Neil Diamond transitioned from professional songwriter to performer when he signed with Bang Records in 1966. There, he cut two albums -- his 1966 debut The Feel of Neil Diamond and its 1967 sequel Just for You -- that contained his greatest songs: “Solitary Man,” “Cherry, Cherry,” “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” “Kentucky Woman,” “Thank the Lord for the Night Time,” “I’m a Believer,” “Red, Red Wine,” “The Boat That I Row,” “You Got to Me,” and “Shilo.” All these, along with the rest of the two Bang albums all presented out of LP order, are on Columbia/Legacy’s 2011 The Bang Years: 1966-1968, by far the best overview ever assembled of this crucial era for Diamond. It’s not just that these are Diamond’s best songs but these are his best records: crisp, lively, colorful pop tunes balanced by luxurious moody brooding ballads. Once he turned into a superstar Diamond tended to rely on his innate showmanship, but here at the beginning of his career he sounded hungry and knew how to have fun, giving these records a snap that still stings decades later. And Diamond knows just how good these recordings are, as indicated by the terrific autobiographical liner notes he’s penned for this collection, notes that give this music context, but they’re not necessary to appreciate The Bang Years: this is pop music that’s so pure it needs no explanation.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine