Beautiful Noise — I remember Garth Hudson of The Band sitting at his huge self built pipe organ and playing the solo of this record at the Beautiful Noise session. What he played completely floored us as he filled the musical track with an amazing sound that helped keep the record alive and interesting. Thank you Garth. 3. Love On The Rocks — “Love on the Rocks” was performed live for the cameras on the set of The ...