Neil Diamond was on the cusp of discovering a new genre with his second album, which perfectly straddled early- and mid-'60s Brill Building teen pop and the as-yet-unidentified (and unnamed) singer/songwriter genre. The production is as smooth and crisp (and solidly commercial) as anything ever to come from the renowned hit factory at 49th and Broadway by way of the Monkees, Little Eva, the Raindrops, et al. But unlike his debut LP, this time out every song (including two carried over from his debut) is a Diamond original, and his voice and delivery are a lot more sophisticated -- on "The Long Way Home," "Red, Red Wine," etc., he sounds like he's living the lyrics, but in a more personal manner than, say, Tom Jones or Engelbert Humperdinck -- and as they are Diamond's lyrics, the effect is natural rather than any performing artifice. Some of the slickness obviously flattens out what might have been some more personal edges to the songs: it would have been (and still would be) interesting to hear Diamond take the best of these songs and reinterpret them in the studio later in his career, when he had more to say and more control over how they were treated. And to be fair, a few, such as "You'll Forget," are a bit on the generic and trivial side (but are still eminently listenable, and solid pop/rock). Oddly enough, Diamond's then-current big hit "Kentucky Woman" isn't present here, though a pair of successes from the previous year, "Cherry Cherry" and "Solitary Man" (probably getting a second go-round because its serious emotions fit in this setting better than they did on the debut album), are aboard. But somewhat eclipsing them and everything else here, for the attentive listener, is a song and a performance that show Diamond rising to a new level as a musician and composer: "Shilo." His most personal song of this era, it represented the opening of a new chapter in his career, but one that Bang Records' chief Bert Berns was unwilling to turn the page to open, as he believed the company was better served by keeping Diamond identified with catchy pop/rock aimed at teenagers 16 and under, not deeply personal, confessional lyrics that might not appeal to them. Berns' refusal to release the song as a single led to a rift between Diamond and the label which, following Berns' death from a heart attack at the end of 1967, ended the singer's relationship with the company. Listening to the song tucked neatly into the middle of side two of this album, it still sounds like it exists on a whole different plane from anything else here. It was a deal-ender between Diamond and Bang, but also a career-maker in terms of getting him to a place where he could advance to his full potential.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder