In January of this year, Neil Diamond ended his 40+-year association with Columbia Records, decamping to Universal Music Group’s Capitol label along with his complete Bang and Columbia masters. The deal united Diamond’s Uni catalogue with the Bang and Columbia material that bookended it, bringing the legendary performer’s complete recordings under one roof. Tomorrow, the first results of the new Capitol deal will arrive in stores. Expectedly, it’s a single-disc retrospective intended to replace the deleted Columbia/Legacy release The Very Best of Neil Diamond. That was the first 1-CD anthology to contain music from all of Diamond’s label affiliations; past compilations had either concentrated on one label or substituted live songs for tracks not controlled by that label. All-Time Greatest Hits naturally follows suit. In fact, 19 of the 23 tracks on the new collection from the Kennedy Center Honoree and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer are identical.
As with The Very Best, All-Time Greatest Hits attempts to prune the prolific artist’s catalogue of over 30 studio albums (16 of which went Top 10) and over 50 charting singles (37 of which went Top 10). All of Diamond’s No. 1 singles are represented: 1970’s “Cracklin’ Rosie,” 1972’s “Song Sung Blue” and 1978’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” However, there’s one key difference here. Whereas The Very Best included the chart-topping duet of “Flowers” with Barbra Streisand, All-Time Greatest instead features Diamond’s original solo version of the song he co-wrote with Alan and Marilyn Bergman. There are eight more Top 10 singles on All-Time Greatest, spanning the period between 1966’s “Cherry, Cherry” and 1980’s “Hello, Again,” “Love on the Rocks” and “America,” all from the soundtrack to The Jazz Singer (Diamond’s lone previous release on Capitol).
Diamond’s tenure at Bert Berns’ New York-based Bang Records is covered with seven songs produced by the legendary Brill Building team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich; the music of this rich period (recently anthologized by Legacy as The Bang Years: 1966-1968) remains the cornerstone of Diamond’s career, with such titles as “I’m a Believer” and “Red Red Wine” (both of which scored hit versions by other artists), “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” and “Kentucky Woman.” From Bang, Diamond moved to even bigger successes the Uni label. Good times never felt so good as songs like “Sweet Caroline” and “Cracklin’ Rosie,” though Diamond also mined more introspective, moody material like “Play Me” and imbued “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” and “Holly Holy” with spiritual fervor.
From Uni, it was onto Columbia Records. The singer-songwriter’s initial Columbia release, 1973’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, was the soundtrack to Hall Bartlett’s adaptation of Richard Bach’s novella of the same title. Diamond’s Grammy- and Golden Globe-winning soundtrack hit No. 2 on the pop albums chart and reportedly earned more than the film itself! Though no tracks from Seagull have made the cut here, Diamond was off and running. 1976’s Beautiful Noise teamed him with The Band’s Robbie Robertson; its title song appears on the new compilation. Shortly thereafter, Diamond began a collaboration with The Four Seasons’ producer Bob Gaudio, who guided Diamond through hits like “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” “September Morn” (also included here) and the Jazz Singer score.
Though Diamond’s pace hardly slowed up, the 1980s aren’t represented on the new set beyond The Jazz Singer. 1982’s “Heartlight” (co-written with Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, and unfortunately not heard here) was his final Top 5 pop hit, but Diamond remained a concert draw and a popular recording artist. His “comeback” albums produced by Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers), 2005’s 12 Songs and 2008’s Home Before Dark, scored him some of the biggest acclaim of his career, as he returned to writing solo and playing his guitar. Home Before Dark must have been a particularly sweet victory for Diamond when he scored his first-ever No. 1 album! Diamond continued Rubin’s stark, stripped-down approach with 2010’s self-produced Dreams, a collection of cover songs largely written by Diamond s contemporaries.)
After the jump, we have more details including the complete track listing with discography!
What’s missing from All-Time Greatest Hits? Compared to The Very Best, this disc drops Easy Listening chart-topper “If You Know What I Mean” as well as the Rubin-produced comeback tracks “Pretty Amazing Grace” and “Hell Yeah.” In their place, it adds “September Morn” (No. 17 Pop, No. 2 AC, 1979), “Soolaimon” (No. 30 Pop/No. 5 AC, 1970) and, most oddly, “Morningside” from 1972’s Moods. Fans might lament the absence of “Longfellow Serenade,” “Heartlight,” “Be,” “Desiree” and “Brooklyn Roads,” to name just a few beloved songs that didn’t make the cut either here or on The Very Best.
Capitol’s release of All-Time Greatest Hits arrives in stores tomorrow, July 8. The label is also promising a new album of original material – Diamond’s first since 2008 – this fall. In the meantime, those interested can order the new compilation below!
- Cracklin’ Rosie
- Forever in Blue Jeans
- Song Sung Blue
- Sweet Caroline
- Holly Holy
- Red Red Wine
- Hello Again
- Beautiful Noise
- September Morn
- Love on the Rocks
- You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (Solo)
- Play Me
- Kentucky Woman
- Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon
- Solitary Man
- I’m a Believer
- Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show
- Cherry Cherry
- I Am, I Said
Tracks 1 & 15 from Tap Root Manuscript, Uni 73092, 1970
Track 2 from You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Columbia FC 35625, 1978
Tracks 3, 14 & 16 from Moods, Uni 93136, 1972
Tracks 4 & 21 from Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, Uni 73047, 1969
Track 5 from Touching You…Touching Me, Uni 73071, 1969
Tracks 6, 12, 17-18 & 20 from Just for You, Bang BLP-217, 1967
Tracks 7, 9 & 11 from The Jazz Singer, Capitol SWAV-12120, 1980
Track 10 from September Morn, Columbia FC 36121, 1979
Track 13 from I’m Glad You’re Here with Me Tonight, Columbia PC 34990, 1977
Tracks 19 & 22 from The Feel of Neil Diamond, BLP-214, 1966
Track 23 from Stones, Uni 93106, 1971