Rolling Stone (p.74) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "These 23 tracks include hits, surprisingly tough rockers, songs made famous by others -- all delivered in that lung-busting Neil Diamond baritone."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.119) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "How a failing songwriter turned his life into the stuff of hits in 23 songs."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.87) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "His well-crafted tales, equal parts introspection and awe, struck a nerve....These nicely re-mastered original mono recordings are where it all started."
Personnel: Neil Diamond (acoustic guitar); Hugh McCracken (guitar, harmonica); Al Gorgoni, Sal DiTroia, Charlie Macy, Bill Suyker (guitar); Eric Guitar (electric guitar); Artie Kaplan (saxophone); Eddie Bert, Nicky Gravine, Benny Powell (trombone); Artie Butler (piano, organ); Herb Lavelle, Gary Chester , Buddy Saltzman (drums); Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry (tambourine, hand claps, background vocals); George Devens (percussion).
Liner Note Authors: Steve Baltin; Neil Diamond.
Recording information: A&R Studios (1966-1967); Atlantic Records Studios (1966-1967); Century Sound Studios (1966-1967); Dick Charles Studio (1966-1967).
Photographer: Leonard Rapoport.
Arranger: Artie Butler.
Neil Diamond transitioned from professional songwriter to performer when he signed with Bang Records in 1966. There, he cut two albums -- his 1966 debut The Feel of Neil Diamond and its 1967 sequel Just for You -- that contained his greatest songs: "Solitary Man," "Cherry, Cherry," "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," "Kentucky Woman," "Thank the Lord for the Night Time," "I'm a Believer," "Red, Red Wine," "The Boat That I Row," "You Got to Me," and "Shilo." All these, along with the rest of the two Bang albums all presented out of LP order, are on Columbia/Legacy's 2011 The Bang Years: 1966-1968, by far the best overview ever assembled of this crucial era for Diamond. It's not just that these are Diamond's best songs but these are his best records: crisp, lively, colorful pop tunes balanced by luxurious moody brooding ballads. Once he turned into a superstar Diamond tended to rely on his innate showmanship, but here at the beginning of his career he sounded hungry and knew how to have fun, giving these records a snap that still stings decades later. And Diamond knows just how good these recordings are, as indicated by the terrific autobiographical liner notes he's penned for this collection, notes that give this music context, but they're not necessary to appreciate The Bang Years: this is pop music that's so pure it needs no explanation. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine