Although it was not an event that was repeated at any other time in my youth, in 1979 my parents took me to my first concert.
It was Neil Diamond on The Jazz Singer tour.
While I don’t remember much of the concert itself, I do remember forcing my Mom to play the cassette over and over again whenever she drove me someplace. So I guess you could say I’ve been a Neil Diamond fan for most of my life…minus those four Diamond-less years at the very beginning.
Neil began his career in the early sixties, but found no real success until his compositions (I’m a Believer, Love to Love) were picked up and recorded by The Monkees. Contrary to popular belief, Diamond did not write the songs for The Monkees, but their versions were released before his own. This deal did begin to get him recognized as a songwriter as well as a singer and musician.
After a few years with the Bang label, honing his skills on tunes like ‘Cherry Cherry’ and ‘Kentucky Woman,’ Neil wanted to branch off and do something new. After finding a loophole in his contract he tried to jump ship only to get tied up for a few years in the ensuing legal troubles that would not be fully resolved until 1977.
He signed with MCA in 1969 and moved to Los Angeles where his sound changed. He began cranking out new hits after his year or so off the radar…hit’s like ‘Cracklin Rosie,’ the ode to Caroline Kennedy ‘Sweet Caroline’ and the country tinged ‘Song Sung Blue.’
Neil was on a roll.
Then, in 1972, he played a string of ten sold out shows at the Los Angeles Greek Theatre.
TEN SOLD OUT SHOWS!
I defy you to find another artist that will play ten shows in a row, let alone sell them all out. So, on Thursday August 24th they recorded the show that would become “Hot August Nights.” Coming to the stage with a renewed energy and showmanship, Diamond is at his peak here as he runs through his new material and his back catalogue. All in a denim jumpsuit. (I’ve never personally worn a jumpsuit…but I feel safe in assuming they don’t breath too well.) The album did really well here in the states, but amazingly well in Australia where it was a top twenty chart hit all the way into the 80′s.
Filled withsuperb sound quality and a song selection that starts withone of the best orchestral intros ever and ends with a massive ‘Soolaimon’ that jams into “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,’ (hear it below!)it’s a collection that just doesn’t miss. They have a new extended version out now with even more hits on it as well, but the older version holds up just fine.
Neil later recorded a follow up in 1977 called “Love at The Greek,” but it’s not as good and he sing’s a duet with the Fonz (I shit you not.)
Best Live Album ever? Maybe.
Best Live Neil Diamond album…definitely!