Hot August Night/NYC (CD/DVD)

Neil Diamond

Columbia, 2008

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


I have been a Neil Diamond fan since his early days recording for the old Bang Label. 45 rpm records of such hits as “Solitary Man,” “Cherry Cherry,” “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon,” “Thank The Lord For The Night Time,” and “Kentucky Woman” still reside in my record collection. I bought Hot August Night in 1972, Hot August Night II in 1987, and now in 2009, we have Hot August Night/NYC.

This DVD has a lot to recommend it. It was filmed during his four sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden during August of 2008. The sound and the visual quality are both excellent. Diamond surrounds himself with a band complete with brass, which fills in the sound and makes many of the performances very dynamic. He also uses background singers, which are a great help to his vocals. I have seen Neil Diamond in concert several times and have a number of his live recordings, but this may be his most consistent release vocally. His voice may not be as strong as it was forty years ago, but he controls it well and does not overreach. I have heard him when he was scratchy and sounded tired, but that is not the case here. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The two-hour twenty-six song concert is a combination of new and old with a few surprises. There is also a DVD bonus feature titled “Welcome Home Neil” where he returns to his old Brooklyn neighborhood.

“Holly Holy” gets the concert off to a good start with the use of the aforementioned brass. “Cherry Cherry,” “Thank The Lord For The Night Time,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” Sweet Caroline,” and “I Am…I Said” all are performed to a warm audience reaction. I have also seen him in concert when he totally ignores his band, but here he allows them to shine a little on their own.

The inclusion of “Street Life” was an unusual but wise decision; it’s one of the strongest tracks here. “I’m A Believer,” which became a hit for The Monkees, is also resurrected. Throw in “Brooklyn Roads,” “Crunchy Granola Suite,” and “Done Too Soon” and you have a nice selection of lesser-known tunes.

Also appearing for the first time live are such songs as “Home Before Dark,” “Don’t Go There,” and “Man Of God,” all of which fit in nicely. Rousing versions of “America” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” bring the concert to a satisfying conclusion.

There is one more bonus included and that was a separate CD titled Neil Diamond 10 Favorites. It supposedly consists of some of Neil’s favorite tunes. While there is nothing really new it is perfect for the car CD player.

As he nears the fifty-year mark in his career, Neil Diamond is who he is. Hot August Night/NYC presents him at his best and represents a nice retrospective of his long and illustrious career. It’s a must-have for his fans.

Rating: A-

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