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Music Review: Dion – The Complete Laurie Singles

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Dion DiMucci, with and without the Belmonts, is best remembered for his series of doo-wop type hits during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Songs such as “A Teenager in Love,” “Runaround Sue,” and “The Wanderer” remain a recognizable part of the pre-Beatles rock and roll era.

One important decision led to his 50+ year career and 1989 induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He had performed with Buddy Holly, February 2, 1959, in Clear Lake, Iowa and was offered a place on a plane that would fly them to their next gig instead of enduring a cold bus ride. The cost of $36 was the same as his parents had paid per month for their apartment so he turned the offer down. A few hours later everyone on the plane was dead when it crashed just after takeoff.

Real Gone Music has recently released a two-CD set titled The Complete Laurie Singles. It gathers all the A- and B-sides of his singles from both of his tenures for the label. The music was remastered from the original tapes and is presented in a glorious mono sound. The accompanying booklet contains an essay of his music. Written by Ed Osborne, with input from Dion, it is about as complete as one can get. My only complaint is that the set does not include his singles with The Belmonts, which were also released on the Laurie label.

His big hits are very familiar to fans of early rock and roll. They tended to be up-tempo with prominent guitar, sax, and drums providing the foundation for his soaring vocals. The messages may have been simple but the music made you smile and was perfect for AM radio at the time as it stayed in your mind.

Some of the lesser known sides have rarely, if ever, been released on CD. “Kissin’ Game,” “Runaway Girl,” “Little Girl,” “Lost for Sure,” and “King Without a Queen” are nice deeper looks into the Dion catalogue.

Dion signed with the Columbia label during late 1962 and when he returned to Laurie in 1968 his sound was very different. He recorded some material that had a folk bent and even experimented in places. “Abraham, Martin, and John” was just about the perfect song for 1968 as Dion sang about the end of innocence as The Vietnam War was expanding. He also recorded the classic folk tunes, “From Both Sides Now” and Fred Neil’s “The Dolphins.” He really stretched out of his musical norm with a rendition of the Jimi Hendrix classic, “Purple Haze.”

Now in his early 70s, Dion is still on the road and active in the studio. The Complete Laurie Singles traces two distinct periods of his career, which includes most of his popular material. It is a must for anyone interested in Dion or either of the eras.

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