Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dion "The Complete Laurie Singles a Review Pt 4

Part Four, The Wanderer returns:

The last eight songs on this set are from 1968 and 1969 when Dion would make a return stop home to Laurie Records. This also marks the beginning of what refer to as Dion’s Acoustic Years. This is a period that is often overlooked in the illustrious career of Mr. DiMucci.

I begin with a TRUE CLASSIC from the period, “Abraham, Martin and John.” Released in the fall of 1968, it peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and would remain on the charts for 14 weeks. The single was issued in MONO; I mention that because STEREO 45’s were beginning to show up by that time on infrequent occasions but this would change by the next year. On this set, the sound quality is outstanding. That warm sound heard on the rest of the songs carries over from the familiar beginning of this goodie. You hear the harp, strings, horns and the nylon string guitar of Dion, all blended together. My favorite part of the song is the Hammond organ break after verse two and it sounds absolutely beautiful on this CD.

I remember back in the day, flipping this 45 over and hearing “Daddy Rollin’ (In Your Arms,)” a blues tune that just rocks out on this CD. I must point out that the other version of this song I have on CD was also in MONO, but it didn’t sound this full and rich. This song is not unlike a lot of the material Dion recorded on Columbia from 1964 until he left to return to Laurie in ’68. Most of these songs would go unnoticed until years later when Columbia would release “The Road I’m On,” a two disc set of many of Dion’s Columbia sides.

The next single Laurie would release was the Jimmy Hendrix classic “Purple Haze,” which did hit the Hot 100 and peak at #63. The song sounds as good as it gets. If you’re not familiar with Dion’s rendition of this Psychedelic standard, it sounds like Dion meeting Jose Feliciano and jamming together with a lot of flutes and strings in the background. It’s actually kind of an interesting take on the song. 

The B-side of this 45 is “The Dolphin.” This song would have fit in most of the albums Dion would record on Warner Brothers during the 70’s. This is a wonderful song written by Fred Neil; the harp really rings out over the acoustic guitar, bass, strings and the smooth Dion vocals. Many believe this song should have been the A-side of this record. After listening to it several times since I obtained this set, I agree.

The next single, issued by Laurie in 1969, is Joni Mitchell’s “From Both Sides Now,” as it was issued on the label. This one barely hit the Hot 100 at #91. I’ve always remembered the song as “Both Sides Now.” Dion does a good job interpreting this song with the harp, strings, and acoustic guitar arrangement similar to “The Dolphin.” That warm, full sound rings out clear as a bell. This was Dion’s last chart hit for Laurie.

The B-side of this 45 is “Sun Fun Song.” This is one of the few songs on this collection that I had not heard until now. It’s a nice little tune written by Dion. Again the arrangement is as the previous two songs and it sure sounds good. This one’s got a cool instrumental break that reminds me a bit of “Penny Lane.”

The last Dion single on Laurie is a version of the Four Tops “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever,” co written by Stevie Wonder. Again this sounds like something Jose Feliciano might have recorded only with Dion singing lead. It’s a good song as should have had some chart action, but it did not.

The flip side of this one is “He Looks A Lot Like Me,” a Viet Nam era song written by Dion. There’s some good guitar work in that great Dion style and again it sounds great.
This is one of the other songs I was not familiar with and I’m sorry I never heard this one before; it’s very good.

All of these eight songs appeared on an album entitled “Dion,” released by Laurie after the success of “Abraham, Martin and John.”

As I said earlier, they need to do this with Dion’s Columbia singles and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see collections like this from other artists and groups from this era. There are MONO collections of The Beach Boys and The Beatles, if you can afford the Beatles MONO Box set. There have been MONO sets from many Motown artists as well. There should be similar collections from The Mamas and Papas, The Buckinghams, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Four Seasons and Jan and Dean, to name a few.

The bottom line about this OUTSTANDING collection is if you like the sounds of the ‘60’s BUY THIS SET; if you’re a fan of Dion, BUY THIS SET, even if you have all the other Dion CD collections; and most of all, if you want to hear this music that way it sounded back in the day on those old 45’s, in GLORIOUS MONO, then by all means BUY THIS SET!  You will NOT be disappointed at all.

A footnote to this review:

I have learned the Jan and Dean Complete Liberty Singles set along with sets from Gary Lewis and the Playboys and Paul Revere and the Raiders from Collectors Choice Music, were issued in MONO! I guess I'm going to have to get copies of those sets as well.

Dion "The Complete Laurie Singles a Review Pt 3

Part Three, Leftovers on Laurie:

In 1963, Columbia issued “Ruby Baby,” Dion’s first single on their label. So Laurie was left with enough sides to continue issuing singles for some time after Dion’s departure. However, as you will note, they would run out of solo material, perhaps passing on a few album tracks that might have made good singles.

Disc Two begins with a song taken from Dion’s “Lovers Who Wander” LP and issued as a single in the Spring of 1963. “Sandy” would peak at #21 after “Ruby Baby” charted in January of ’63. This track sounds just fine in MONO. It again carries on with that full, warm sound that was on Disc One. Again, the blend of Dion and The Del-Satins is smooth and sounds just like it did back then on my old 45. Now if you flipped this record over, you get a song called “Faith,” which actually goes back the the Dion & the Belmonts days; but it still has a good sound quality.

In June of ’63, Laurie would dip into the “Lovers Who Wander” album for the next single. “Come Go With Me,” a remake of the Del Vikings hit, peaked at #48; the record was backed with “King Without a Queen,” which did not hit the charts; maybe Laurie should have pushed the B-side.  “Come Go With Me” has a premature fade out in the last verse. This reminded me of “Darling Loraine” by The Knockouts which also faded in the last verse. Both sides sound excellent on this CD, especially “King Without a Queen,” blending Dion’s lead with the excellent backing vocals of The Del-Satins, along with some fine guitar and a subtle organ in the mix.

Next came a single taken from the “Runaround Sue” LP. I believe if “Lonely World” would have been issued as an A-side a year earlier, it would have charted much higher than it did in ’63, when it bubbled under the Hot 100 at #101. The sound on this song is as good as it gets and once again The Del-Satins vocals are loud and clear. The flip side of this 45 was another one from the Dion & the Belmonts days. “Tag Along” was recorded early in their time at Laurie and for some reason, it did not appear on a single until the group had broken up and Dion himself had left Laurie.

In 1964, Laurie released two sides from Dion’s first solo album entitled “Alone With Dion,” which was recorded in 1960. “After the Dance” failed to chart as did the B-side, “Then I’ll Be Tired of You.” These songs sounded good but they were obviously released in an effort to try and continue to cash in on Dion’s continuing success on Columbia, which I must admit was failing in 1964. But that’s an issue for another time.

Laurie would again dip into the tracks off of the “Lovers Who Wander” LP for one more single, Dion’s version of “Shout.” This sounds very good in MONO; while I was listening to the track, I got the feeling they took the best parts from The Isley Brothers 1959 original and mixed in a lot of the raw energy from the Joey Dee & the Starliters 1962 live recording.

Another note about Dion on Laurie in 1964. Laurie would re release “Little Girl” as a single but it would not do any significant chart action.

One last single was issued in 1965 when Laurie would go all the way back to the “Presenting Dion & the Belmonts” LP and put out a song called “I Got the Blues” which would fail to hit the charts. In 1958, this vocal put to the rhythm of Bill Doggets “Honky Tonk,” might have actually seen some chart action. In 1965, a year after the British Invasion, Motown and all the other changes, the song stood no chance of becoming a hit. However, it’s on the collection for us to enjoy, and I might add it sounds as good if not better than the versions I have on a couple of Ace CD’s, which are well known for great sound quality.

In Part Four, I’ll take a look at the singles from 1968 and 1969 when Dion would return to Laurie before he would end up on Warner Brothers.

Dion "The Complete Laurie Singles a Review Pt 2

Part Two, The Heart of the Collection, Dion and The Del-Satins:

This part of my review deals with Dion’s most familiar singles from Laurie. The backing vocals on all of these songs and some of the songs in Part Three feature The Del-Satins. When you take the A-sides of all of these songs and put them together with Dion’s Columbia chart singles, you’ll find Dion had more hits with The Del-Satins than he did with The Belmonts.

It’s these familiar songs that make this collection shine bright. In all cases, you can clearly hear Dion’s legendary vocals backed in excellent fashion by The Del-Satins. This is different from the STEREO issues of these sides. As with many recordings from the 60’s, the backing vocals on the STEREO versions do not stand out like they do on the MONO recordings. They stand out very well on this collection. And once again, the sound is crisp, clear, warm, and full. The STEREO versions sound good but there’s a bit too much high ends on the mix. Even my wife noticed.

Dion’s only Number One chart hit, “Runaround Sue,” sounds OUTSTANDING, as does the B-side, “Runaway Girl.” Back in 1986, when I got my first Dion CD, “Dion Hits” from Ace Records, I recall being impressed with all the little things I was hearing on the CD. Well, I still hear them on this collection, there’s just a better blend in the sound. I even hear the drummer hit one of his drumsticks with the other stick after verse one on “Runaround Sue;” that’s something digital technology turned me on to way back in ’86. Plus every “Hape-hape-um-be-doudi-doudi” sung by The Del-Satins, blends right in with Dion’s classic vocals.

Next we have “The Wanderer,” another one of Dion’s signature songs. It booms out over the speakers in glorious MONO, as does the B-side, “The Majestic,” a song penned by Brenda Lee Jones and Welton Young, who had some hits of their own recording as Dean and Jean for Laurie. I’d like to hear those goodies mixed like these recordings are on this set. “The Wanderer” peaked at #2 and “The Majestic” topped off at #36 on the Hot 100 in early 1962.

The next tracks also both hit the Hot 100. “(I Was) Born to Cry,” #42 and “Lovers Who Wander,” #3, were issued toward the Spring of 1962.  These two songs both continue with that same warm, full sound that permeates this collection. I’m not going to debate which one of these songs was supposed to be the A-side. I like them both, but “Lovers Who Wander” did chart higher.

In the late Summer of ’62, Laurie issued “Little Diane;” #8 on the charts, this song featured a kazoo instead of a saxophone, throughout the recording. It comes through loud and clear on this CD. Dion himself added the kazoo to the recording. Flip this gem over and you get “Lost for Sure,” a song Dion penned with Susan Butterfield, now his wife for many years. On this MONO version, you hear the acoustic guitar in the background, the subtle lead electric guitar, the sax, bass and drums all woven together with the GREAT backing vocals of The Del-Satins. I always liked the guitar chords on this one.

The last A-side on Disc One is a personal favorite of mine, “Love Came to Me.” This mid tempo gem kicks from the opening notes, “Shat-dube-dutin-doot-doot-di-doot,” by The Del-Satins all the way to the fade out. Dion’s voice, guitar, those great backing vocals, the bass, drums and the piano form a warm blend on yet another classic recording from Mr. DiMucci. Why this song only topped off at #10 in the Fall of 1962, is something I’ll never understand. Part of the issue could have been Dion’s up coming move to Columbia Records. Maybe Laurie just didn’t push this record enough. Well, I’m pushing it here. Oh, by the way, the flip side, “Little Girl,” sounds just fine as well. This one always reminded me of “No One Knows,” Dion & the Belmonts second single on Laurie.

This brings us to the end of Disc One. Next we’ll take a look at the first part of Disc Two.

Dion "The Complete Laurie Singles a Review Pt 1

Part One, The First Few Singles:

When I first learned about the release of this 36 track 2 CD set, I got excited for one major reason; the songs were being re mastered from the original MONO source tapes. Of course I was also excited to finally be able to add a few missing tracks to my vast collection of Dion recordings on CD.

I’m going to break this review up into four parts. The reason should become obvious as we go along. First let’s talk about the packaging. This 2 disc set comes with extensive liner notes, so extensive I have yet to fully read them. The track listing is extensive and informative as well, including writing credits, record catalog number, highest chart position and year of release. I even enjoyed the CD labels, which resemble the colorful Laurie 45 label with it’s red, white, black and gray decoration. Everyone who owned copies of these songs knows what I’m talking about.

The first eight tracks on Disc 1 deal with Dion’s first solo singles after he split with the Belmonts in 1960. These first songs pre date Dion’s relationship with The Del-Satins, which I’ll talk about In greater detail in parts 2 and 3 of this review.

A few thoughts about the overall sound quality of these two discs; the words WOW, OUTSTANDING, FULL and WARM come to mind. As I listened to all the tracks, I couldn’t help but think that the people who put this set together have managed to cross a threshold in digital sound. The songs have a full, rich sound. It reminds me of listening to the old 45’s on my brother’s Curtis Mathis stereo, the one I was forbidden to touch in my younger days. Many people have complained about the sound of digital music on CD as being too cold, or even mechanical. These songs are NOT like that. One of the first things that went through my mind while I listening to these songs was how about doing this with Dion’s Columbia singles too.

Disc One begins with “Lonely Teenager,” which was released in late 1960 and received a lot of airplay. I actually recall hearing the flip side of this 45 first. “Little Miss Blue” is track 2, which barely cracked the Hot 100 back in 1960. On the CD, you can hear the background vocals much better than the STEREO versions that have been previously issued. The acoustic guitar sounds warm, the way an acoustic guitar should sound. In fairness to the excellent quality of the recordings Dion did at Laurie, I  point out that the overall sound of the Dion catalog in STEREO is really not that bad. It’s just that over time, I’ve become more interested in hearing these songs as I did when I was young, and that was hearing them in MONO.

The next single, “Havin’ Fun,” is one of those songs you never hear on the Oldies radio. It’s a nice song that continues that warm sound I spoke of earlier. The trombone solo sounds darn good. The B-side of this record is “Northeast End of the Corner;” it sounds good however it takes Dion toward the Pop sound that Bobby Darin would take, you know it sounds like something you might have heard at the Copa back then.

The next single, “Kissin’ Game” sounds like a track that could have easily been a Drifters’ record. It sounds good on the CD. The flip of this one, “Heaven Help Me,” reminds me a lot of a song that Don and Phil Everly might have recorded. Both of the A-sides of these 45’s did chart on the Hot 100.

“Somebody Nobody Wants” did not crack the Hot 100; it just missed. The significance of this record is the return of the girl group back up like Dion’s first solo efforts. The vocals sound good, clear and well balanced in their MONO versions. “Could Somebody Take My Place Tonight” is the B-side of this 45. Dion sounds great on the lead of this side. This was one of the songs I was not too familiar with before I got this collection.

I call these first eight songs the beginnings of Dion’s solo Laurie singles. They all are great to hear. The next two parts of this review concern the heart of this collection, the recordings Dion did with The Del-Satins.

I'm Back!

Well as the title says, I’m Back!

After more than a three year absence from the blogosphere. I am returning and re firing up the engines on “The Oldie!” In the next few days I will be redesigning the page layout and letting you know what I’ve been up to in the past three years.

In the next couple of days I will post a four part review on the new Dion two CD set, “The Complete Laurie Singles.” This set has been re mastered in GLORIOUS MONO, and I mean GLORIOUS MONO! So what the blog for the review.

I also have many YouTube videos to share as well, plus a lot of other things about Baseball Cards, Lionel Trains and a few real trains, Rock & Roll, and even Chevrolet and a few other goodies too.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Great Song from 1958

The Fascinators were quite popular on the East Coast in the late 50s and early 60s. This song is the best of the best from this group, a truly outstanding DooWop ballad.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

This song was played first around the St. Louis area back in 1963. As you can see by the record number, this was actually the A-side of this 45. However, the B-side, "Wildwood Days," became the hit recording for Bobby Rydell back in the summer of '63.