GREATEST HITS ALBUMS
Is there another artist who has more greatest hits compilations than Neil Diamond? Every so often a new release is issued containing Neil’s greatest songs, some are repackaged copies of older issues, where others are wholly new releases, claiming to contain those songs which are regarded as
Neil Diamond’s finest, and yet there are startling omissions in some of them. It is hard to say which one is the definitive greatest hits package of Neil Diamond. This series is going to showcase those albums which lay claim to be the greatest, Greatest Hits album.
For over fifty years, Neil Diamond has been the people’s singer. From his early days as a Brill Building songwriter for hire, to his presence in arenas all over the world, Diamond has shared his catchy, hard to classify songs with the masses. It wasn’t unusual to see two or more generations of family attending his shows together. Neil Diamond was the consummate performer, giving his all, night after night. His fans are unashamedly devoted to the man, and grew up with his songs as the background music to their lives. For his younger fans, he’s a kind of a guilty secret.
The styles in the collection vary from Flamenco influenced torch songs, to straight pop, to country, and gospel. It becomes clear to the listener why the songs that became hits did so, while much of the rest were left to obscurity, which isn’t to undermine the quality of those songs, many of the non-hits have a particular charm, but few of them could have cracked the charts. There are a few curiosities, even for a musical chameleon like Diamond, made more curious when placed in the context of the time period.
Neil Diamond started out as a singles writer, and I believe that is what he will always be known for. For every inspired album track, there was a lesser uneven one. For an insight into Diamond’s early days, this is a valuable musical document of that time; this is a very comprehensive collection. The debate about whether Neil Diamond is hip or not is irrelevant, I find him to be rather hip actually, he has never gone out of style.
PLAY ME: The Complete UNI Studio Recordings...Plus!
This is a collection of 74 songs from that prolific 1968-73 era, where he was regarded as the finest songwriter around. These songs showcase Diamond’s vast eclectic style, with songs from various genres and also highlight Diamond’s ability as an interpreter of other songwriters' songs. All the massive hits from that era are included, 'Sweet Caroline’, ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’, ‘Holly Holy’, ‘Play Me’ etc... but more than that, there are a lot of absolute gems which mark Diamond out as a unique stylist.
Many of the songs are typical of that natural ability. The opening track
'Two Bit Manchild', is a wonderfully bluesy number, sung with that unmistakable rock orientated style that was Diamond’s trademark back then. This is followed by the gorgeous ‘A Modern Day Version Of Love’. If ever a song should have been a hit, this was it, one of those deep love ballads that Neil was a master of; its clever lyrics speaking of love from afar, and the longing for an intimate encounter.
There are many songs on this collection that showed why Neil Diamond was as hot as a pistol, and in much demand.
‘Juliet’, ‘Long Gone’, ‘Ain’t No Way’, ‘Merry Go Round’, ‘Smokey Lady’,
‘If I Never Knew Your Name’, and why ‘Glory Road’ was never a hit, is hard to fathom.
Neil Diamond never tried to be Elvis, or John Lennon, he played it as straight as any artist ever has, and done it with great style.
Neil Diamond lived to entertain. These days he is so far removed from his biggest hits, and the songs on this collection, that he could easily have been dismissed as an oldies act, still cashing in on past glories, but Diamond always transcended that in every aspect of his career, as a performer, singer, and songwriter. For the hip and non-hip alike, Diamond always let the music do the talking, and everyone was welcome.
Long before the Jazz Singer, and before those late 70s smashes, ‘Forever In Blue Jeans’, ‘September Morn’, and ‘Beautiful Noise’, this was the holy grail of Neil Diamond’s output, a time when Diamond was the king of romance, of wistful love songs, and undeniably the finest songwriter of the era, that each of the tracks on this collection is regarded as an all time standard is a measure of, and testimony to the brilliance of the work.
All those mega hits are here, ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘Cracklin Rosie’, ‘Holly Holy’, ‘Cherry Cherry’, ‘Play Me’, ‘Song Sung Blue’. These are complimented further by many more classic standards, ‘Shilo’,’ Kentucky Woman’, ‘Solitary Man’, every song hits the mark and is a veritable ride of nostalgia.
NEIL DIAMOND 20 GOLDEN GREATS
This was the first greatest hits collection of Neil Diamond I bought. I purchased the tape cassette version, and to this day I still believe it is the definitive Greatest Hits Collection of Neil Diamond.
The album cover instantly grabs your attention, a jet black cover with Neil Diamond’s name spelled out in encrusted diamonds, glittering beneath the gold album title. There is a monochrome image of Neil in trademark pose, arm outstretched in that iconic, emotive stance, a perfect example of less is more.
The title is just as emotive as the image, “20 Golden Greats”, it conjures up majesty, greatness, and the ultimate work of the artist, articulating that there is something uniquely special contained within, and so there is...
During the time these songs were written, Neil Diamond sat atop the music landscape as the number one artist, both recording, and performance. This album showcases the innate ability to write heartfelt songs, of life and love.
The album was released in 1978 and is a ride through a young troubadour's musical journey. The songs are presented in their purest form, as they were originally intended, free from any bombast they may have acquired over the years, and showcase Neil Diamond as a stylist, romanticist and poetic wordsmith. It is a musical nirvana, where every song sparkles as brightly as those Diamonds glittering on the album cover.
Gorgeous True Believer, Anneke van Aalderen was fortunate to catch up with King Errisson in Amsterdam in 2017. King was there for Neil Diamond's 50th Anniversary World Tour.
Photo by kind permission and courtesy of Anneke van Aalderen
Thanks and appreciation to Dave Radstock for his invaluable and informative contributions