DAVE RADSTOCK

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.

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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.

Thanks and appreciation to Dave Radstock for his invaluable and informative contributions