Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dion & Dion & The Belmonts - Wish Upon a Star&Alone with Dion (1960)


Dion and the Belmonts была ведущей американской вокальной группы в конце 1950-х годов. Группа была образованна, когда Дион ДиМуччи, вокалист (родился 18 июля 1939 г.), присоединился к «The Belmonts» - Карло Мастранжело, баритон, (родился 5 октября, 1938), Фредди Милано, второй тенор, (родился 22 августа 1939 г.), и Анджело ДиАлео, первый тенор, (родился 3 февраля 1940 г.) в 1957 года. В 2000 году Dion and the Belmonts были добавлены в зал славы «The Vocal Group Hall of Fame».


Bridging the era between late-'50s rock and the British Invasion, Dion DiMucci (born July 18, 1939) was one of the top white rock singers of his time, blending the best elements of doo wop, teen idol, and R&B styles. Some revisionists have tried to cast him as a sort of early blue-eyed soul figure, although he was probably more aligned with pop/rock, at first as the lead singer of the Belmonts, and then as a solo star. Drug problems slowed him down in the mid-'60s, yet he made some surprisingly interesting progressions into blues-rock and folk-rock as the decade wore on, culminating in a successful comeback in the late '60s, although he was unable to sustain its commercial and artistic momentum for long.

When Dion began recording in the late '50s, it was as the lead singer of a group of friends who sang on Bronx street corners. Billing themselves as Dion & the Belmonts (Dion had released a previous single with the Timberlanes), their first few records were prime Italian-American doo wop; "I Wonder Why" was their biggest hit in this style. His biggest single with the Belmonts was "A Teenager in Love," which pointed the way for the slightly self-pitying, pained odes to adolescence and early adulthood that would characterize much of his solo work.

Dion went solo in 1960 (the Belmonts did some more doo wop recordings on their own), moving from doo wop to more R&B/pop-oriented tunes with great success. He handled himself with a suave, cocky ease on hits like "The Wanderer," "Runaround Sue," "Lovers Who Wander," "Ruby Baby," and "Donna the Prima Donna," which cast him as either the jilted, misunderstood youngster or the macho lover, capable of handling anything that came his way (on "The Wanderer" especially).

In 1963, Dion moved from Laurie to the larger Columbia label, an association that started promisingly with a couple of big hits right off the bat, "Ruby Baby" and "Donna the Prima Donna." By the mid-'60s, his heroin habit (which he'd developed as a teenager) was getting the best of him, and he did little recording and performing for about five years. When he did make it into the studio, he was moving in some surprisingly bluesy directions; although much of it was overlooked or unissued at the time, it can be heard on the Bronx Blues reissue CD.

In 1968, he kicked heroin and re-emerged as a gentle folk-rocker with a number four hit single, "Abraham, Martin and John." Dion would focus upon mature, contemporary material on his late-'60s and early-'70s albums, which were released to positive critical feedback, if only moderate sales. The folk phase didn't last long; in 1972 he reunited with the Belmonts and in the mid-'70s cut a disappointing record with Phil Spector as producer. He's been recording and performing fairly often in the years that followed (sometimes singing Christian music), to indifferent commercial results. But his critical rep has risen steadily since the early '60s, with many noted contemporary musicians showering him with praise and citing his influence, such as Dave Edmunds (who produced one of his periodic comeback albums) and Lou Reed (who guested on that record). Dion continued to be active as the 21st century opened, releasing Déjà Nu in 2000, Under the Influence in 2005, and Bronx in Blue in 2006. His first major-label album since 1989's Yo Frankie, entitled Son of Skip James, was released by Verve in 2007, while 2008's Heroes: Giants of Early Guitar Rock saw him tackling 15 songs from the classick rock & roll era. ~ Richie Unterberger




Ace's two-fer Wish Upon a Star/Alone with Dion features two of Dion & the Belmonts' albums from the early '60s. In addition to familiar hits, there are some great covers and album cuts that are worth investigation by hardcore fans, even if it isn't as good as Ace's other two-fer, Lovers Who Wander/So Why Didn't You Do That the First Time?. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine


From the working class neighborhood of the Bronx came one of the defining vocal groups of the late nineteen fifties. They were Dion & The Belmonts (named for a neighborhood street - Belmont Avenue), and the members were Dion DiMucci - lead, Fred Milano and Angelo D'Aleo on tenor, and Carlo Mastroangelo on bass. At first Dion and The Belmonts were separate entities although they seemingly traveled in the same circles in their neighborhood, and both first recorded for the small independent Mohawk label - Dion with "The Chosen Few" and "Out In Colorado" on #105 which sounded like a pair of tunes from a grandiose western movie, certainly not the type of songs from the central Bronx of 1957. The Belmonts did not do much better with "Teenage Clementine" and "Santa Margarita" on #106 (who was picking these songs?). Neither record surfaced at all, and on Mohawk #107 both parts of the equation came together and Dion & The Belmonts recorded "We Went Away" and "Tag Along". The record drew another blank and that was the end of Mohawk Records as far as the newly formed vocal group was concerned. Read on +/-

Enter a newly formed record company called Laurie Records (was there a connection with Mohawk, or just neighbors in the same building on New York City's Broadway? ). In any event, whether it was a canny A & R man (maybe Sol Winkler or Ernie Maresca), luck, or divine guidance,the first release for the label by the group on Laurie #3013 "I Wonder Why" exploded on the street like a cannon shot. The tune was in New York everywhere, coming out of every radio, every record player, every open car door. These were their guys and they were hitting the big time. The flip side "Teen Angel" never got a play so dominant was the up tempo 'A' side. Every kid did his five-and-dime imitation of Carlo's stattaco bass intro and that became one of the signature sounds of the rock 'n' roll age. Dion & The Belmonts came off the starting line in full stride and never looked back.

Waiting for a follow up, listeners were surprised by the choice of a sentimental ballad instead of the usual copy cat repeat of the hit. The tune "No One Knows" on #3015, was an earnest story of unrequited teenage love, and it was a winner as fans took to the ballad sound. As for chart sales, it outdid their initial recording for Laurie, getting into the top twenty national pop charts which was a heady accomplishment for a doowop group in 1958 on their second try for the label. With that success, Laurie Records kept the group on track for a number of ballads, and all were successful in varying degrees proving out the direction that the group was taking. Now with a rocking hit and a ballad smash, the group hit the road for a period of extensive touring. They did a number of one nighters in the East and went out nationally on package tours around the country.

Just after the new year in 1959, the new release by the group was Laurie # 3021"Don't Pity Me" and "Just You". The sound of melancholy on "Don't Pity Me" worked for the group and it hit the national pop charts again although not as famously as the previous two records. In support of the new record, the group went out on a touring revue called "The Winter Dance Party" that played the Midwest. This show lives on in infamy because of the plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson near Clear Lake, Iowa. By late spring Dion & The Belmonts were readying their new Laurie release on #3027, called "A Teenager In Love". Once again the song struck a chord in the lives of so many of the listeners that lived the words of the tune, and as a result, sales for the record were phenomenal. A top five best seller and a pop chart record for four months, it was by far the biggest seller to date and the group was certainly a hot property. The song sung in tempo as midway between a ballad and a rocker was also great for dancing.

At this time one of the inevitabilities of any comparable situation arose. There were forces at work to make Dion DiMucci a solo performer and to showcase his talent (and consequently to have a much fewer number of voices) inputting plans and ideas. But for the time being the group moved ahead on their next record. Immediately following the new year of 1960, the quartet went into the studio and tried their hand on a pop standard "Where Or When" which featured a lovely counter melody played on sax in the intro and ending. The interesting flip side was the group's take on The Channels version of the Frankie Laine pop hit of "That's My Desire" which featured impeccable harmony without the bombastic bass which was a feature of the original version on Whirlin Disc. The record on Laurie #3044 was a huge success, dominating the pop charts in early 1960 and challenging for the top position on the national best sellers list (locked out of gaining the top spot by Percy Faith's MOR movie tune "Theme From A Summer Place"). It seemed that Dion & The Belmonts could do no wrong. Everything they put on record was a smash. In the spring they recorded a tune made famous by the Walt Disney movie "Pinnochio". The song was "When You Wish Upon A Star", and again the Belmonts and Dion made the charts though not anywhere as dominant a position as the two previous hits.

There was one more chart hit for the group that summer, "In The Still Of The Night" (the 1930s pop standard, not the Five Satins tune) on #3059. The successful formula that served the group so well for the last two years seemed to be played out now. The record barely charted, getting into the 30s just briefly. By the end of the year the split (mostly amicable according to those involved) took place, and Dion went out into the world as a solo performer and was signed as such by Laurie, while The Belmonts carried on with Carlo taking over the lead singing spot. Both parts of the act had a measure of fame and fortune - the Belmonts certainly must be classified as a moderate success, while Dion had some monumental hit records during the early sixties, with some of his tunes becoming teenage anthems that would last a lifetime. (YesterdayGold)




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