Gene Pitney was the ultimate Brill Building pop star. Unlike his rival Neil Sedaka, whose American fan-base deserted him in the second half of the 1960s, he maintained a chart presence throughout the whole decade. In Britain, where Gene was a frequent visitor, the hits continued through to the 1970s, and even beyond. Bookending this collection are 1961's self-penned I Wanna Love My Life Away and Twenty Four Sycamore from the UK charts of 1973, but never a USA 45. Likewise, Somewhere In The Country, Yours Until Tomorrow and Maria Elena, not to mention Nobody Needs Your Love, one of his best-known numbers, were all British hits, yet not one of them was released as a single in the USA. Go figure.
1962 yielded Town Without Pity, the atmospheric Kirk Douglas movie theme, and the following year his career song Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa, one of several Bacharach & David classics in the Pitney catalogue. Gene's British publicist at the time was Andrew Loog Oldham and Gene spent time hanging out in London with him and the Stones, with Mick 'n' Keef even supplying his next hit That Girl Belongs To Yesterday. He saw out 1964 with It Hurts To Be In Love and I'm Gonna Be Strong, his third Top 10 hit in a year. Before too long, I Must Be Seeing Things, Looking Through The Eyes Of Love, Princess In Rags, Backstage and Just One Smile had all also rattled the upper regions of the British charts, each of them a much bigger success than in the States.
Throw in Cold Light Of Day, Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart, A Street Called Hope and Shady Lady and what we have here are all 20 of Pitney's British hits, recorded for Musicor Records of New York, and released in Blighty on the London, HMV, United Artists, Stateside and Pye International labels.
No mean songsmith himself (Rubber Ball, Hello Mary Lou and He's A Rebel, for starters), Gene had the hottest writers of the day forming an orderly line outside his A&R man's office in the hope he'd record their songs. Scrutinise the small print in the CD booklet and you find illustrious names like Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Howard Greenfield, Helen Miller, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Al Kooper, Randy Newman, Gerry Goffin and Carole King - a roll call of great songwriters, for sure. And at mid-price - a bargain, or what?
By Mick Patrick