The Uncommon Neil Diamond CD Collection
Part 1: The Studio Discs

These discs are a curiosity- they're not official releases, and had been obtained via secondary sources. At this time, they fill a niche that has not been adequately covered by Neil's standard CD catalog. These discs sometimes delve into esoterica, and are primarily of interest to the hardcore collector.

The Bang Years Volume 1 and Volume 2.

These two discs purportedly contain the stereo and mono versions of Neil's first two albums on Bang Records, The Feel of Neil and Just For You. In addition, they also contain a selection of "bonus tracks" which basically assemble all of Neil's 60's Bang catalog, including singles, into one package. Unlike some German import Bang CDs, these do not contain recordings with flaws like annoying tape machine rewind noises or record pops n' clicks. The sound quality is very good- not quite from master tapes, but of excellent fidelity nonetheless. Volume 1 contains the songs in stereo when available, and re-channeled stereo when not available in true stereo. Some unusual surprises are: "Kentucky Woman" in true stereo, "Cherry Cherry" (demo version from In My Lifetime) and "The Time is Now" with some newly-added "stereo" rechanneling.

Distinguishing marks
A Volume surge on "Someday Baby".
B No volume surge on "Someday Baby".

Bang Vol. 1

Volume 2 contains the same material, but in mono. Why? Because, in the 60's, mono was not simply created by combining the left and right channels of a stereo recording. Mono was carefully constructed by a separate mixdown of the original, multitrack session tapes. This was necessary to re-equalize the music to sound decent on AM radio and cheap phonograph players. It also opened up possibilities for variations of the songs, since two separate mixes were done, one for mono and one for stereo. More information about Neil mono and stereo variations is more extensively covered in the following article:

 Neil Diamond on Bang Records

Now that you're through reading more about Bang than you ever thought you want to, I'll mention that Volume 2 had recently been remastered, and finally does contain true mono versions of the songs, including true mono mix of "Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon". An earlier version of this title had converted the stereo versions of the songs from Just For You into mono. Songs like "Crooked Street" and "Shot Down" make their first true mono appearance here. Instead of the nasty-sounding, distorted rechanneled stereo that we're all used to, these songs blast through now in crystal clear, solid mono.

Distinguishing marks
A Stereo versions of Just For You songs converted to mono. Single version of "Red Red Wine" as track 15.
B True mono versions of Just For You songs from mono record. Single version of "Red Red Wine" as track 28.

Bang Vol. 2

Serenade 25th Anniversary QUADRAPHONIC Edition

Hot on the heels of Jethro Tull and Deep Purple 25th Anniversary "Special Edition" CDs and "Star Wars" Special Edition videos, we now have the rare, quadraphonic version of Neil Diamond's Serenade album on CD. Lucky for us, CBS used a quad encoding scheme that worked within a normal frequency range and was transferable to an audio CD.

This CD transfer sounds splendid, superior in many ways to the Columbia version of the non-quad Serenade. The CD was taken from a quadraphonic record, and was thoughtfully cleaned up, with as much of the original record noise removed as possible. It even has a lyric sheet!

The CD also contains several bonus tracks: the rare 45 version of "The Last Picasso" with a different edit at the start and end, an entirely different vocal track, and a difference in lyric on the first verse. The final two tracks are live ones. "Longfellow Serenade" was taken from the Reader's Digest compilation, Neil Diamond Live in Concert, and "I've Been This Way Before" is from the Love at the Greek video.

You can hear portions of it here:
Serenade Quadraphonic Sound Samples

Serenade Quad

I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight (The Video Soundtrack)

I have heard that this was taken from the soundtrack of the laserdisc version of I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight. Currently, the video is out-of-print, and I personally think the video is terrific! It's particularly desirable because all of the songs are complete, full-length versions. Several of the songs on the video had never been released in any other "live" format, so basically, the video contains the only non-standard renditions of "Free Man in Paris", "Let Me Take You In My Arms Again" and "I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight". The entire soundtrack, including spoken word segments, interviews and one very strange track of a sound effect (the sound of pressing the "play" button of a tape player) were included on this CD transfer, all indexed as separate tracks.

One of the reasons for wanting this on CD is that you can play it in your car, play it at work, or use it for background music- things that you probably could not do if it stayed on its original media of videotape or laserdisc!

The disc contains several bonus tracks. Basically, all of the songs from I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight that did not appear on the video were simply added to the CD to make it as complete as possible. The bonus tracks are (of course) not particularly rare, but they do enhance the complete IGYHWMT experience.


The Bang Collection

I just love it when titles like this arrive! I'm always in the market for esoteric CDs. This CD, The Bang Collection is slightly different from The Bang Years CDs- this is a compilation of Bang recordings and several of the variations (singles mixes, odd album remixes, etc.) including a few that couldn't quite make it onto The Bang Years CDs (e.g. "Shilo", "You Got to Me", "Do It", "I'm A Believer"). It does not try to duplicate the sequencing of the old The Feel of Neil and Just For You albums. Instead, it's intended to be a unified collection of the Bang material pool. There is no rechanneled stereo (thankfully) on this 80 minute disc (except for "Crooked Street")- most of the songs are in stereo, with a selected few in mono. The front and back designs are nice- very professional-looking. And the label is a hoot- a duplicate of the old yellow Bang 45 RPM record labels!

Bang Coll.

Velvet Gloves and Spit- The Collector's Edition

Have you ever been to a record store recently, and have you seen the recent CD re-releases of vintage titles by The Byrds, Elton John, the Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders or Cheap Trick? These discs had been remastered by the best sound engineers in the business, upgrading the sound plus restoring the original album graphics and adding additional (and rare) bonus tracks. Now, take a look at the sorry condition of Neil's main MCA catalog on CD. The majority of them are budget-line discs, with no frills, generic typography, and minimal graphics, quite unlike the often extravagant packaging of the original LPs.

Some enterprising (and anonymous) obsessed record collector-types have taken it upon themselves to come up with a prototype of what it would look IF Neil's CD catalog were to be brought up to modern-day reissue standards. Velvet Gloves and Spit, Neil's first Uni album, has been expanded to 18 tracks, adding the old mono mixes of the singles, and the non-LP B-side, "Broad Old Woman". The packaging resembles the old "mannequin" cover very closely, as all of the original art has been reproduced in the CD booklet (which also includes a lyric booklet). The CD back insert contains useful chart information for the album, and the singles. Even the Uni LP label graphics has been reproduced for the CD.

The next (and burning) question is: when is MCA going to do officially do this???

VG & S Coll. Ed.

Neil-TV Volume 1: 1966-1982

This single disc is a 19 track compilation of Neil's superb early TV performances from 1966-1982. None of these are available on legit CD, although a few of them are on legit videos. I'd always been impressed by Neil's TV performances, finding them often preferable to live concerts. The sources of Neil-TV vary, as well as the recording techniques used. Some are live vocals over pre-recorded original backing track, some are live vocals over an in-house studio band/orchestra, some are clips used from live concerts used for promotion. The sound quality varies, too, based on how many generations the video had gone through since the original broadcast.

Neil-TV does contain songs that aren't heard very often- "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", "The Last Picasso", "Home is a Wounded Heart" and "The American Popular Song", although the majority of the songs were hit singles..

The best performances on the disc, hands down, are from European TV shows, namely "Top of the Pops" and "Disco '72" featuring "I Am...I Said" (not to be missed!) and "Song Sung Blue" (performed as a sad, slow bluesy number). The disc ends with the slightly-sappy "Heartlight", although it's not as intolerable as the hit single version.

Neil TV

The SQ Rear-Channel Remixes:

His 12 Greatest Hits
12 More Greatest Hits & Misses

This pair of discs boasts mixes that only an audiophile could love... SQ rear-channel remixes. These discs had gone through some interesting sound processing that basically re-oriented what used to be standard studio recordings and usually moved Neil's vocals to the left, and the backing vocals (if any) and instruments to the right.

In the absence of true "outtakes" (like Fleetwood Mac's excellent Rumours Outtakes), these discs are the closest thing to hearing more of what's happening on Neil's backing tracks. There's a lot of musical bits that are buried under Neil's vocals, which are brought up front by the remix. In particular, the choir on "Holly Holy" and "Walk on Water", the horns (in startling closeness) on "Done Too Soon" and Lee Holdridge's brilliant orchestral arrangements on "Play Me" and "Canta Libre".

The remixes take some time in getting used to- they sound strange to many ears, and are definitely not for everybody. Not all of the songs processed successfully, but the ones that did reveal things that we haven't heard before. This only whets our appetites for a true 5.1 Surround mix, which MCA might do, someday. And of course, we'd buy it, and new equipment to play it on, too!

Hear what SQ sounds like

His 12 GH

12 More GH

Final note: Yes, the CDs shown in this article really are for real and do exist. They spend a lot of time in my CD player as musical entertainment. Just don't ask where I got them from!

This is only a sampling of the rare recordings of Neil Diamond that are out there. Please do not ask me to sell any of these CDs. They are unofficial CDs, and I do not have a stock of them to sell. I cannot accept any money for discs like these! Please do not ask me where to buy these- my sources do not accept direct buyers. The best way to obtain these is to know someone who has connections, or to know and understand the nuances of non-commercial CD-R trading.

Related Pages:
The Uncommon Neil Diamond CD Collection- Live
The Bootleg Manifesto
CD-R Trading in the Modern Age

This article is Copyright 1999-2001, K.F. Louie. May not be reproduced without the written permission of the author.

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