Before Neil Diamond became a singing superstar he was a songwriter, but even as a songwriter he wasn’t an instant success. He spent his teen years tramping from one publishing house to another, occasionally selling a song against royalties for hits that never came. It wasn’t until an unsuccessful year on the staff of Leiber & Stoller’s Trio Music and, ironically, a transition to recording, that Diamond found his voice as a songwriter. He first charted with Jay and the Americans’ “Sunday and Me,” and hit his commercial stride with the Monkees chart-toppers “I’m a Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.” Other songs in his catalog found favor among British Invasion acts that included Cliff Richard and Lulu.
Diamond’s earlier attempts at a performing career (with Dual in 1959 and Columbia in 1963) had gone nowhere, but his signing to Bang in 1966 unlocked his songwriting talent and paired him with producers Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. It was during this initial run at Bang that Diamond proved himself a talented songwriter, unique vocalist and commanding hit maker. His first seven singles reached the chart, six making the top 20; for good measure he extended the chart run with “Red, Red Wine” and a soul-power cover of Gary U.S. Bonds’ “New Orleans.” Several of his B-sides, including “The Boat That I Row” and “Do It” were as good as the A’s, and cover versions of “Red Rubber Ball,” “Monday, Monday” and “La Bamba” were blessed by the Diamond touch.
Barry and Greenwich (who can be heard singing backing vocals) hired the cream of New York’s session players, and together with arranger Artie Butler and engineers Brooks Arthur, Tom Dowd and Phil Ramone, cranked out these brilliant capsules of AM radio pop. Diamond would go on to even greater chart and performance glory, but the seeds of his success can be heard in the craft of these twenty-three sides, particularly his eighteen original compositions. The mono masters are housed in a tri-fold digipack with a 20-page booklet that features pictures and revealing liner notes by Diamond himself. For the next phase in Diamond’s career, check his mid-period work on Play Me: The Complete Uni Studio Recordings… Plus! [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]