Dion’s two 1963 Columbia albums together on CD in stereo.
Having parted company with the Belmonts in 1960, Dion DiMucci enjoyed a string of solo hits on Laurie, including the million-selling ‘Runaround Sue’, and two Top 20 albums before signing to Columbia Records in late ’62. By now a major star and with an uncompromising take on his own style – “I don’t sing white, I don’t sing black, I sing Bronx”, Dion’s arrival at the label heralded a significant sea change; A&R director Mitch Miller’s dislike of rock’n’roll was no secret while Dion himself was eager to break away from the irksome “teen idol” tag at odds with his own musical inclinations.
His first Columbia single, a bluesy cover of Leiber & Stoller’s ‘Ruby Baby’, peaked at US #2 and spawned the first of two LPs released in 1963. With Robert Mersey producing, the album was a broad mix of Tin Pan Alley standards (‘You Made Me Love You’, Al Jolson’s ‘My Mammy’), covers of newly minted pop hits (‘The End Of The World’) and original material (‘The Loneliest Man In The World’, ‘Unloved, Unwanted Me’) in a tear-jerky vein likely chosen to appeal both to teens and the young at heart. Released in March ’63, “Ruby Baby” became his third Top 20 album.
By contrast its follow-up, “Donna The Prima Donna”, fared less well – possibly the result of unfortunate timing in the month of President Kennedy’s assassination – yet was more allied to Dion’s tastes. Capitalising on the recent doo wop revival, alongside the self-penned title hit (US #6), the album included two Cleftones songs (‘Can’t We Be Sweethearts’, ‘This Little Girl Of Mine’), Goffin & King’s oft-overlooked ‘This Little Girl’ (US #21) and a cover of ‘Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw’ (US #31), a composition Dion had heard as a youngster by way of Hank Williams’ “Luke The Drifter” recordings.
Paradoxically, with every hit single Columbia appeared to grow more uneasy, perhaps because their desire to mould Dion into an MOR act for the supper club set seemed ever less likely. Increasingly disillusioned and eschewing the British Invasion, Dion turned his attention towards traditional folk and blues. After a fallow spell during which he bought himself out of his Columbia contract, he developed a more contemplative style, eventually returning to the US Top 5 with ‘Abraham, Martin And John’ in 1968.
Presented in glorious stereo, “Ruby Baby” and “Donna The Prima Donna” make their CD debut here, reinvigorating Ace’s acclaimed series of Dion DiMucci 2-on-1 album reissues after more than a decade. The memorabilia-laden package includes informative notes by US music writer Ken Burke and a detailed sessionography.