"The times were tough and it looked like they'd be getting a whole lot tougher unless something happened soon. I was an old man of twenty-three and after six years of writing songs with the crazy notion that I could make a living at it, not a thing was breaking my way."
-Neil Diamond in the liner notes for The Bang Years
I've never shied away from 'fessing up for my love of the Diamond. No, I'm not taking David Lee Roth (although I do prefer him as a front man vs. Van Hagar, but I digress), I mean Neil Diamond. I first admitted it here about three years ago when writing about one of his new releases under the guidance of the brilliance known as Rick Rubin, his album Home Before Dark. Since then I've mentioned him a few times, always with due reverence and respect of course. When I caught wind of The Bang Years, I was nearly ecstatic.
In the liner notes for the album, written by Diamond himself, he recounts the struggles that most fans are probably unaware of in his early years. Considering the fact that he was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, it might come as a surprise that his initial forays into the music field were met with little to no success. Early in his career, he worked as a songwriter for the dynamic duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and their company, where he didn't pen a single memorable hit of any size. It wasn't until after getting fired and his friends Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry bringing him over to Atlantic Records that the musical genius he would become finally started to emerge with the outpouring of Diamond staples including Solitary Man, Cherry, Cherry, Thank the Lord for the Night Time, Red, Red, Wine, and others.
All of these classics would appear on the Atlantic subsidiary Bang Records between 1966 and 1968, a period when Diamond would create some of his signature songs. These recordings have been brought together onto one disc with the release of The Bang Years. Presented in their original mono recordings, these songs include some Diamond originals and other covers of contemporary songs of the time including Paul Simon's Red Rubber Ball, Ritchie Valens La Bamba, Tommy James and the Shondells' Hanky Panky and others. Also here you'll find the song most commonly associated with The Monkees, although originally written by Diamond, I'm A Believer.
For Diamond fans, this collection brings together and presents a musician at his birth, exploding with ideas, rich with musical inspiration. Coupled with self-penned liner notes, it gives an insightful view into the beginning of a career that still continues on.