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on March 8, 2011
Let me start with how weirdly out of place 'The Bang Years' is ranked in the 'Broadway Vocalists' catagory next to Les Miserable cast album and Harry Connick Jr does Broadway.If Sony released 'The Bang Years' to celebrate his induction into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame,then why not put it next to other oldies rock n roll collections?Anyone just browsing the cover of the James Dean looking New York punk staring dogfaced into the camera can see that there will be no "Heartlight" type soft ballads here.This is rock n roll from a 20 something about getting it on come night time,calls for independence and non conformity.And plenty of post-break up loner anthems.In other words,themes that most classic rockers wrote about in their early years.

Of the 23 songs in this 62 minute collection,11 are on CD and released digitally for the first time ever.The quality of the Diamond originals are great.The reason they were not released as singles is because how many hits can one artist have in such a short time?But many were hits for others ("Love to Love" a hit for Billie Davis,"The Boat That I Row" a big hit for Lulu.The Murder City Devils's version of "I'll Come Running" is probably more famous then Diamond's).These songs are extremely catchy goodtime rock n roll with a certain NYC edge.They sound hungry and full of life.Neil Diamond's cracked baritone is the perfect match for the beat up acoustic.The female singers and room full of handclappers only add to the urban party feel.

The Bang Years starts off with 10 self-penned Neil Diamond classics inside two years.An amazing amount in such a short time.The songs sound warm and crisp-like listening to a classic old record without the headache of a record player.
Standouts include the bluesy "The Time Is Now" (complete with Diamond joking with Jeff Berry in the begining)."You Got To Me" sounds leaner and meaner then how I remember it."The Long Way Home" is another great song-anthemic and 'big' sounding."Ill Come Running","Love To Love","Someday Baby" and "You'l Forget" are like bublegum from a store in Brooklyn.

There are 5 take it or leave it covers mist the 23 originals.As someone who never liked "Red Rubber Ball" when it was a silly laidback hit,I like Diamond's version.The harder voice and rougher guitar make it a fun listen."Hanky Panky" is done in a sarcastic humorous way that also is more rocking then the light and silly original."Monday Monday" is very hum-able and sweet.But "La Bamba" and "New Orleans" are sort of boring.

I don't usually review booklets and packaging but this one gets a 5.Neil Diamond's early stories in the 20 page booklet are colorful and often funny ("Things got so bad that even 'Crazy Larry' the bum who stood in front of the Brill Building cursing at everyone who passed by,stopped talking to me").The pictures are classy in a yearbook sort of way.Then there is the yellow 'Bang' label on the cd to make it look like something the Bang label released in the 60's-retro and cute.

Mono or not,The Bang Years was definitely worth my 10 bucks.It is cool hearing these songs as they were originally intended any way.
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on March 16, 2011
I'm a longtime Neil Diamond fan and collector - first acquired these recordings on the Bang stereo 2 LP set "Double Gold" in the 70's, then the 12-song 1983 album on Columbia entitled "Classics The Early Years" (still in print on CD and recommended for those like me who prefer the stereo mixes taken from the original LP's). Later the 10 biggest hits from these sessions appeared in remastered mono on his excellent box-set "In My Lifetime" (1996).

A comparison of the box-set remasters from 1996 to the new remasters on the 2011 "Bang Years" CD reveals that the new CD versions are indeed noticeably louder (as would be expected these days), but largely the same "mix", not overly-compressed as some other reviewers have stated, and certainly no distortion that I can detect. The bass levels are pretty much the same overall, with the highs a little more crisp and audible. My impression has always been that a mono mix on most systems sounds more harsh on the high end and more compressed on the bass end, hence my preference for the clarity, headroom, and depth of a stereo mix.

The previous mono remasters from 1996 were fine, however, so I would have preferred to have a stereo version of this collection, but that's apparently not what the market demands - "original mono" seems to sell more product, as that's what the labels seem to do most these days. The main factor here is that this is 23 tracks, many more than have ever been released on CD. There is an excellent stereo CD out there called "The Complete Bang Recordings" that still only has 24 of the 25 Bang Masters, but it's apparently a bootleg. The missing tracks not on the new 2011 Columbia/Legacy "The Bang Years" are "Shot Down" and "Crooked Street". They both appear on "The Complete Bang Recordings" CD. The excellent track "The Time Is Now", included on 'The Bang Years", was not on "The Complete Bang Recordings".

This CD has beautiful tri-fold digipak artwork, and a booklet with many vintage photos and a long essay by ND himself detailing his years as a struggling songwriter and his eventual connection to Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich which resulted in his first hits with Bang Records.
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on March 12, 2011
I'm very, very disappointed in the sound quality of this disc -- not because it's in mono, as I usually prefer the original hit mono mixes of songs from the 1960s, but because every track on here has been "brickwalled," or severely compressed, to increase their overall loudness. I've been waiting for a collection of this material for decades... but I doubt I'll ever listen to this disc again. It's that bad. I'm not an audiophile, by any means, but this disc is just irritating to the ears. It is so loud and compressed that there's no dynamic range left in the songs, no ebb and flow to the music, no space between the notes... It's all just one constant, dull roar that becomes incredibly irritating after 10 minutes or so.

Granted, most 45s from the 1960s were compressed to begin with so they'd stand out on AM radio. Previous releases of some of these songs (such as those on the 3-CD "In My Lifetime" boxed set) reflect that same 1960s level of compression and the songs sound great on that release. But in 'remastering' those and other Bang recordings for this new "Bang Years" disc, the creators added an incredible amount of additional compression -- probably as a concession to today's iPod listeners -- that gives every song a hard, brittle and distorted sound.(This added compression, and the accompanying digital clipping, is obvious when you look at any of the tracks in wave form on a computer.)

So, although I love every one of the songs on this disc, I have to give this release a one-star review.

If you want to hear SOME of these same songs in better quality, your options are limited. The "In My Lieftime" box has several of these tracks in their original mono versions and, as stated before, they sound great on that set. Most (but not quite all) of the Bang recordings were released 40 years ago on the "Double Gold" LP from Bang Records. Of course, that album is long out of print and it was never issued on CD. Although "Double Gold" presents some songs in stereo and some in bad "fake stereo," it remains the single best source for most of the Bang-era recordings. The Columbia Records CD, "Classis: The Early Years," sounds fine to me, but it only has 12 of the Bang-era recordings, and most (if not all) are stereo mixes. That CD also has alternate takes of "Shilo" and "Solitary Man" that are quite good but they're slightly different from the hit-single versions most people are familiar with.
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on April 16, 2011
Some people are mistaking the original 45 version vs the original version, sometimes they are not the same. Case in point, many people complain that Shilo is NOT the original version on this CD, BUT IT IS! There were three versions. MOST people know the Bang hit single version and that is what they are expecting. But anyone who bought the original Bang LPs (I was not a buyer of 45s, even as a kid) knows the the "Just For You" LP contained the first and original version of this song. The single and the version the Bang LP "Shilo" was the second version. The third version, of course, came out on the SECOND edition of the "Velvet Gloves And Spit" LP. There were only 2 original Bang LPs, the rest were considered compilations as they recollected songs from the first two LPs and various singles. They were: "The Feel of Neil Diamond" and "Just For You". The Bang compilations that competed with the LPs on Neils new label (UNI) were: "Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits" "Shilo" "Do It" and the all time great "Double Gold" which, if I recall, had the original version of Shilo was well. I AM VERY HAPPY to FINALLY have the original (and superior)version of Shilo again after 35 years or so. The Boot "The Complete Bang Recordings" also has the single version, which caused me to have to buy this CD. The mastering leaves me to only give 4 stars, that and two songs are missing, (Shot Down and Crooked Street, both first appeared on the "Do It: LP). Now PLEASE come out with the Stereo version! (and include the released alternate takes and mixes, like the OTHER Bang Shilo that came on the single.
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5 star recordings, 2 star mastering

"The Bang Years" features Neil Diamond producing a stunning series of perfect pop/rock confections. These classic recordings haven't been available on vinyl or CD in the original mono for years and it's terrific that Sony Legacy has chosen to reissue these to coincide with Neil's induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

The good--A brilliant series of singles and album tracks that Neil Diamond appear in their original mono mix. These recordings catch Neil Diamond discovering his voice as a songwriter/singer/performer and brilliantly channeling a wide variety of emotions that he is able to put into song. The track selection is exceptional and is an improvement over the Classics: The Early Years CD of Bang stereo recordings released on CD in 1990.

The bad-The remastering these receive at the hands of Bernie Becker (who was no doubt told to do this by his employer so I wouldn't necessarily blame him but "the suits")are on the shrill side, compressed and suffer from peak limiting all three bad things when it comes to listening CD's. A comment here indicated that these were originally mastered "hot" (i.e., had a lot of analog compression) for radio airplay that, however, doesn't impact the mastering for CD although it's possible they might have been trying to replicate that to some degree, the use of peak limiting (which results in distortion)and compression weakens the impact of these recordings on CD.

This is also missing two tracks: "Crooked Street" and "Shot Down" but I suppose that Neil had to approve the track listing and elected not to include those.

The ugly-It results in listener fatigue and can be quite difficult to listen to on a good system. This remastering was clearly designed with the mp3 and iTunes crowd in mind. It's sad because Sony Legacy has put out a series of terrific releases over the years and this is probably the only mastering these great songs will receive on CD. Sony should revisit this and do the right thing--remaster these songs properly and allow those who are dissatisfied to exchange them.

For those interested 11 of the tracks here did appear on the Neil Diamond boxed set In My Lifetime (3CD). The mastering there is far superior to what we get here but it's lacking 13 of the tracks included here. It's a good set well worth picking up.

The packaging is excellent. I'm not a big fan of digipaks but the art direction is quite nice with rare photos of Neil and a brief essay discussing his early career and rise to fame. Neil looks back on his past and humbly acknowledges people like Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich the hit songwriting duo who had faith in him and were able to look beyond the ordinary demos he brought with him recognizing his unique voice as a singer. There are others that Neil recognizes as well including his arranger the brilliant Artie Butler who helped Neil achieve his vision.

Bottom Line: For the collection of songs, packaging, etc. 5 stars and for the mastering 2 stars--it's a bit disappointing as Sony has done better. Should you pick this up? Yep. These recordings are essential and the price is right even if the mastering isn't ideal.
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on April 23, 2011
The concept of The Bang Years is great (collecting all the oldest songs and putting them on one album), but although many songs not previously featured on CD are included here the bullseye has been missed. No attempt to put all of Diamond's oldest songs on one album has been complete, including this one (the vinyl-only Double Gold is missing four songs, Classics-The Early Years only has half the songs, and The Bang Years is missing two songs that were included on Double Gold). Some people wonder about which version of "Shilo" is on The Bang Years - This album includes the original version (like Double Gold), while the alternate version is on Classics-The Early Years. It is interesting why not all 25 songs were included, as they'll fit on one CD. It seems the only way to have all the songs is to buy a copy of Double Gold (if you have a turntable) and The Bang Years. Four stars because most of the songs not previously released on CD are now here, but two are still missing.
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on March 10, 2011
What promised to be the Neil Diamond disc fans have been waiting to buy for decades is a bitter disappontment sound-wise. And there's no logical reason why, except that a decision was made to master it to a loud level of digital shrillness that's quite unacceptable in 2011.

On the surface it all looked good, prior to release: 23 of Neil's prime cuts mixed in all their warm, punchy mono glory. As the original recordings were. However, Diamond's warm baritone is essentially lost on "The Bang Years": instead we have a cacaphony of ridiculous treble which all but drowns the artist's voice and most of the warm lower-end instrumentation. Where you should have a pleasant resonance in the lower instrumentation and percussion you have an overly-digitized brick wall. It's ugly, and you can't listen to too much of it. It's absurdly compressed and limited, and done very amateurishly and very heavy-handedly.

But why is this so? David Mitson has previously mastered some of this pristine material on Diamond's "In My Lifetime" box set, and it's fine. This new effort mastered by Bernie Becker is nowhere near fine. And Sony/Legacy are doing great mono stuff with both Bob Dylan's back catalog, as well as Phil Spector's reissues. Becker's "The Bang Years" undermines their growing reputation, and is a great disservice to both Neil Diamond and the original producers, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.

"The Bang Years" really doesn't deserve any more than a one-star rating, and that's because it collects material which has never been legitimately released on CD before.
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on March 5, 2011
I can't give a Bang era Neil Diamond CD a bad score, but be wary if you think this is all of Neil's Bang era songs. This CD is missing two tracks, Shot Down and Crooked Street. It would have nice to have seen Rasin' Caine and other unreleased tracks on this release, like his versions of A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You and Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow). Hopefully a deluxe version will be in the near future with all of the goods we Diamondheads crave for.
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on March 10, 2011
I downloaded this album onto my MP3 player and played it this morning. I have forgotten about a lot of these songs and they took me back 30 plus years, when my Daddy played them in his car in his 8 track player. I almost cried at work when I was listening to this stuff. I am so glad that this CD is out and I am fixing to get myself a copy. It may be Mono, but it is still awesome and I love each and every track. Thank you for bringing back a flood of memories
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on December 29, 2011
(Okay, hopefully you can see the links this time.)
While I am glad to have a copy of the Bang Recordings, everyone is right about the compression and loudness of them. Copy and paste the links below into your browser (don't add [...]) to see the difference on solitary man:

From "In My Lifetime":
From "The Bang Years":

Flame away you people that don't see anything wrong with it. I and others hear the grating noise to which today's ipod generation have become accustomed. The difference in the dynamics is very evident in the first 30 seconds or so. The "In My Lifetime" version starts out down around -6 to -9 dB, then the chorus kicks in at around -3dB with -1dB peaks whereas the Bang version is already at the clipping point just after it begins, then when the chorus kicks in, it really clips. You're not just looking at more loudness on The Bang Years, but a good 10dB of dynamic range has been lost by "clipping" the chorus part since they raised the loudness by 10 dB and clipped the top 10dB back off. The true dynamic range loss is probably closer to 30dB when considering the low levels have been raised by 20dB from what I can measure. This brickwall "clipping," or compression, makes the sound harsh, like turning up the volume knob way past the maximum level where it sounds shrill and distorted, but this shrillness and distortion is evident even when you keep the volume low. Before you think there is not much difference, 10dB is TWICE the volume! Keep in mind that as someone else mentioned, the "In My Lifetime" version is already somewhat compressed, though still fairly normal looking and sounding, but not to the irritating level as the Bang Years version. This is not in the original recordings "because it was for AM" as some are defending it, this disc has been remastered into this state. Granted, if the engineers of the 60's had had this technology, they may have tried to compress the music to this state for AM radio, but it was NOT originally recorded with this bad compression! Luckily, at least I have half of theses songs on "In My Lifetime."

Neil, why did you let them do this to YOUR recordings that YOU own?!!

One more example using Shilo:

From "In My Lifetime":

From "The Bang Years":

And the RIAA wonders why people don't buy music anymore!

In conclusion, 5 stars for the songs on this compilation, 1 star for the audio quality of the mastering, so I give it a 3 star average.
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