Neil Diamond: The Bang Years 1966-1968
In the years before he was a mega MOR superstar, Neil Diamond was a struggling songwriter from Brooklyn trying to make ends meet, peddling his wares, being dropped from tiny labels and trying to survive on sandwiches from Woolworths. His story is chronicled in the booklet of The Bang Years 1966-1968 by Neil himself.
The 23 songs, re-mastered and presented here in their original mono mixes, are those first hits of Diamond’s career when he finally managed his big break by working with producer Ellie Greenwich and her husband Jeff Barry (writers of “Hanky Panky” and “Doo Wah Diddy” as well as collaborators with Phil Spector on “Be My Baby,” among others).
The album features tunes like “Red Red Wine” with its plaintive vocals and strings, the snare and horn-driven “Solitary Man,” and the jangly guitar, girl group backing (that’s Elli Greenwich on the handclaps and backing vocals) on “Cherry Cherry,” his first international hit. I am also quite fond of Neil’s rushed vocal delivery and the single-note guitar on “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon,” though I’m not totally sold on the few covers, “La Bamba,” Paul Simon’s “Red Rubber Ball” and “Hank Panky.” But the work of pianist/accompanist Artie Butler cannot be denied even on the weaker material, of which there is very little here.
It’s a real treat to have all this great music in one collection.