Though Hot August Night is better known as the definitive Neil Diamond live album, Gold will have value for those who prefer the songsmith's pop-rock beginnings to the slick sophistication that made him a superstar. Recorded live at Hollywood club the Troubadour, Gold provides a chance to hear Diamond in a looser, more rock-oriented setting than he'd ever attempt on vinyl again. Leading a small, raucous band with breathless enthusiasm, Diamond pours sweat and energy into numbers like "Thank the Lord for the Night Time" and "Cherry Cherry," giving them a satisfyingly raw rock and roll spirit. As befits a gig of this type, ballads are kept to a minimum in favor of upbeat material, and Diamond's personable, unpretentious delivery on this recording saves songs like "Sweet Caroline" and "Lordy" from the bloated schmaltz that most listeners either love or loathe him for. By the climax of "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show," Diamond has sung himself nearly hoarse, and the connection with his audience is evident. As his career exploded in the years to come, there would be no more intimate venues like the Troubadour, and his music would swell in size accordingly. Gold is likely to sound thin and unpolished to the legions of fans who made Diamond a top concert draw for his mega-hit ballads, but it's still a great snapshot of the singer/songwriter at the end of his hit-making rock and roll days as he begins his ascent into adult contemporary pop stardom.