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Dion Sit Down Old Friend - You're Not Alone

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  • CDCHD791
  • 0.1
(ACE Records) 22 tracks Given the constrictions that bind most artists to their public persona,... more

Dion: Sit Down Old Friend - You're Not Alone

(ACE Records) 22 tracks

Given the constrictions that bind most artists to their public persona, Dion's reinvention of himself in the early years of the 70s in both his music and his message, is a remarkable achievement. Over the course of four albums, Sit Down Old Friend, You're Not Alone, Sanctuary and Suite For Late Summer, released between 1970 and 1972, the singer and songwriter completely redefined the expressive potential of his own music. Sit Down Old Friend and You're Not Alone receive their first-ever compact disc reissue here.

As with the virtuosity of his early doo wop persona, Dion's new musical identity was the result of an extensive period of experimentation and assimilation. In 1965, during his last year with Columbia, he recorded a wealth of material that mirrored his new-found enthusiasm for the blues. Always an artist of wide-ranging tastes - from the Italian lullabies of his Bronx neighbourhood to the country laments of Hank Williams - Dion's discovery of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and the other towering legends of the idiom, was nothing less than a revelation. He would go on to record an entire album of classic blues material that year, an album that Columbia, frustrated in its attempts to polish and package the young singer, refused to release.

Undeterred, Dion continued to listen and learn, haunting the Greenwich Village clubs where bluesmen mingled freely with folk-rock's troubadours and any number of the era's more assiduous innovators. The result of this crash course in Sixties eclecticism was a developing style that melded his rich tenor tones with spare arrangements accentuating the intent and intonation of each note.

It was a style personified in the 1968 hit Abraham, Martin And John, a song that not only clinched Dion's comeback status after a four year absence from the charts but, more importantly, signalled a clean break with the past and was a clear indicator of what was to follow. Over the course of the next twelve months, he would go on to cut versions of Purple Haze and Both Sides Now, as well as release Dion, a new album whose title seemed to sum up the singer's reassertion of his own creative identity. In June of 1970, he would sign with Warner Bros. Records, a company whose reputation for artistic leeway proved an irresistible draw to a performer whose appreciation for liberation had, by then, extended far beyond his music.

On the credits of Sit Down Old Friend, Dion's Warner Bros. Records debut album, an enigmatic thanks for "spiritual guidance" is given to one "Jack Butterfield". The story behind that acknowledgement is as significant to Dion's transformation as any musical influence reflected on the album's eleven solo acoustic guitar and vocal tracks. The artist's addiction to heroin, which began in the back alleys and pool halls of his Bronx neighbourhood, had become a life-long struggle to reclaim his self-esteem and spiritual integrity. During his heyday at Columbia he would often park cars in the company lot so that the attendant, who doubled as his connection, could chase down a dime bag for the label's highest paid artist. Heroin was just one face of the hydra-headed monster that had gripped the singer's life. Marijuana, alcohol, uppers and downers of every variety - Dion's was an all-too familiar tale of dizzying highs and dismal lows played out beneath the bright lights of fame.

It was his wife Susan's father, Jack Butterfield, who would eventually guide Dion to the principles that would free him from his addictions, principles embodied in the programme of Alcoholics Anonymous. When the dawn of his long, dark sojourn finally broke, it brought with it an exhilarating sense of release which matched his explosive new creative energies and became palpable in the songs and performances of these extraordinary albums.

With a boldness born of absolute confidence in his persuasive performing prowess, Dion stripped his music to its bare bones, working with producer Phil Gernhard to create a blues-drenched and folk-imbued collection of tracks arranged and performed solely by the artist, accompanying himself on both classical and steel string guitar.

What was immediately evident from the unadorned atmospherics of Sit Down Old Friend was not only Dion's return to the basics of his singing and songwriting craft, but a determination to allow his audience access to both the joys and the sorrows that had shaped his journey. From the adaptation of a central AA aphorism in Let Go, Let God, to the affecting paean to his young daughter in Just A Little Girl, to the sense of homecoming embodied in the title track, Sit Down Old Friend is a moving testament to one man's belief in the healing power of total transparency.

It was from this absolute ground zero of self-imposed simplicity that Dion would begin to reassemble his musical identity. Still working closely with Gernhard and recruiting a pair of promising young songwriters - Tony Fasce and Bill Tuohy - as collaborators, Dion returned to the studio in 1971 to cut You're Not Alone. With ten tracks that widened the perspective of its predecessor, the album simultaneously shifted the emphasis from blues to folk flavourings for an altogether more contemplative result. From the resonant steel drum interlude of Close To It All, Dion's rendering of the Melanie manifesto, to the understated interplay of Paul Griffin's keyboard and Hugh McCracken's guitar, effortlessly interwoven through much of the album, You're Not Alone is an exercise in restraint in the service of serenity. It's a mood that prevails even when the tempo sharpens and the lyrics darken as on such Dion originals as The Stuff I Got and Attraction Works Better Than Promotion - another musical manifestation of a familiar AA truth. Versions of the Lennon/McCartney staples Let It Be and Blackbird, stand as among the best of any Beatles covers, while Windows and Peaceful Place are the aural equivalent of the delicately rendered tints and hues of a watercolour portrait.

From the evidence of Sit Down Old Friend and You're Not Alone, it was clear that Dion had embarked on an utterly new musical direction. From his street corner days in the Bronx, through his dizzying rise to teen stardom and his subsequent struggle against the demons of addiction, Dion had learned a valuable lesson. It's the journey that counts and finding your own way is what makes it all worthwhile.

By Davin Seay

Article properties: Dion: Sit Down Old Friend - You're Not Alone

  • Interpret: Dion

  • Album titlle: Sit Down Old Friend - You're Not Alone

  • Genre Rock 'n' Roll

  • Year of publication 2001
  • Label Ace Records

  • Artikelart CD

  • EAN: 0029667179126

  • weight in Kg 0.1
Dion - Sit Down Old Friend - You're Not Alone CD 1
01 Natural Man
02 I Don't Believe My Race Is Run
03 Jammed Up Blues
04 Little Pink Pony
05 You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover
06 If We Only Have Love
07 Sweet Pea
08 Just A Little Girl
09 Let Go, Let God
10 King Con Man
11 Close To It All
12 Sunniland
13 Windows
14 The Visitor
15 Peaceful Place
16 Let It Be
17 The Stuff I Got
18 Blackbird
19 Josie
20 Attraction Works Better Than Promotion
21 Doctor Rock 'N' Roll
Dion and The Belmonts A Teenager In Love The pride of the Bronx, Dion and The Belmonts... more
"Dion"

Dion and The Belmonts

A Teenager In Love

The pride of the Bronx, Dion and The Belmonts personified the best in Italian-American doo-wop, by now flourishing across the boroughs of New York City.  Lead singer Dion DiMucci describes his quartet's brawny sound as "black music filtered through an Italian neighborhood and comes out with an attitude: 'Yo!' It's true. It has all those elements. But the New York Italian-American, there's an element of, 'Yo! You talkin' to me?' There's this kind of idea, like you come across like you're supposed to know everything. I don't know where I got that idea, because it's absurd. But anyway, that's the attitude. I would say it's a confidence."

DiMucci assembled his Belmonts from the mean streets of his home turf, gathering first tenor Angelo D'Aleo, second tenor Fred Milano, and baritone/bass Carlo Mastrangelo. Their infectious I Wonder Why was a pop hit in the spring of 1958 on brothers Bob and Gene Schwartz's freshly minted Laurie Records, and they were just getting started (it's on our previous compilation). For their next Laurie outing, Dion and his cronies gave Fats Domino's I Can't Go On (Rosalie) a rocking reading, but it was the butter-smooth ballad flip No One Knows that made the charts late that summer, actually bettering I Wonder Why at #19 pop. Before year's end, they charted again with another tender ballad, Don't Pity Me.

Brill Building denizens Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman were about to embark on an incredible songwriting roll, having just handed Fabian his first smash. "I wanted to do 'Turn Me Loose,'" notes Dion. "I liked 'Turn Me Loose.'"  The prolific duo had something special for Dion and The Belmonts too. "The way 'A Teenager In Love' came in, Ricky Nelson had 'Poor Little Fool.' So I kind of sang it to The Belmonts, and they started doing this thing," says Dion. "Then Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus, they had another song, I forget what it was called. And they kind of changed it to 'Teenager In Love,' and put that together. So it was kind of wonderful to just kind of sit on this blanket, the sound that the group was making. But definitely, if you listen to 'Poor Little Fool,' you can hear what kind of inspired it.' Waxed March 3, 1959 and issued on the same month with the mellow I've Cried Before on the flip, A Teenager In Love was a #5 pop smash that spring. Dion and The Belmonts were now teen idols. DiMucci wisely never underestimated the value of his songwriters.

"Doc Pomus was like a father to me, very much so. He really encouraged me. I miss him. He was just a great guy. I just used to like talking to Doc. Mort Shuman I loved. Mort Shuman was totally incredible," says Dion.  "He was a great guy to hang out with. He was so interesting. I loved being with him."

Various Street Corner Symphonies 1959 Vol.11
Read more at: https://www.bear-family.com/various-street-corner-symphonies-1959-vol.11.html
Copyright © Bear Family Records

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