Neil Diamond – Relics

I’m sure I have confessed to being a Neil Diamond fan (early years) in this blog several times. You have seen me re-buy most of the albums my parents owned that I used to listen to in my early impressionable years.

I bought almost every one from the dollar bin at various used record selling establishments. They have all been in great condition. Gather from that what you will, for me, it was good news. Cheap, good condition and full of memories.

There were a couple I bought that were compilations and I even got a duplicate or two.

This was early on in my return to vinyl, and there was a large component of nostalgia involved, I will freely admit. However. I listen to these. It is not purely nostalgia. It also taught me a little bit about how records are released and rereleased from other labels. At one point I inadvertently bought a second copy of “Neil Diamond – Gold” but when I compared them there was a slight difference. One was on UNI, the original label and one was on MCA, the later release of the same album. THAT’s why there seem to be variations on a lot of the early Neil albums. Hmmm.

So I picked up some more obscure Neil Diamond relics along the way.

“Neil Diamond – Serenade”    Reel-To-Reel

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This is the first reel-to-reel format album that I have ever purchased. There are a lot of Beatle albums out there on reel-to-reel, and I considered them when I was buying Beatle stuff, but they are quite expensive. Neil’s was not. So it was a great way to get not only one of my all time favorite Neil albums, but also sample the format.

I am used to this:

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A commercially released album on reel-to-reel has considerably less tape.

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Seems like this was a money maker for the record companies. Although these days reels and tapes of any kind are getting pretty good money on E-bay. Even people on Craig’s List are hip to the prices these can reach. I figured this album killed 2 birds with one stone. Welcome home “Serenade”… Neil Diamond spoken here.

I also discovered that an album that I bought called “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show/Sweet Caroline” which I picked up for a buck

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Back cover

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That computerized graphic was probably cutting edge back then. I like how it indicates that it is suitable for Mono. Like that would be a selling point.

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At any rate, apparently the album was originally only called “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show”. The “Sweet Caroline” being added when it became a hit for Neil. I found the original. It’s quite interesting.

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The Salvation game inside is a series of questions that you can score yourself on, along with some typical late 60’s psychedelica.

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The game rules for those of you who want to play at home. Plus the start of point range categories.

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Scoring section with other half of point range categories.

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The graphic is repeated on the back cover.

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So this album is vastly different than the latter version. Who knew?!

I also discovered for a buck that there are different versions of “Neil Diamond – Hot August Night”. Back in the day my parents had a gatefold version. I bought one a while back that was just 2 records in one sleeve, not a gatefold.

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I came across this one with extra parts inside the gatefold.

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Each side is a large shot of Neil.

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Plus the inner shot with song listing.

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I have never seen this version before. It was a great find. This is a great album, with Neil doing old stuff from the Bang years and new stuff. If you need a jumping in point to listen to Neil Diamond, start here.

Another one I picked up is

“Neil Diamond – Velvet Gloves And Spit”

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This is pretty dire and uninviting cover art. Some more computer art that was probably fresh and cool at the time, but just looks off putting now. Neil is not even smiling. Is this supposed to indicate that this is serious music? The back cover doesn’t help either.

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More trippy scary art here. I realize that the name of the album is Velvet Gloves and Spit, but… where is the velvet part.

Also included in this collection is a song called “The Pot Smoker’s Song”. Yep. Side 1 Song 4. This song is a bouncy tune interspersed with “ex-drug addicts” recollections of using pot. I give props to Neil for tackling a very important issue, but, once is about all you need to hear it. Interestingly I didn’t recall this song, though I’m pretty sure my folks owned this. I went to YouTube and played it.

I laughed out loud when I heard it. Here’s why. I DO remember this song. Which means that I was playing this around the house when I was just a kid, like 8, 10 maybe. Not really sure if I was aware of pot back then. Oh Neil…

Also on this album is a song called “Holiday Inn Blues”. Does anyone but me think that it is ironic that this song is arranged by Howard Johnson? Maybe it’s just me.

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This one is not destined to become my favorite. Although I have determined that there are 2 versions of it, much like the rest of Neil’s early catalog. And speaking of early catalog:

“Neil Diamond – Double Gold”

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I remember I didn’t discover this one until well after I was turned on to Neil Diamond. I listened to what my folks played mostly to learn about Neil, but they played mostly the newer stuff. This one was in the giant stereo and I remember pulling it out “huh… what’s this?” and playing it. Here is what Double Gold is. This is a giant hits package pulled from all his early Bang records. This collection is Neil rocking it out without the lush sounds that came later. It’s pretty stripped down and simple. Catchy hooks throughout and it has some of my all time favorites: “The Boat That I Row”, “Shot Down”, “Do It”, “Cherry Cherry” and of course it has “Kentucky Woman” and “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon” and “I’m A Believer” which he wrote and The Monkees made famous before him. Classic stuff.

If you are into old Neil Diamond and don’t want to be a record nerd and collect all the originals, this may be all you need.

He may not be smiling on the outside, but the inside gatefold shot of him with some kids on a city stoop shows one.

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Neil Diamond relics like these are perfect for me, they don’t command a high price, most I got for just a buck, but the worth to me is pure solid gold. This stuff reminds me of childhood and my parents and it’s not just simply nostalgia either, I really like it.

For the record, I stop at the album “Beautiful Noise”. Albums after that, though I can remember my Dad dancing in that funny way he had and singing along to “Forever In Blue Jeans” the music from that era and beyond, though I still think Neil has a tremendous voice, and admit to going to see the Jazz Singer when it came out, is just not for me.

A final confession… I did listen to “Neil Diamond – Dreams” recently. Initially I was drawn to it because I always think that Neil and my father look, depending on the angle, quite a bit alike. This album cover shot in particular. The pose too in a way.

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This album is strictly covers. There is some Beatles, Randy Newman, Eagles, Nilsson…

I was surprisingly enthralled by his version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. I’m not a huge fan of this song, but this version touched me. The whole album is really good and I found myself thinking that my father would have loved this one.

I guess I am a full fledged pre-1977 (last stop “Beautiful Noise”) Neil Diamond collector now.

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