CD Review: Dion – The Complete Laurie Singles (Real Gone, 2012)
Dion DiMucci is one of the few first-generation rock ‘n’ rollers to fruitfully navigate the cultural twists and turns of succeeding decades. He had doo-wop hits fronting the Belmonts in the late ‘50s, teen idol solo hits in the early ‘60s, a resurgence in the ‘70s, and a string of albums running through 2008’s Giants of Early Guitar Rock and this year’s Tank Full of Blues that still find him making vital music. Real Gone’s 2-CD set reaches back to Dion’s breakout as a solo artist on the Laurie label, and catalogs all thirty-six of the sides he released as singles. He hit as a solo in 1960 with “Lonely Teenager,” and scored a 1-2 punch the following year with “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer.” He reached the Top 10 with “Lovers Who Wander,” “Little Diane” and “Love Came to Me,” but in late 1962 departed for Columbia. Laurie had enough material in the vault to issue singles into 1964, charting with the originals “Sandy” and “Lonely World,” and covers of “Come Go with Me” and “Shout.”
He returned to Laurie in 1968, and at the label’s suggestion recorded “Abraham, Martin & John,” a song that resounded strongly amid the year’s social upheaval and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. The record’s forlorn mood was just right for the times, and the single charted to #4 in the U.S. Dion’s stay at Laurie proved short-lived, as he moved to Warner Brothers the following year, but before going he released several more singles, including covers of Fred Neil’s “The Dolphins,” Joni Mitchell’s “From Both Sides Now,” a nearly unrecognizable folk-rock arrangement of “Purple Haze,” and a soulful take on the Four Tops’ “Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever.” He also recorded a few originals, including the heavy “Daddy Rollin’ (In Your Arms)” and socially charged “He Looks A Lot Like Me.” Dion’s songwriting had clicked as early as “Runaround Sue,” and it continued to sustain him through the rest of his career.
The thirty-six sides collected here represent nineteen singles released by Dion as a solo act for Laurie (two of the singles shared B-sides with other singles, hence the disparity between the number of sides and number of singles). All thirty-six sides are remastered from the original single mixes. Missing are Dion’s earlier releases with the Belmonts, as well as his sides on Columbia (which included the hits “Ruby Baby,” “Donna the Prima Donna” and “Drip Drop”). Lining up all the A’s and B’s, listeners will hear the tug-of-war between the label’s belief in pop songs, Dion’s love of gutsier blues and rock, the fast pace at which the music scene changed in the 1960s, and an artist’s ability to expand and reinvent himself. The 20-page booklet includes photos, picture sleeve reproductions, and extensive liner notes by Ed Osborne that feature generous quotes from Dion. [©2012 Hyperbolium]