Neil Diamond is one of a rare breed. As a songwriter, his music has been covered successfully by artists as diverse as the Monkees, Deep Purple, UB40, and Smash Mouth. But Diamond used that three-chord alchemy to build an ... more »unparalleled career as a performer as well. The 38 tracks on these two discs address those interlocking legacies in the most comprehensive manner yet, gathering his material from Bang! Records (including such pop staples as "Solitary Man," "Cherry, Cherry," "Kentucky Woman," "Red, Red Wine," and "I'm a Believer"), Universal (highlighted by "Sweet Caroline," Song Sung Blue," "Holly Holy," and "I Am ... I Said"), and Columbia for the first time. And if Diamond has veered toward the middle of the road on those latter recordings (such as "September Morn," "Heartlight," and the Streisand duet "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"), there remains a remarkable consistency throughout his work. As if to underscore the point, a number of mid-period hits (including "Shiloh," "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," and "Soolaimon") are featured as live recordings from fall 2001. These performances show that the sweet roughness of his voice has only grown in power and drama; it's small wonder that Diamond remains one of the top live draws in the business. Even if it overlooks Diamond's unlikely late-'90s hit country album (Tennessee Moon), this set manages to be both concise and thorough, the best introduction yet to an American music legend. --Jerry McCulley« less
Neil Diamond is one of a rare breed. As a songwriter, his music has been covered successfully by artists as diverse as the Monkees, Deep Purple, UB40, and Smash Mouth. But Diamond used that three-chord alchemy to build an unparalleled career as a performer as well. The 38 tracks on these two discs address those interlocking legacies in the most comprehensive manner yet, gathering his material from Bang! Records (including such pop staples as "Solitary Man," "Cherry, Cherry," "Kentucky Woman," "Red, Red Wine," and "I'm a Believer"), Universal (highlighted by "Sweet Caroline," Song Sung Blue," "Holly Holy," and "I Am ... I Said"), and Columbia for the first time. And if Diamond has veered toward the middle of the road on those latter recordings (such as "September Morn," "Heartlight," and the Streisand duet "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"), there remains a remarkable consistency throughout his work. As if to underscore the point, a number of mid-period hits (including "Shiloh," "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," and "Soolaimon") are featured as live recordings from fall 2001. These performances show that the sweet roughness of his voice has only grown in power and drama; it's small wonder that Diamond remains one of the top live draws in the business. Even if it overlooks Diamond's unlikely late-'90s hit country album (Tennessee Moon), this set manages to be both concise and thorough, the best introduction yet to an American music legend. --Jerry McCulley
Kathy F. from MINNEOTA, MN Reviewed on 11/11/2010...
I love Neil Diamond. This CD has all the songs I wanted to hear.
WARNING: LIVE RECORDINGS
lostquark | Duluth, GA United States | 01/19/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I own just about every Neil Diamond album prior to 1995 (mostly LP's). I have been a serious fan since high school (late 60's).If you are thinking that this would be a good "Greatest Hits" album to have, think again.About half of these tracks are recorded from live concert performances, and many of those are of low musical quality. "Remastering" does no good when you are starting with junk to begin with.If you like "live" recordings (and we are NOT talking about "Hot August Night" quality here), then you may like this CD.If what you want is what your heard on the radio way back when, then half of this collection is going to seriously disappoint you."
I've Got the Feelin' (Oh, no) another rip-off improved
Brian O'Marra | Little Rock, AR USA | 12/04/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Neil's catalog is split across two labels (Columbia & UNI). The last Columbia 2-CD Anthology presented his original Bang material and his post MCA material, but since it couldn't license the rest, Sweet Caroline, I Am...I Said, Holly Holy and others were presented as live versions. No notation was given on the outside of the jewel case.This latest offering improves on that release somewhat (5 of his UNI material are studio versions), but it still presents live material from that ill fated predecessor.Which begs another question: Why is Shilo, live? Columbia owns the Bang studio version.The import Ultimate Collection remains the best bet. It contains most of the Bang material (save for Shilo), most of the UNI material (except for Crunchy Granola Suite), and all the essential post UNI material (Longfellow Serenade, Love on The Rocks, etc).Columbia, here is a suggestion: There is a comprehensive UNI collection remastered by MCA, why not give us a remastered Bang collection instead of this rip-off?"
If you're curious about this cd, read this...
lostquark | 01/13/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ok, so you're probably thinking to yourself, "What's the difference between this new greatest hits package and the others that are already out?" I already have all these songs on cd, but I'm a big fan of remastered cds and bought this primarily to see if the sound quality was better. I was happy to discover that this collection is the best sounding Neil Diamond recordings that you will find, even better than the "In My Lifetime" box set. On a side note, I highly recommend the MCA remastered "12 Greatest Hits" that came out awhile back. The sound quality on that disc is amazing. It also has much better studio recordings of "Shilo" and "Soolaimon" than the other versions that are out.Anyway, like I said, the songs have been remastered and restored beautifully. Here are the downsides of this collection. First, there are (yet again) more live cuts that are simply not very good. It seems odd to me that they can provide the studio recordings of "Cherry, Cherry" and "Sweet Caroline" but they choose to provide an older Neil singing live versions of "Play Me" and "Shilo" etc. Second, just like the "In My Lifetime" box set, "Hello Again" is not included in its entirety. The opening strings of the song (which I love) are cut out, which I find quite annoying. Lastly, there are some songs like "Be" that are not included but it's no biggie. Anyway, like I said, if you have most of these songs or just want to get a taste of Neil, buy this because the sound quality is the best so far."
Super Collection with 3 Must-Haves for Diehards
Trevor Gillespie | San Jose, California United States | 01/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since most of the tracks on this collection have been released previously (numerous times for many of them), I will focus my review of this collection on the new live cuts, more specifically Captain Sunshine, He Ain't Heavy, and the medley of Yes I Will/Lady Magdalene. Before I focus on them however, let me say that the studio recordings of Neil's greatest songs are all on this collection. Listening to all of these tracks, one can gain an appreciation why Neil Diamond is not only revered as a songwriter but as a vocalist. These are timeless pieces of Americana and popular music. The three live cuts that are noteworthy in this collection are songs hitherto, unreleased as live recordings. In fact, they are songs that Neil has rarely performed live until this current 2001-2002 tour. For me, they represent two things, one the strong writing skills Neil Diamond has even in songs that never became 'greatest hits' and two, the enduring voice Neil Diamond has even after 60+ years. 1. Captain Sunshine is a song from Neil Diamond's 1972 album called Moods. The song was put into the current tour as a tribute to a longtime band member, Vince Charles. The song is a beautiful tribute to the man. Neil Diamond's voice on this song sounds as youthful as it has since the early 1980's (listen to Play Me on this collection as a early 1990's comparison to see how his voice improved from the 90's to today). 2. He Ain' Heavy, He's My Brother is in Neil's current show as a tribute to the heros and victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the troops that are currently fighting for the U.S. What is particularly interesting about this song is that Neil sang it before it ever became a hit. In essence, he discovered the song. Although sung differently than the way the hit goes (I believe by the Hollies), the song emulates a feeling of sincerity and love. Again, Neil's voice is solid in this song, although he does tend to talk/sing a bit in places.3. Yes I Will/Lady Magdalene was put on this album, in my opinion, in response to the diehard fans that continually have requested that Neil sing this live in concert. Many Neil Diamond fans consider these two songs as Neil's finest compositions, and I concur. These two songs represent a more mystical side of Neil with lyrics that aren't as straight-forward as most of his songs. Not only are the words incredible, but the music is awesome. Neil sings these songs almost as well as he did in the studio back in 1973/1974. Truly this and the other three tracks are totally worth buying another greatest hits collection of America's greatest singer/songwriter.A living legend? Neil Diamond is, and this collection proves it!"
Fine assortment of hits and ballads even if you don't like a
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 05/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Essential Neil Diamond is an excellent two CD set that is attractively priced--what a value! These two CDs have many, many wonderful hits and ballads performed by the great Neil Diamond; and the sound quality couldn't be better. The artwork is nicely done as well. I do need to warn you that some of these songs are recorded from live concerts and that may or may not bother you. I think the live recordings are pretty decent but to each his own!
"Cherry, Cherry" really rocks with Neil Diamond doing a smash-up job on this tune! Neil sounds great and this is absolutely a wonderful number that's very strong as well. "I Got The Feelin' (Oh No, No)" has a bit of a country flavor to it that enhances the natural beauty of this ballad; and I like that very much. Neil's excellent diction bolsters his performance and the backup singers never fail him either! "Kentucky Woman" was a huge hit for Neil Diamond and that's great for all of us--it's a wonderful number that Neil shared with us! "Kentucky Woman" has incredible sounds that Neil handles with panache and it's truly a major highlight of this two CD set. There's also "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon;" this tender love ballad never escapes my mind and it's very pretty. The melody is very well done and Neil sings this with lots of passion to make "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" yet another highlight of this two CD set.
"I'm A Believer" rocks well as Neil does this cover song; the backup singers work wonders for this tune as well. Listen also for "Sweet Caroline;" this classic signature song for Neil proves his talents beyond a doubt--wowzer! "Song Sung Blue" stuns me with its beauty and Neil Diamond sings this with all his heart and soul.
Now there are some live tracks that you're going to love or hate. "Morningside" is well done and the sound quality is actually better than some reviewers led me to expect. Neil clearly enjoys a good rapport with his fans and that's great. "Brooklyn Roads" is another live track that I think works very well.
"Hello Again" from the second CD is a marvelous number that I really like; the piano arrangement is very nicely done. "Love On The Rocks" was never one of my favorite tunes but I can still recognize that it has quality. There's also a great live track of "He Ain't Heavy...He's My Brother." This number features Neil singing so well in concert--he needed no mixing in the studio to make his voice sound special! In addition, Neil does a wonderful duet with Barbra Streisand on "You Don't Bring Me Flowers;" this touching and moving ballad tugs at my heartstrings--it's all THAT good.
"September Morn" is another major highlight of this two CD set with Neil singing this flawlessly alongside a lush musical arrangement; and there's also "Yesterday's Songs;" "Yesterday's Songs" has that `70s flavor to it that still sounds great today! We also get Neil Diamond doing a great job on "Heartlight;" and the two CD set ends with Neil Diamond performing "You Are The Best Part Of Me." "You Are The Best Part Of Me" is a very touching ballad that makes a great ending for this two CD set.
Neil Diamond has enriched our lives by sharing his talents with us. This two CD set is a strong one and I heartily encourage this for his fans--as long as they don't mind the live tracks. Newcomers to Neil Diamond would do well to start with this two CD set. "