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Headed For The Future: Neil Diamond’s Back Catalogue Moves to Capitol Records

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The Feel of Neil DiamondHell yeah, he didBillboard reports that Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Neil Diamond has departed Columbia Records after a forty-plus-year association, and has brought his back catalogue to Capitol Records, now part of the Universal Music Group.  The surprise move comes just a few months following the release of Diamond’s Classic Christmas Album, the latest in a string of recent archival projects from Diamond, Columbia and Legacy Recordings including the Grammy-nominated The Bang Years: 1966-1968 and The Very Best of Neil Diamond.

This announcement means that, for the first time, the entirety of the iconic singer-songwriter’s catalogue is now under one roof.  Following some one-off singles including one on Columbia (1963’s “At Night” b/w “Clown Town”), Diamond began his career as a solo artist in earnest at Bert Berns’ Bang label.  At the New York independent label from 1966 to 1968, Diamond charted hits including “Solitary Man,” “Cherry, Cherry” and “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” but creative differences with founder Berns – most notably over the song “Shilo” – led the artist to seek greener pastures.  He signed with MCA Records’ Uni label, and between 1968 and 1972 met with even greater success thanks to songs like “Sweet Caroline,” “Holly Holy,” “I Am…I Said,” “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” and two No. 1 hits, “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “Song Sung Blue.”  A Hot August Night at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre also yielded one of the most incendiary live albums in the rock canon (recently reissued by Universal’s Geffen label).

But Columbia Records came calling with an offer Diamond couldn’t refuse, reportedly guaranteeing him a million dollar advance per LP in a multi-year, multi-album deal.  His initial Columbia release, 1973’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, was the soundtrack to Hall Bartlett’s adaptation of Richard Bach’s novella of the same title.  Diamond’s Grammy- and Golden Globe-winning soundtrack hit No. 2 on the pop albums chart and is said to have earned more than the film itself!  Diamond’s winning streak continued as he collaborated with producers including The Band’s Robbie Robertson and The Four Seasons’ Bob Gaudio.  Capitol Records released the original soundtrack album to Diamond’s remake of The Jazz Singer in 1980, which yielded three Top 10 pop singles (“America,” “Hello Again,” “Love on the Rocks”).  Diamond returned immediately after, though, to Columbia, and eventually Columbia even reissued The Jazz Singer on CD.  (When Columbia acquired Bang Records, Diamond acquired his Bang-era masters from the label.)

1982’s E.T.-inspired “Heartlight” (co-written with Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager) was Diamond’s final Top 5 pop hit, but the singer remained a concert draw and recorded albums of both original material and themed covers (Christmas songs, Brill Building pop, country favorites, movie songs).  In fact, he’s released Top 10 albums in every decade since the 1970s and has sold over 128 million albums to date.  There’s more on Neil after the jump!

Very Best of Neil DiamondDiamond’s “comeback” LPs produced by Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers), 2005’s 12 Songs and 2008’s Home Before Dark, garnered him some of the biggest acclaim of his career, as he returned to writing solo and playing his own guitar.  Home Before Dark must have been a particularly sweet victory for Diamond when he scored his first-ever U.S. No. 1 album!  He continued Rubin’s stripped-down approach on 2010’s self-produced Dreams, a collection of cover songs largely composed by Diamond’ s contemporaries including Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell.  His most recent studio recording to date is 2013’s “Freedom Song (They’ll Never Take Us Down),” written and recorded in support of One Fund Boston and the Wounded Warrior Project in the wake of the Boston Marathon attack.

Billboard reports that “Capitol Music Group chairman and CEO Steve Barnett and Universal Music Group chairman CEO Lucian Grainge were instrumental in orchestrating the deal with Diamond and his manager Katie Diamond (his wife). Barnett worked closely with Diamond previously when he was at Columbia and will personally oversee Diamond’s future projects at Capitol.   The 72-year old artist is now writing new material and plans to enter the studio later in the year, and it’s confirmed that Diamond and Universal are considering strategies for reissue of his newly-united back catalogue of Bang, Uni/MCA, Capitol and Columbia recordings.

Watch this space for more news as it becomes available on Universal’s plans for Neil Diamond’s extensive body of work.  While an ICON volume and an entry in the budget 5 Classic Albums with Columbia and Uni-era recordings are likely inevitable (à la UMe’s recent acquisition of Frank Sinatra’s Reprise catalogue), one hopes that loftier goals will be met for the development of Diamond’s back catalogue at its new home.  Stay tuned!  And don’t forget to sound off below – what would you like to see from Neil’s new agreement with Capitol?  Let us know!

Written by Joe Marchese

January 21, 2014 at 10:30

Posted in Neil Diamond, News, Reissues

14 Responses

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  1. Deluxe Editions, Remastered, Bonus tracks. Nothing less!

    Matt Rowe

    January 21, 2014 at 10:48

    • whose picture is on the cover of “Very Best of?” Thought it was Eddie Cantor…

      bob

      January 21, 2014 at 13:18

  2. If they are actually going to do something with his UNI material, I hope they do it right. The Play Me: The Complete Uni Studio Recordings…Plus collection was a joke. The material is great (for the most part) and the sound was good, but the liner notes were lacking (giving the impression that nobody talked to Neil at all), and the way they set it up was ridiculous. Packing so much on disc one (leaving no breathing room at all between tracks) so they could fit a couple of previously released live tracks at the end of the set was just dumb.

    However, the DUMBEST part is the screw up with the track Stones. The first few seconds are missing on every copy I’ve heard. I contacted Universal a few years ago about it, and was told that the latest master they were using had the notes clipped off, and that’s how it would be for all future releases.

    So, here’s hoping somebody at Capitol actually knows what they’re doing.

    mackdaddyg

    January 21, 2014 at 12:41

    • Indeed, it would be great to see the UNI material revisited in a deluxe set with mini-LP sleeves, upgraded packaging and attention to detail.

      I would love to see the Deluxe Edition treatment given to later albums such as BEAUTIFUL NOISE and THE JAZZ SINGER, as well…

      Joe Marchese

      January 21, 2014 at 13:35

  3. Universal is really taking over the entire music business, aren’t they? 25 years ago when I worked in record retail they would have been the last company I would have suspected being this big.

    William Schneider, Jr.

    January 21, 2014 at 13:14

  4. If reissues sound even half as bad as the Bang collection does, I’ll be happy to continue listening to my old MCA cd’s.

    birdycat19

    January 21, 2014 at 16:41

  5. Neil’s CD catalog, particularly the CBS years, has been in need of remastering for a long time so there’s the primary focus. With such a large number of albums across so many eras, UMG can certainly spread this out over a long period of time but would that be wise? Then again, the caveat of doing too much at once is flooding the market with too much product if they were released on a single CD basis. Neil could find himself competing with his old material if the timing isn’t laid out right. And any remastering of the music must also include full restoration and respect to the artwork – especially the early UNI albums. Vinyl enthusiasts would also benefit if remastering were to extend to this format as well.

    Box sets from different labels and eras might be the way to go along with single CDs, as how the Beatles have been reissued of late. But the timing has to be such so that Neil’s new material gets enough spotlight time.

    Other things:

    I’d also like to see some special projects for the long time fans. Now that there’s no licensing issues between labels, a compilation series of 45 mixes and maybe some out-takes from across the labels would be great. There’s many unique mixes that have never been released on CD and it would be great to finally be able to buy something different than the usual best-ofs.

    The Quad Squad: The 1974 CBS album ‘Serenade’ also exists as a quadraphonic mix with alternate takes that could be remastered for surround sound systems and it’s also thought that the 1976 ‘Beautiful Noise’ LP might exist in quad format as well as it was assigned a quad catalog # back in the day but appears to have never been released. Other albums could most likely be remastered in this format as well.

    Videos: Neil has a pretty good catalog of TV specials that only made it to the VHS/Video Disc era. ‘Love At The Greek’ and ‘I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight’ are the 2 standouts of Neil’s CBS tenure and with some remastering of sound and extended content, these would be welcome additions.

    Those are just a few ideas but whatever is to be, I suspect we’ll all be very happy and that we’ll be getting a great mix of new Neil and old favorites.

    ChrisP

    January 21, 2014 at 22:09

    • Some great points, especially regarding the UNI 45 mixes. I didn’t know until recently that Brother Love sounded quite a bit different on 45. A cd of 45 mixes would make a great listening experience.

      mackdaddyg

      January 22, 2014 at 08:30

    • You are really on top of Neil’s work…you put me to shame with your knowledge. Excellent argument concerning the timing on re-issuing his back catalog, This has hurt other artists in the past, when they’ve competed with their own work (Neil, with Bert Berns handling of Shilo, is the best example that comes to mind).

      David Holdren

      October 25, 2014 at 19:03

  6. A release of the quadraphonic version of the iconic album Serenade is a must!

    imran Younus

    March 22, 2014 at 11:48

  7. I’d love to see Love At The Greek restored to its original tracking. It.s the only reason it is not in my CD collection.

    frankv

    October 5, 2014 at 17:47

  8. Remaster all of neil diamonds music .
    Release some before the end of this year.I would buy every cd now if all were available .

    John judge

    October 10, 2014 at 14:43

  9. Does that mean ALL His BANG Lp’s Four in all,will be finally on CD,after being OOP for 40 Years?

    Michael Boyce

    December 3, 2014 at 23:37


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