81. holly holy

“We’ve already heard from Neil Diamond‘s Hot August Night on this list, arguably the greatest live album of all time. Or the best ending to one anyway, the fourth and final side, which kicks off with Holly Holy. Some have called it a Christmas song, which is odd, because Mr. Diamond is Jewish – what it is, is a gospel-inspired, wild and profound reach for (and grasp of) glory — a beautiful noise indeed. Because it’s not ironic, man, this stuff makes me live, man, let the seed be full with tomorrow, it doesn’t get more hopeful than that, man, and also the part about the lame man not just walking but flying – and then the song f***ing takes you there, beyond gravity. Because only music can. I’m paraphrasing my friend Steven here from better part of a decade ago, and I agreed with him, even if I needed about five drinks in me to bring myself to it. Or more to the point, back to it, because he wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t said myself (or tried to anyway) decades previous, twelve or thirteen, the first time Holly Holy sent me over the rainbow. The Hot August Night version being the version, hot band and small orchestra, and singer and song and audience all coalescing in one grand and miraculous f***ing slam.” (Philip Random)

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840. crunchy granola suite

Neil Diamond‘s Hot August Night, possibly the greatest live album ever released, starts well indeed with Crunchy Granola Suite, the power of which is only slightly negated when you realize it really is about eating well, lots of nuts and berries. From the album’s liner notes: “Then softly, the music begins, the lights dim. The music rises, the stage is a smoky, opalescent jewel in the darkness. But one light shines brighter than the others, a white pool in the brilliance, and for an instant, sound hangs suspended, only the air breathing. Then he’s there, the crowd exploding, Neil Diamond, casual, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, those 5000 people demanding his soul.  And for the next 107 minutes, he gives it to them.”