STREET SOUNDS: A ‘Bang’-on career

Forget the Year of the Rabbit or the Tiger and all that – it’s the Year of the Diamond! Or it should be, as Neil Diamond has had three releases within the last 12 months.

This begs the question: why another Diamond release? Well, they can be considered in categories. There are concert recordings, the infrequent new material recordings, the collaborations, and the ones like this – his hits.

Yet another question arises – why another Neil Diamond greatest hits record? There are two possible answers: 1. There really haven’t been that many (comparatively speaking). 2. Keep it in context.

As the album title suggest, this is a period piece, a very important period –– the years 1966-68. This is when Diamond was working with Bang Records in New York City, with their crew of brilliant producers, musicians and arrangers, after being dumped as a Brill Building contract writer. Also, this album is an “original mono recording” re-release.

So The Bang Years is the start of Diamond’s rise to super-stardom, after his hungry years.

It’s an impressive and comprehensive tracking of songs: Solitary Man, Kentucky Woman, Cherry Cherry, Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon, Do It, and Shilo.  Of course, there are many others (18) and not a dud in the bunch. Even the over-familiar butt-dragging, Red Red Wine comes alive in Diamond’s brooding  version of his own song.

The mono production sound is crisp and solid and serves Diamond’s songs well, and the arrangements and instruments jump out like a needle on a “45.”

Naturally the ‘60s are invoked; many songs convey the misty minor-chord introspection common to the era (Solitary Man, Love to Love) and all of them are exuberant and some are rarities (Someday Baby, Hanky Panky).

A curious fact is that despite the background, Diamond’s vocal never sound off or dated; an interesting characteristic from a singer noted for being an entertainer.

An answer to the questions poised earlier: Why not?

–– Dean Gordon-Smith is The Morning Star’s music reviewer. His column, Street Sounds, appears every Friday.