50TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR'S EDITION
And so, after all the hard work, long days, shopping when I could, and more than a little stress in order to make the festive season enjoyable for loved ones, close friends, and not least ourselves, Christmas Day finally arrived, at last, a time to rest, and relax, and enjoy the day, safe in the knowledge everything was taken care of.
I rose early to prepare the Christmas day dinner, all the usual stuff, vegetable peeling, preparing the traditional turkey, with all the trimmings and making a home-made Christmas dessert, a beautiful seasonal brûlée, with dark fruits, flavoured with cinnamon, served with smooth vanilla ice cream.
I had left my partner sleeping whilst I got busy in the kitchen, after which
I relaxed with a cup of hot tea.
Soon enough my partner joined me, and after she had her usual morning cup of tea, the traditional gift exchanges took place, the usual gifts were there, toiletries, socks, there was a lovely watch, and some delightful aftershave. There was one package still unopened, a larger parcel than the others. I picked it up, it was obvious it was a book, or even a tablet, I tore open three layers of wrapping paper, and there, in all its glory was this most fabulous gift from my son and daughter....
NEIL DIAMOND: 50th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR’S EDITION
I couldn’t believe it! The gift tag read...
”To a most wonderful Dad, wishing you a very Merry Christmas... XXX”
They could have given me a gold bullion bar, but it wouldn’t have compared to this most special gift.
So what do we have here... ?
For Neil Diamond fans this 6-CD set is a must, nay, for music lovers everywhere, this is a must. This collection isn’t just another Neil Diamond Greatest Hits compilation, no, this is the definitive retrospective of his fifty years creating and performing music. Yes, all the famous songs are here, but so too are many other wonderful tunes, only usually found on their respective albums.
The packaging of this “Collector’s Edition” is something to behold, the whole set is presented in an outsize A4 Book, where the covering replicates a denim jacket, the 6-CDs contained within are housed neatly in the back three pages as though sat in the denim pockets, a great touch, which shows real thought had gone into the presentation. The titles of each disk are neatly printed on the back cover in a rich white font to make reading easier.
The front cover replicates the back of the denim jacket, with Neil Diamond emblazoned across the “Yoke” in a beautiful glittery silver print, the number “50” is displayed as though encrusted with Diamonds, which fills the centre of the cover. The title is directly underneath in the same style as Neil Diamond’s name, it is beautifully finished with Neil Diamond’s autograph as though sewn onto the cover.
The first real page of the book, after the title pages, features a beautiful picture
of Neil Diamond, from around the time he recorded his acclaimed ’Melody Road’ album. It is a foreword, where Neil delivers reflective, informative, and honest artist notes, talking of the privilege he has had in being able to create heartfelt music for over fifty years. His dreams and aspirations as a young man growing up in Brooklyn, New York, and how when he realised his dream, it was beyond even his own wildest expectations. It is eloquent, and touching, and is a beautiful entrance to Neil Diamond’s musical journey.
The following twenty something pages are a short tribute and biography of
Neil Diamond’s career to date. The following 30 pages are entitled: "Neil Diamond on Neil Diamond", it is as it says, Neil speaking about himself and his career in a question and answer scenario. The following pages are Neil describing the previously unreleased tracks, every page of the book is glossy and luxurious, and adorned with high quality images of Neil, many unreleased before, and direct from his archive. Absolutely stunning in their presentation.
There are some interesting tid-bits, one particular one which I wasn’t aware of, was that the song ‘Soggy Pretzels’ was made up on the spot on the night of the famed ‘Hot August Night’ concert of 24th August 1972…
“’Soggy Pretzels’ was written on stage during the show, it was a pretty bad song, but it was fun, and we were having fun with the audience.
Everybody enjoyed it, and I don’t think people realised that I was making that song up as we went along, somehow the band was able to play it along with me, they had no idea what I was gonna be doing. They were listening very closely to the guitar, and what I was singing, and I was thinking a mile a minute, trying to think what my next line would be, but ‘Soggy Pretzels’ was just for fun....”
The book gives fans and music lovers a chance to get to know Neil Diamond in more than a superficial way, and perhaps to understand why he is worthy of such a set.
Whilst the book portrays Neil Diamond on a human level, and tells the story
of his desire to fulfil his dreams and ambitions, the discs are all about, why
Neil Diamond is regarded as possibly the most prolific songwriter of the last forty five years at least, and also showcase one of the most definitive and recognisable voices in music.
Neil Diamond needs no introduction, a man who possesses an immense and natural talent for writing songs; it lives within his being, and his gifts flow freely and naturally. He is a giant within the music landscape, and the entertainment industry as a whole. Neil Diamond personifies the image of a worldwide superstar, glitzy, larger than life, as a songwriter, singer, and live performer, there are few who come close.
Each disc is ordered chronologically so as to present each song in the era they were written, and first performed/sung.
Disc 1 contains many of Neil’s early Bang label recordings, and moves into his UNI/MCA recordings. Each disc continues where the previous one left off, and brings Neil’s career right up to date with recordings from his last original album ‘Melody Road’.
Disc 6 contains twelve previously unreleased tracks, which add to the whole spectrum of Neil Diamond, and are worthwhile inclusions of the collection.
Every song in the collection highlights Diamond’s stylism, his ability to take themes from every genre and craft them in a way that fits with his oeuvre, there are absolutely no fillers on this collection.
There is nothing to criticise about this collection, its contents are comprehensive and stretch deeper than just the well known and often compiled hit tracks. It is arguably a collection which should have been released in Diamond’s 50th Anniversary year, which of course was before his unfortunate withdrawal from touring. It is a collection which finally does justice to Neil Diamond’s lifetime body
of work, a huge upgrade on the ’In My Lifetime’ box set of twenty years ago, which in itself was an impressive collection at the time.
Whilst I have written articles for many of Neil Diamond’s albums, I just had to pay tribute to this collection. To a lifelong and entrenched Neil Diamond fan, this is the equivalent of a lottery win, not for any monetary value, but for what it means to me. This incredible man has provided me with something to cherish, Neil Diamond’s music has given me a passion, songs which have inspired me, or cheered me up, or simply put words to my feelings. To the casual fan, and general music lover, they would recognise this as something very special.
There are many compilation albums of Neil Diamond which cover much of his early and middle career, this collection brings everything up to date, including Neil’s
Rick Rubin inspired work, and his last original album ‘Melody Road’, it is the definitive, ultimate, and complete retrospective of one man’s musical journey, a journey which will take the listener on a roller-coaster ride of emotions and styles.
Thanks and appreciation to Dave Radstock for his invaluable and informative contributions