Few hardcore Neil Diamond fans were surprised at the 2003 release of Stages: Performances 1970-2002, a definitive live, six-disc box with 83 tracks, all but one previously unreleased.
In each decade since he burst onto the scene in the mid-60s, he's released recordings chronicling his one-of-a-kind live show; among these, Hot August Night, is one of the classic concert albums of all time.
Nearly four decades since he first hit the road as a headlining performer - and exactly three decades since joining Columbia Records in 1973 - the Diamond continues to reign as one of the top 5 most successful performing artists in the popular music arena. His tours continue to be cultural events.
He made his first records in 1960 with Jack Packer, billed as Neil and Jack for local label, Duel. Turning to full-time songwriting in 1962, he recorded CBS Records, before he finding success as a composer in 1965, with a Jay And The Americans track produced by Lieber and Stoller. Fellow Brill Building writers Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich produced his breakthrough hits "Solitary Man" and the Top Ten "Cherry Cherry." In 1967, the Monkees had multi-million-sellers with Diamond's memorable "I'm A Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You".
Diamond signed to MCA Records' subdsidiary Uni label, also home to fledgling artist Elton John, and moved from New York to Los Angeles. Recording in Memphis, he scored a handful of his best loved hits, including "Sweet Caroline" (1969), "Holly Holy," plus the #1s, "Cracklin' Rosie" (1970) and "Song Sung Blue" (1972). At the same time, Diamond was extending his range with the semi-concept album Tap Root Manuscript and the Top Ten confessional ballad, "I Am, I Said".
After the release of the groundbreaking Hot August Night (recorded live at L.A.'s Greek Theatre, Diamond announced a temporary retirement from live appearances, and spent the next three years concentrating on writing and recording. He moved into film work, winning a Grammy award for the soundtrack of Jonathan Livingston. 1976's Beautiful Noise was a tribute to the Brill Building's songwriting world of the 50s and 60s. Diamond also appeared at The Last Waltz, the star-studded tribute movie to the Band, and released a second live project Love at The Greek.
In 1978, he recorded his first duet his biggest hit single, the #1 hit "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," with Barbra Streisand. At the peak of his success, Diamond accepted his first film acting role in a remake of The Jazz Singer. The soundtrack album sold platinum on the strength of his hits "Love On The Rocks," "Hello Again" and "America," which he later performed at the Statue Of Liberty Centennial celebrations. The film E.T. inspired his hit "Heartlight" in 1982, and the following year, the reggae outfit UB40 took his "Red Red Wine" to the top of the UK charts.
In 1993 he paid homage to his heritage as a Brill Building writer with the popular collection, Up on the Roof. This album was sandwiched between two well-received Christmas albums, and he later hit the country on the vastly different Tennessee Moon, which featured a reprise of his early hit "Kentucky Woman."