It’s easy to pick on Neil Diamond, as evidenced by the high snark factor surrounding his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. “Hmmm. Neil Diamond. Reeeeally. Instead of (insert your candidate of choice here).” But listening to The Bang Years 1966-1968 reminded me that before he adopted that really annoying vocal tic (you know the one I mean-aaaaah), Diamond wrote and recorded some fine pop songs.
During his stint as one of Manhattan’s famous Brill Building songwriters Diamond penned some of the most beloved songs of his career, like “Cherry, Cherry,” “Solitary Man,” “Kentucky Woman,” and “Shilo.” Many of the songs from the Bang Records years inspired memorable covers: The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer,” UB40’s reggae-fueled “Red, Red Wine,” Urge Overkill’s “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon.” Even Johnny Cash sang Diamond’s “Solitary Man” while working with Rick Rubin. Diamond’s original versions of all these classics and more are restored to original mono on this release. Unfortunately, the sound is only fair; however, Diamond wrote the extensive liner notes himself, giving the reader a feel for how this scrappy Brooklyn boy made good.