"The stage, she is the God-damnedest woman you ever saw."
So said Neil Diamond on the occasion of his first Hot August Night, nearly forty years ago at Los Angeles' Greek Theatre. It was likely that the leaves were, indeed, hanging down, and the grass on the ground smelling...sweet. Diamond is caught in an odd pose on the album's cover, deep in a moment. He's in a beaded denim suit predating his famous glitter shirts, his long mane of hair wind-blown. The harsh red lighting suggests the fire that was so imbued in his performance. Indeed, by the time the double-LP set arrived to its natural conclusion, "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," Diamond's voice was shredded and torn, but his passion was never more evident. Hot August Night just about defines every aspect of Neil Diamond, the musician and the entertainer. And as Diamond prepares to celebrate 40 years of Hot August Night with a stand that month back at the Greek, the original, seminal concert set is receiving a 40th anniversary upgrade courtesy of Geffen Records, scheduled for July 31.
Recorded on Thursday August 24, 1972, the evening preserved on Hot August Night was just one of ten sold-out concerts Diamond performed that month at the 5,000-seat Greek Theatre. The LP was his second live album, following 1970's Gold: Recorded Live at the Troubadour, with a lean, mean Diamond at his most rock-and-roll. August was successful stateside, but may have achieved its biggest impact in the land Down Under. In Australia, Hot August Night spent a whopping 29 weeks at No. 1 on the album charts, becoming the top-charting album there for the entire decade. (This record was broken when Dire Straits' 1985 Brothers in Arms spent 34 weeks at pole position.) Hot August Night also marked the end of an era for Neil Diamond; it was his final album for Uni/MCA, only his second label affiliation after he started his career at Bang Records. The very next year, he signed a staggering deal with Columbia Records, where he remains today.
In 2000, MCA premiered an expanded Hot August Night, adding three songs to the line-up: "Walk on Water," "Kentucky Woman" and "Stones." The 2012 edition adds three more songs and one new dialogue track. Hit the jump for all of the details!
Added to the already-impressive sequence of songs will be "Gitchy Goomy" (from Moods), Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" (from Stones) and "A Modern-Day Version of Love" (from Velvet Gloves and Spit.) A fourth unreleased track debuts Diamond's band introduction. This is the most complete version of the concert yet. The original LP liner notes mentioned that the guitar-slinging singer/songwriter was onstage for 107 minutes; the 1972 LPs ran for approximately 93 minutes, and the 2000 CD reissue upped the running time to 102 minutes. These four tracks certainly push Hot August Night beyond the estimated 107 minute mark! And indeed, Neil Diamond gave his all on this array of his greatest hits to date, from his opening "Crunchy Granola Suite" to the "Soolaimon/Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show" grand finale. These were the days when Diamond could put "Sweet Caroline" early in the set; another perennial, "Cracklin' Rosie," kicked off the final quartet of songs also including "Holly Holy" and, of course, "I Am...I Said." He was backed by seven band members and an impressive string section on Bang classics like "Red, Red Wine," "Cherry Cherry" and "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" as well as lesser-known songs like "Porcupine Pie," "You're So Sweet" and "Soggy Pretzels."
Neil Diamond has returned to the Hot August Night motif numerous times. 1986's sequel album Hot August Night II shared some of the same repertoire with its predecessor, but this time, "Soolaimon" and "Brother Love" were followed by "Heartlight," of all songs! That evening at the Greek, Diamond also introduced his version of the then-new "I Dreamed a Dream," from the musical Les Miserables! In 2010, Columbia released Hot August Night NYC on DVD/BD and CD, recorded at Madison Square Garden. In the Hot August spirit was 1977's double-album Love at the Greek, produced by Robbie Robertson of The Band and still not available on CD at its full length. Each album captures Diamond at a different stage in his career, but whatever the highlights of those follow-up albums (and there are many), none match the sheer, raw vibrancy and urgency of the 1972 Hot August Night.
Neil Diamond will celebrate 40 years of Hot August Night when he returns this summer for five more sold-out shows at The Greek Theatre. But even if you can't make those shows, you can relive the incendiary original album with Geffen's new, expanded edition. It's in stores on July 31, and can be pre-ordered below! And vinyl enthusiasts take note: a replica edition of the original LP will arrive on August 14, and can be pre-ordered here!
Neil Diamond, Hot August Night: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Geffen Records, 2012)
- Crunchy Granola Suite
- Done Too Soon
- Solitary Man
- Cherry Cherry
- Sweet Caroline
- Porcupine Pie
- You're So Sweet
- Red Red Wine
- Soggy Pretzels
- Gitchy Goomy
- And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind
- I Think It's Going To Rain Today
- Modern Day Version Of Love
- Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon
- Walk On Water
- Kentucky Woman
- Musician Intros
- Play Me
- Canta Libre
- Song Sung Blue
- Cracklin' Rosie
- Holly Holy
- I Am...I Said
- Soolaimon/Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show
CD 1, Tracks 1-11, 13, 15, 17 and CD 2, Tracks 1-8 originally released on Hot August Night, Uni LP 6641-066, 1972
CD 1, Tracks 12, 14, 16 & 21 previously unreleased
CD 1, Tracks 18-20 originally released on Hot August Night, MCA CD 088 112 330-2, 2000