Love At The Greek

centre gatefold

Love At The Greek
Neil Diamond
CBS 1977 double album

Produced by Robbie Robertson

All songs written by Neil Diamond

Recorded 13 September 1976
Released 4 February 1977

TRACKS

Side oneSide two
Street LifeBeautiful Noise
Kentucky WomanLady Oh
Sweet CarolineStargazer
The Last PicassoIf You Know What I Mean
Longfellow SerenadeSurviving The Life
side threeside four
Glory RoadJonathan Livingston Seagull:
Song Sung Blue– Be
Holly Holy– Dear Father
Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show– Lonely Looking Sky
– Sanctus
– Skybird
– Be (encore)
I’ve Been This Way Before

The CD release took it down to a single CD by dropping The Last Picasso and Longfellow Serenade.

MUSICIANS:

Neil Diamond – vocals, guitar
Dennis St. John – drums
Richard Bennett- guitar
Alan Lindgren – keyboards
Doug Rhone- guitar
Reinie Press- bass guitar
Linda Press – vocals
King Errison – percussion
Tom Hensley- keyboards

Special thanks to Henry Winkler and Helen Reddt for the contributions to this album

CHART: Billboard US #14 album

Where it began
I can’t begin to know when
But then I know it’s growing strong

Sweet Caroline, Neil DiamOND

Live albums are a different beast. The story of this one stretches through three … Hot August Night, The Last Waltz and Love At The Greek.

I remember the night but not the year. A friend’s house, the ‘What shall we listen to now?’ moment. Out came Hot August Night. I’d never heard it. I knew Neil Diamond’s hits. I knew he’d written for The Monkees, including I’m A Believer. But I was a typical Rolling Stone reader, and Neil Diamond had no street cred. His demographic was older, or at least more conservative.

Hot August Night: LP 1972

I looked at the pose on the cover. At least he wasn’t as fat as Elvis. The title of a 1968 LP by The Fugs, It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest came straight into my mind. What were his hands doing? What was he miming? Had he done a Jim Morrison and a gigantic penis been airbrushed out? Well, I’d always thought he was a bit of a tosser.

It was a good hifi system and loud. The three minute plus orchestral intro started. Oh, dear rock group with an orchestra. Deep Purple, Concerto for Group and Orchestra. The worst excesses of burgeoning prog. Then I thought about the Police and Sheriff’s convention in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The sight of a 344-pound police chief from Waco, Texas, necking openly with his 290 pound wife (or whatever woman he had with him) when the lights were turned off for the Dope film … the sight of two fantastically obese human beings far gone in a public grope while a thousand cops all around them watched a movie about ‘the dangers of marijuana’ …
Hunter S. Thompson Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, 1972

The book was 1972 but I had read it serialised in Rolling Stone and was re-reading in book form at the time. That was the audience I imagined sitting watching the luxuriously coiffured Neil with his thirty string players. A rock snob sneer must have crept nastily over my face, and I must have chuckled in a snotty, derisory way, because Karen tapped me sharply and said, ‘Shh. Listen!’

Then that strumming acoustic guitar at the start of Crunchy Granola Suite made me sit straight up. There are some magnificent acoustic guitar strummers … The Everly Brothers, Crosby, Stills and Nash and now Neil Diamond. Few can match his muscular strum. It’s a sound I love. We listened right through.

I bought a copy the next day.

The road to Love At The Greek

According to the publicity at the time, both of them, Neil and Robbie, were having a casual morning walk from their respective homes in Malibu, met on the beach by chance, and started chatting.

The story is somewhat different in Robbie’s autobiography, Testimony, where Robbie Robertson says he was approached by David Braun, because Neil wanted to record with him:

I ended up digging Neil right away- he was a real New York City songwriter from the classic Tin Pan Alley tradition. He still had the classic good looks that had led some people to refer to him as the Jewish Elvis. His kind and open manner made my family take to him right away. But I still wasn’t sure producing this record was right for me …
Robbie Robertson, Testimony.

Neil Diamond was determined to get him on board, and says he wrote the song Beautiful Noise specifically to lure Robbie into producing him. It was inspired by throwing open hotel windows in New York City and the sound of a Puerto Rican band below.

The ensuing friendship resulted in the album Beautiful Noise in 1976, where Robbie produced and played guitar on a few tracks. Robbie attracted additional sidemen to Neil’s normal band … Bandmate Garth Hudson on organ, along with Dr John, Jesse Ed Davis on guitar, Jim Keltner, Russ Kunkel, Jim Gordon or Joe Lala on drums, Larry Knechtel, David Paich and Bob James on piano. Nick DeCaro arranged the strings. It’s reported as having cost half a million dollars to record. According to Barney Hoskyns in Across The Great Divide, Robbie received $250,000 upfront. Some was recorded at The Band’s Shangri-La studio, so maybe he threw in the studio time. Neil Diamond said they spent about a year (off and on) working on it.

It was a tribute to Tin Pan Alley. The gatefold design was strongly reminiscent of Moondog Matinee’s wrap around poster, and perpetuated the myth that Tin Pan Alley, NYC was an alley, rather than floors of eleven storey The Brill Building on Broadway.

Beautiful Noise: Neil Diamond 1976 CBS, gatefold inner

Robbie Robertson has often spoken about the pleasure of writing for the strong character in the voices of Levon Helm, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko. Neil Diamond was an interesting change for him in production terms … a conventionally “good” singer with a conventional manly voice, as with Tom Jones, or indeed Elvis Presley or Bruce Springsteen. There are some stunning bits of production on there. Jungletime is not the best song, but it has the early Kinks meets Indian-inspired psych head on, with James Newton on Arp synthesizer, but Bob Boucher’s wonderful growling, grumbling Arp bass. Don’t Think Feel has such beautifully pitched Curtis Mayfield style guitar at the start, that I was sure it was Robbie. It’s not, it’s Jesse Ed Davis. Add flute from Jerome Richardson, and Dr John on Hammond organ. Surviving The Life is the most Band-like with wild Garth Hudson playing, utilising both Hammond and Lowry organs. I’d love to have heard Rick Danko having a go at If You Know What I Mean.

I loved that album then. I love that album now.

When the album came out, Neil put my producing credit on the cover as artwork, something I hadn’t seen done before, I told him that it really wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. Neil was so dedicated to his art while making the record, and so devoted to his songwriting craft, that I ended up profoundly impressed by the whole experience.
Robbie Robertson, Testimony.

Neil Diamond then decided to follow Hot August Night with another live double album, also recorded live at LA’s Greek Theatre, with some of his central support musicians from 1972’s Hot August Night with Robbie Robertson producing. The core band from 1972’s show were Dennis St. John, Alan Lindgren, Reine Press and Richard Bennett.

This time, crucially, he dispensed with Hot August Night’s 30 piece string section and wanted to showcase the new record, Beautiful Noise. Great. Oh, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull too. Not so great. The result was Love At The Greek. Love at The Greek was recorded on 13 September 1976.

A few weeks later on 25 November 1976, Neil Diamond was invited to play on The Last Waltz. This was controversial at the time. He was there, Robbie said, to represent the Tin Pan Ally strand in The Band’s DNA. OK, but that was a solo Robbie strand, dating back to Ronnie Hawkins taking him as a 15 year old would-be songwriter to New York’s Tin Pan Alley to meet the managers and help him find songs. One doubts that Levon Helm would have been overly impressed by Neil Diamond’s insistence on bringing along his drummer, Dennis St. John, to help keep the beat.

The dates are significant. Love At The Greek, was recorded 13 September in Los Angeles. It was released on 4 February 1977.

The Band had played three dates at The Greek Theatre shortly before, 23rd, 24th and 25th August 1976. Richard Manuel had his serious boat accident in Austin, Texas, a concert scheduled for 5th September. The Band then had to cancel ten gigs, resuming in Philadelphia on the 17th. Set-list com has imaginary setlists for the cancelled dates and Across The Great Divide says the tour resumed on September 18th in New York. However, a cassette tape exists of September 17th in Philadelphia. One of the cancelled dates was Jacksonville, Alabama on the 13th September. This means, Robbie only knew of his availability a week before the Love At The Greek concert. Was he present?

Levon Helm describes an acrimonious meeting in “early October 1976” which must involve Love At The Greek:

The lids of (Robbie’s) eyes drooped as I spoke. I think he’d been up all night working on a Neil Diamond album he was producing …
Levon Helm & Stephen Davies: This Wheel’s On Fire, 1993

Was Love At The Greek a rehearsal for Robbie for producing The Last Waltz?.Robbie must have been involved to an extent before The Last Waltz, maybe also afterwards. This doesn’t appear anywhere in descriptions of The Last Waltz. How onerous was the production task? Dennis St. John and Neil Brody are listed as Associate Producers, and the concert was recorded by Wally Heider Mobile, and NBC filmed it. They had done it before at the venue. I assume they knew where to put the microphones.

Dry Your Eyes: From The Last Waltz

On to Neil at The Last Waltz. In my more than two decades discussing The Band online, I can assure you that a majority of Band devotees feel Neil Diamond should not have been there, and regularly cite his rendition of Dry Your Eyes as the pee break when watching the film.

Levon Helm’s autobiography expresses his distaste:

When I heard that Neil Diamond was going to play, I asked, ‘What the hell does Neil Diamond have to do with is?’
Robertson just produced his album, I was told.
‘But what does he represent to The Band?’ I said.
Robbie called me up at the Miramar,’ Well. Neil is like Tin Pan Alley,’ he said, ‘That Brill Building scene, songwriters like Doc Pomus …’
‘Why don’t we just get Doc Pomus?’ I said.

Levon Helm & Stephen Davies: This Wheel’s On Fire, 1993

Later, Robbie expressed concern about the show over-running, and Muddy Waters was a suggested cut.

I was in a mood, I snarled, Go tell Robertson to tell Neil Diamond we don’t even know the who the fuck he is!’
Levon Helm & Stephen Davies: This Wheel’s On Fire, 1993

To be fair, Garth Hudson and Dr John had both played on Beautiful Noise, so they certainly knew who he was. If you surf the net on the Levon Helm v Robbie Robertson feud, you will find vast numbers of fans out there who take Levon’s opinions as gospel. This bounces over to views on Neil Diamond’s performance.

As I have said, Band fans disliked him:
For me this is probably the deadest tune of the entire concert. Unfortunately Neil never seems to relax the tone of high-seriousness and the impoverished chord progression only highlights the flaws … Diamond’s yellow tinted glasses, baby blue sports coat and red shirt might seem terribly out of place were it not for the fashion competition offered by Dr John and Van Morrison.
Neil Minturn, The Last Waltz of The Band, 2005

Be fair, if Neil had worn the blue sequinned shirt of Love At The Greek, it would have been inappropriate. He dressed down.

Then:

Next came what the New York Times described as ‘the very Las Vegasey Neil Diamond … so jarring and unwelcome that the movie takes minutes to recover.’
Sandra B. Tooze, Levon, 2020

That’s not true, in that it was Joni Mitchell’s set that dropped the pace of the concert. While Coyote worked, Shadows and Light and Furry Sings The Blues really didn’t.

This negativity does not hold in our house.We tend not to watch The Last Waltz start to finish anymore, as I’ve heard all the spoken voice bits so often I can finish every sentence. But we do select … and our main guest selections are Caravan, Helpless, Coyote, Mannish Boy … and Dry Your Eyes. I like it, and I always have. Controversy surrounds the scene in the wings afterwards, which Ronnie Wood reports as Neil saying Top that! and Dylan replying, ‘What do I have to do? Stay awake?’ Recent discussion on Music From The Band prompted this selection, and it seems Dylan and Diamond were old friends, so if it was said, it was friendly joshing, and also Neil has denied that there was any such conversation, though admits joking earlier:

Rolling Stone asked Diamond about the incident in 2010, the story changed. “Actually, it was before we both went on. He was tuning his guitar and I came over to him and I said, ‘You know, Bob, those are really my people out there.'” Diamond claimed he was only joking, and all Dylan did was look at him quizzically.

Dry Your Eyes? Who did what? The melody sounds Neil Diamond. Was Robbie already getting grief from Levon Helm on songwriting credits? I think that came later, but the words are significant. Whenever people cited Levon Helm’s voice and drums, or Garth Hudson’s piano as major parts of The Weight, I have pointed out that the versions by Jackie De Shannon, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross & The Supremes With The Temptations, Spooky Tooth or whoever, are STILL The Weight. No Levon vocal, or drums. No Garth piano. The copyright in a song is the top line melody … or tune … and lyric. So did Robbie have a wry smile on his face as Neil Diamond sang the songwriter’s manifesto:

Dry your eyes. Take your song out.
It’s a new-born afternoon
If you can’t recall the singer
You can still recall the tune …

Dry your eyes, Neil Diamond-Robbie Robertson, 1976

In retrospect, Dry Your Eyes was one of the few Beautiful Noise tracks which are not on Love At The Greek. Was it a conscious decision not to play it on both films? That must have been made before the earlier show in LA. It’s a strong song. More importantly, it was a Neil Diamond-Robbie Robertson co-writing credit. Some listeners to The Last Waltz grumble that the show was NOT about showcasing your recent releases, though Joni Mitchell did the same. In their minds he should have done I’m A Believer or Sweet Caroline. One to look out for. In the final line up and song at The Last Waltz, Neil Diamond is next to Joni Mitchell. Neil Young reaches behind and touches Joni’s bum, but the innocent Neil Diamond got the glare. Neil did not play Dry Your Eyes for forty years after The Last Waltz. Van Morrison never does Caravan either. I’d like to think both feel the song performances could not be bettered. He resumed playing it in 2017 after the Manchester concert bombings, as a tribute to the victims.

What was the impetus in trying to recreate the Hot August Night formula with a similar template in the same venue? Like any touring musician, Neil Diamond continually had to refresh his stage show as new albums came out. That means dropping selections out to incorporate newer songs, while retaining essentials … like Sweet Caroline. What he did was focus on his three platinum albums since Hot August Night. He played three songs from 1974’s Serenade, together with about half of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and half of Beautiful Noise … a side each of both of them.

Neil Diamond had briefly announced he was retiring from the road, and this album was a return. Did bells ring for Robbie? Or did Robbie ring bells for Neil?

Neil Diamond: I had to get away from it for a while. I wanted to spend some time with my family, just relax. Get away from the road …
KABC, Los Angeles, interview 20 February 1977

Live albums in general

You can’t just replicate studio recordings … though Supertramp were criticized for doing so. Very few bands can pull that off in fact. A live album has to have a USP – a unique sales pitch.

There are various routes. Live at The Lyceum by Bob Marley & The Wailers drips atmosphere, so much so that when the CD came out, they eradicated the mic feedback in No Woman No Cry and we complained they’d ruined it. They reinstated it in the remaster. See also Otis Redding at Monterey (or anywhere). You can sing the same songs with more passion (or perhaps volume and pace) as Bob Dylan did on Before The Flood.

If you’re a Deadhead you want the live album to have an extended jam. Lots of long solos is a common live album excuse.

You can rework your catalogue as Taj Mahal did with The Real Thing , the tuba album. Don Henley did similar with a tuba and horn version of Hotel California on a live DVD.

You can enrich with extra musicians as Neil Diamond did with the strings on Hot August Night, or The Band did with horns on Rock of Ages.

You can load it with celebrity guests as The Concert For Bangla Desh or The Last Waltz.

You can strip it back to a smaller, simpler group as Paul McCartney has done (it’s cheaper too).

You can forget the melody entirely … as Bob Dylan does in recent years, or as Van Morrison does with the live jazzed up Brown Eyed Girl.

If really stuck, you can use it as an alternative ‘Greatest Hits’ album.

You need a reason whatever. Did Neil Diamond have one on Love At The Greek?

Neil Diamond: As you change, the music changes. You get more experience in certain areas, you grow up a little bit … I’m sure it’s changed. And I’m sure it’ll continue to change.
KABC, Los Angeles, interview 20 February 1977

Love at The Greek in charity shops

Incidentally, it was way over-priced at £5. £2 is more like it.

In researching and finding records for over fifteen years, I spent much time kneeling on the floor in charity shops going through boxes of LPs. Love At The Greek is one of the most frequent finds, almost always in excellent to near mint condition. The other frequent find is also a double album, Stevie Wonder’s The Secret Life of Plants. Did everyone who bought them dump their copies? I suspect that in both cases, vast numbers were pressed, they didn’t sell many and after a few years in the warehouse, they were moved in bulk to charities, who have slowly filtered them through. Love At The Greek is an easy and cheap secondhand find, yet Hot August Night which must have sold vastly more, rarely turns up. People held on to it, and it was popular enough to generate a Hot August Night II in 1986, then in 2018, a Hot August Night III. You don’t see Beautiful Noise often either.

The video?

The opening credits of the video (over Cherry, Cherry)

Going back to 1977, the sales may have been impacted by the NBC television special of the show on 21st February 1977. In the USA that was a simulcast on FM radio – this was the era where you were invited to put your speakers either side of the TV set, tune in the FM receiver, turn the sound off on the TV and listen to the FM radio signal. And run a cassette recording …

Neil Diamond: Some people from NBC saw a tape (of one of my performances) and they really flipped … It ‘s kind of unusual for a first time television premiere. It’s a performance show … but it is designed for television. Really beautiful things going on at the show, I’m very happy with it. It was really easy to do because all I had to do was go out and perform. It’s natural for me and very comfortable for me.
KABC, Los Angeles, interview 20 February 1977

It was later issued as a VHS video tape. It’s on YouTube in sections. It’s longer than the album … it starts with Cherry Cherry and adds Play Me, Cracklin’ Rosie, I Am I Said as well as being in a different sequence. Robbie Robertson is not credited on Internet Movie Database as producer, but as ‘sound supervisor’ while Neil Brody and Ed Greene are credited with ‘audio.’

I conclude that first there is the TV broadcast. Then an album was assembled quite separately and in a different sequence from the soundtrack, which was Robbie’s role.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

The album’s presence here is down to its charity shop ‘rejection’ status more than the critics. I’ve never found so few reviews of an album in this series . Yet it went Platinum in the USA. I’ll put that lack of comment down to rock snobs ignoring Neil.

Robert Christgau had castigated Hot August Night, awarding it a D+. He didn’t deign to review Love At The Greek but see how he felt in general on the two albums that lead to it:

HOT AUGUST NIGHT: From the first guitar riff of this profit-taking double live showcase, it is obvious that the man is some sort of genius rock entertainer, but for the most part the great entertainer is striving for bad art, and not even achieving it. The humour here is almost as sententious as the phoney canta libre and the country and western parodies might get a poorer, drunker man lynched. D +
Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Guide: Rock Albums of the 70s.

And on Beautiful Noise:
BEAUTIFUL NOISE: Although fellow urban sentimentalist Robbie Robertson can achieve an awesome (almost fulsome) fullness with rock instrumentation, his production is basically pop program music. Yet somewhere in my cockles, I found Diamond hooking me as I listened for the last time and I had to admit that it takes a special kind of chutzpah to create a monster. C+
Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Guide: Rock Albums of the 70s.

Rolling Stone Record Guide *
New Rolling Stone Record Guide *
Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd edition) **
Rolling Stone Album Guide 4th Edition, surprisingly gives Beautiful Noise a one star rating, but gives Love At The Greek, three stars. It is growing in appeal then. Hot August Night gets four stars.

Diamond himself was impressed enough by Robbie to hire him for an equally turgid son-of-Hot August Night live album recorded at Hollywood’s Greek Theatre.
Barney Hoskyns, Across The Great Divide, 1993

At the peak of his powers as a schmaltzy showman, hamming up each of his songs for the audience. It’s the kind of performance that will please both dedicated fans, who will love Diamond’s no-holds-barred showmanship, as well as listeners with an ear for kitsch.
**
All Music Com

Record one:

I’m reviewing off vinyl. My copy has slight signs of wear, which for someone very careful with LPs, indicates it got a decent amount of play back in the day.

gallery: inner sleeve, click to enlarge

side one

Street Life

It’s from Beautiful Noise, but not at the start and in a longer version. Most of it is instrumental overture, which has a separate track division, but is not listed.

Kentucky Woman

It’s very special to be back, and if the weather holds up, we’ll do ’em all …

They did more of the big ones on the night, but they didn’t make it to the LP release.

An early Diamond song, from 1967 and a US #22 hit. Diamond had wanted Shiloh to be the single back then. Bert Berns of Bang Records believed Kentucky Woman was the hit, and went ahead against Diamond’s wishes. This led to Diamond’s departure from the label a year later. Bang capitalized on Diamond’s popularity over the next few years and released “Shilo” in 1970, (US #24)

It’s short and he’s shouting too much.

Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good)

His best known song? I don’t know. It comes from 1969 when it reached US #4 on Billboard, #3 on Cashbox. It was inspired by JFK’s daughter, Caroline, In the UK, it didn’t chart till 1971 when it was #8.

It’s drowned by massive applause, which sounds as if it’s very suddenly turned down. After Hot August Night, synth strings just don’t do the job. It had me wondering whether reproducing the strings on a keyboard was a good idea.

The Last Picasso

A 1974 track from Serenade then a single originally. Missing from the CD release, it’s not one I’d have cut. It starts out on the live show, ‘Lookout, Harry Belafonte, wherever you are?’ which is because it has a vaguely calypso feel at times, though I’d say more Latin. That sort of exclamation gives credibility to Ronnie Wood’s Dylan story. Neil Diamond did not suffer from a deflated ego. That sort of remark might be why Fred Weintraub, who ran the Bitter End folk venue in New York, told a young and novice Neil to stop talking between songs.

Nice percussion from King Ericsson. He tries to get the lyric as personalized as possible. Neil does the orgasmic groans at the end. Je t’aime?

Longfellow Serenade

The second song from 1974’s Serenade. It is also missing from the CD release, It looks like they just grabbed two songs together. It was a Billboard #5 hit on the main Hot 100, but #1 in Adult Contemporary in 1974.

It’s all sung well but it’s an example of ‘what does it add to the original?’ At the end he sounds as if he’s having ‘too much saliva’ issues on the vocal.

side two

This is The Beautiful Noise suite. No Jungletime, no Don’t Think Feel, and as above, No Dry Your Eyes. All are strong songs.

Beautiful Noise

The drums are much more subdued than the original (though both are Dennis St John) and the guitar jangles much further forward. The band lacks the SNAP! of the original, and again synth is used to replicate the horn part. Great song. Well done, but far weaker than the studio version. In the live category, it’s one you’d love if you were there on the night, feeling the charisma, but played on a record player, doesn’t ever have the buzz.

Lady-Oh

The piano sound and playing is great, the strings are synthesizer again … hence the need for two keyboard players. The vocal mix is very god – it takes mixing technique to get the voice that powerfully above the backing live. The guitar solo is VERY 80s. OK, it was 1977. We get an attempt at scat singing at the end.

Stargazer

The plunkety-plunk sound on the studio version was Richard Bennett on banjo and ukulele. It is here too, though the sleeve note only credits him with guitar. They may not have the New Orleans horns of the original, but they get the feel with magnificent honky tonk piano – while the synth fills the background. It gets a tick under the ‘done differently, but overall with the same feel’ category.

If You Know What I Mean

The single from Beautiful Noise was a US Adult Contemporary #1 hit, Hot 100 #11. A mere UK #35.

And the radio played like a carnival tune
As we lay in our bed in the other room
When we gave it away for the sake of a dream
In a penny arcade, if you know what I mean.

If you know what I mean, neil diamond

A sex-and-death torch song worthy of Nick Cave; where Neil confesses ‘I became a man at the hands of a girl almost twice my age.’
Rolling Stone Album Guide 4th Edition

Just like Rod Stewart then. It isn’t explicit in the lyric, though Neil explained the back story in a later interview. What a great song this is. One for the all time best “Fondly remembered fuck” song category.

The live version soars. He has finally reached his full on power, I thought.

Surviving The Life

OK, we realize the organ is not as good as Garth Hudson’s studio version right away. The female backing vocal is very present and it’s all the better for it. While I begin to suspect he has a slight cold, he really is powering on full steam as he brings this one to a close. Wins in the ‘atmospheric’ live category.

Record two:

Inner sleeve Gallery: click to enlarge

side three

Glory Road

From Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show album in 1969.

It’s supposed to be an anthem, but it can’t match the mood he’s established on the previous two.

Song Sung Blue

It originally appeared on Moods in 1972, and the single was a US#1 hit, UK #14 hit.

Quiet start, then acoustic guitar and clap along from the audience, who he appears to have in the palm of his hand. He appears slightly stuffy in the nose again. Helen Reddy is pulled from the audience to singalong. It sounds unprepared, and she just gets a verse. Those who saw the TV said she looked most reluctant. Then he spots Henry Winkler and pulls him up to sing it like the Fonz (in Happy Days), and Winkler gives a strangulated bawl. If a star is pulled up without prior discussion, it would be incredibly tempting to say, ‘Sorry, I have no idea how the song goes. I’ve never heard it.’

However it’s the sort of loose, relaxed ‘let’s just see what happens’ event that makes live shows feel really improvised and live to the audience.

Holly Holy

Originally the follow up to Sweet Caroline in 1969. A US #6 hit single. It went on to the Touching You, Touching Me album.

A bit feeble compared to Hot August Night. The band sound tentative. The backing vocals are good and it improves, but there seems to be something missing in the backing, almost if half of them had gone of for a smoke and Neil is doing all the work.

Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show

Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show: from the TV broadcast
It’s all done with mirrors …

This had been the show closer on Hot August Night. It was the opening track on the album of the same name in 1969, and was a US#22 hit

It’s a good encore song, but again in the forthcoming era, drums would have more depth to the live sound. Neil excels at loud narrative breaking into song. I like him ranting while the backing vocalists give it one hell of a lot of punch behind him. They only credit Linda Press, but it sounds like there are three of her.

The excitement builds to a rocking ending, as it had been for so many shows.

side four

Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull was a major selling 1970 novella. It inspired a 1973 film, to which Neil Diamond wrote the soundtrack, winning the 1974 Grammy. The album was US #2, and double platinum. It was gold in the UK and Germany. By 1976, when Love At The Greek was made, the soundtrack had grossed SIX times as much as the movie … $12 million v $2 million. That does not make it listenable.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull:

Side four shows no signs of wear at all on my copy. But then I only heard the original about once. The live version is truncated.

Be
The synth sounds are impressive at the start, and the audience love it. Then we get the spoken voice nature programme. David Attenborough on steroids? The drums are much more impressive.

Where? On a distant shore: reminds strongly of Hands! Touching hands!

The exclamation mark key on my keyboard is getting over-used. But it’s all sung with exclamation marks.

Dear Father
I can’t do individual tracks. They blur. There’s a ghostly choir. Not credited ? Is it a synth track? Synth voices?

Lonely Looking Sky
The longest journey of all … a journey into the self …

He sings superbly so let’s blame the bloke who wrote the platitude-laden book.

Sanctus

What’s the backing voice? What’s a nice Jewish lad doing singing Sanctus? Why isn’t it as good as Sanctus from Missa Luba?

Skybird

Then we get a cockney knees up. Where’s the accordion?

Be (encore)

And back to the narration. I can’t knock a Grammy winning album. It’s just really not my sort of thing. But he has one hell of a voice, Be! And the sun god will make for your day. There’s a lot of it. BEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

The audience loved it all. Talk about going down a storm.

I’ve Been This Way Before

The third song on the show from 1974’s Serenade album. It had been slated for Jonathan Livingston Seagull but wasn’t finished on time, so on this live show it gets put back where he wanted it. The single release was a US Easy Listening #1, and #34 in the main Billboard chart.

The audience are in ecstasy as this starts, I’ve seen the light …
Neil Diamond has such a mighty voice, and I wonder if it’s the po-faced seriousness of this sort of thing and the massive dramatic delivery that upsets critics and rock snobs? There’s not a hint of irony or humour in there.

But
Some people got to laugh, some people got to cry.

Exactly. I wonder if Robbie heard, I’ve been released! and said, ‘That reminds me of a song I know…’

Thank you. You’ve been fantastic!
Mr Diamond has left the building.

OVERALL

I reckon the whole point was the TV broadcast and the live double album is merely an adjunct, an afterthought. In 1977, VHS video was poor sound quality. People who ran cassettes of the simulcast would have lost bits changing tapes etc. I don’t think they would have contemplated releasing an audio only version at all a few years later. They would just have sold it as a stereo video, or laser disc, then they’d have done it as a DVD. So in some ways it would be rendered pointless by a decent DVD release, but I’d suspect Robbie would have tweaked the soundtrack for the LP release. You can see it was worth releasing at the time, and I would say unjustly reviled at one or two stars. I would give it three.

THE REVILED ALBUMS ARE (so far) …

Beatles For Sale – The Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request … The Rolling Stones
Speedway (and Elvis film music) – Elvis Presley
Electric Mud– Muddy Waters
Self Portrait – Bob Dylan
Byrdmaniax – The Byrds
Cahoots – The Band
Carl and The Passions- So Tough! – The Beach Boys
Wild Life – Wings
Sometime in New York City – John and Yoko / Elephant’s Memory
Recall The Beginning: A Journey From Eden … The Steve Miller Band
Hard Nose The Highway … Van Morrison
Chicago III … Chicago
Berlin– Lou Reed
Pinups – David Bowie
Love At The Greek – Neil Diamond
Death of A Ladies’ Man – Leonard Cohen
Born Again – Randy Newman
Mingus – Joni Mitchell
One Trick Pony – Paul Simon
Everybody’s Rockin’ – Neil Young  
American Dream – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane (1989)
Human Touch – Bruce Springsteen

And here’s a rule-breaker. I’d decided one album each, but Van Morrison got so much vituperation from critics (unjustly) in 2021, that I had to add it:

Latest Record Project Volume1… Van Morrison

This list will grow steadily

2 thoughts on “Love At The Greek

  1. Thanks for that Peter, I love your work. One of the first lp’s I bought in my youth was Gold, a live album Neil released circa 1970. I still play it on cd occasionally, and it has a good version of Both Sides Now. He was a real serial releaser of live albums, there can’t be many who released three in the same decade.

    Like

  2. “(C7) A Neil to the left,
    (F7) A Neil to the right.
    (G7) Will I never gonna lose,
    (C7) This Last Waltz . . . I mean Blues.

    Like

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