While listening to Neil Diamond Gold, it is inconceivable that Diamond did not intend on becoming a singer or a pop artist. It is impossible to imagine that anyone else could or should perform his unique songs, seemingly structured for his unique vocals and presentation. From the Latin flavored "Two-Bit Manchild," to the country tinged "Shilo," the gospel spirited "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show" and "Holly Holy," a tribal treatment on "Soolaimón," to the more pop oriented "Cherry Cherry" (all included on this collection), the thread remains Diamond's signature vocal style. He has admitted that he never strived to conform to a set of writing rules, and thankfully so, for we would not have enjoyed the kind of diversity and genre crossing that Diamond employed in his pleasantly unconventional songwriting.
Songwriting, not performing, was the goal set by this New York born and bred Jewish boy. While his parents, first generation Americans, struggled to make ends meet, he and his younger brother Harvey were often watched by their Orthodox grandparents. Although his gift should have been obvious by the age of three-when his father entered him in a talent contest which he won by lip synching to The Marriage Of Figaro-music was not a career that was encouraged by the Diamond family.
From 1944 to 1946, Diamond's father was stationed in the Army in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Oddly enough, the environment seeped into the three year old's musical consciousness, to come out later in such songs as "Shilo," "Song Sung Blue," "And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind," "Solitary Man," "Sweet Caroline" and "Red Red Wine," (a live version herein, complete with steel guitar), as well as many others peppered with varying degrees of country influence. Often, Diamond mixed his country approach with strings and lush backgrounds, creating his unique fusion.
"I think Cheyenne had a big influence on me," Diamond told Rolling Stone in 1988. "That's where I got to love cowboys. Because I always thought I was one after I came back from Cheyenne. I was a Brooklyn cowboy (laughs). When I was a teenager, I used to take people riding at the Brooklyn Riding Academy. And I always loved the singing-cowboy movies. And on the back of comic books there was always an ad where kids could get free gifts if you sold enough greeting cards, and my eyes always went right to the guitar-there was always a guy on a horse with a cowboy hat and a guitar."
[from Neil Diamond:Gold Liner Notes]