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Neil Diamond is one of a rare breed. As a songwriter, his music has been covered successfully by artists as diverse as the Monkees, Deep Purple, UB40, and Smash Mouth. But Diamond used that three-chord alchemy to build an unparalleled career as a performer as well. The 38 tracks on these two discs address those interlocking legacies in the most comprehensive manner yet, gathering his material from Bang! Records (including such pop staples as "Solitary Man," "Cherry, Cherry," "Kentucky Woman," "Red, Red Wine," and "I'm a Believer"), Universal (highlighted by "Sweet Caroline," Song Sung Blue," "Holly Holy," and "I Am ... I Said"), and Columbia for the first time. And if Diamond has veered toward the middle of the road on those latter recordings (such as "September Morn," "Heartlight," and the Streisand duet "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"), there remains a remarkable consistency throughout his work. As if to underscore the point, a number of mid-period hits (including "Shiloh," "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," and "Soolaimon") are featured as live recordings from fall 2001. These performances show that the sweet roughness of his voice has only grown in power and drama; it's small wonder that Diamond remains one of the top live draws in the business. Even if it overlooks Diamond's unlikely late-'90s hit country album (Tennessee Moon), this set manages to be both concise and thorough, the best introduction yet to an American music legend.
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  • Seller location: Porirua, Wellington, NZ

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