Neil Diamond

50

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Designed as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Neil Diamond's first hit -- "Solitary Man," which made it to 55 in 1966, with "Cherry, Cherry" rocketing to number six not long afterward -- the triple-disc set 50 is the latest in a long line of compilations of Diamond hits. Most of these are single-disc sets, so the best comparison for 50 is 1996's In My Lifetime, another triple-disc box. 50 is constrained a bit by its concept, containing 50 songs over three discs, whereas In My Lifetime featured a whopping 71 -- 36 of which are here on 50. Those are all the standards -- the hits from "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" through "Heartlight" -- which means that what distinguishes 50 is the odd early song that probably should've been on In My Lifetime ("Glory Road") and a wealth of songs from Diamond's 21st century records, including the Rick Rubin-produced 12 Songs and Home Before Dark. All this makes 50 a more thorough overview than In My Lifetime, which is enough to recommend it, but that older box has a slight edge, as it contains a more generous selection of Diamond at his prime.

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