The first thing most everybody who hears Dion’s Kickin’ Child is going to say, is that producer Tom Wilson made Dion sound like Bob Dylan. It's fair but inaccurate. If anything, Dion got Wilson -- in late 1964 -- to propose the electric sound to Dylan (who'd worshipped Dion from the '50s) in the first place. Dion convinced the producer to take some of the songwriter's session tapes and give them an electric treatment. He did so with live musicians, then played the results for Bob. In January 1965, Dylan cut the electric side of Bringing It All Back Home. Oddly enough, the title track opener that sounds the most like his Bob-ness wasn't produced by Wilson but by Bob Mersey (who’d helmed the sessions that gave Dion the hit "Ruby Baby"). Backed by the Wanderers (and Al Kooper's organ), Dion cut this set in three sessions between the spring and fall of 1965. What’s here is complete and properly sequenced for the first time. Why? Columbia refused to release the album at the time, prompting Dion to leave the label. They issued some singles, and other tracks appeared on various compilations, but this is complete.
This is Dion-the-Bronx-street-song-poet transformed by intuitive musicality and discipline into a refined singer/songwriter. He wrote or co-wrote all but four of these 15 tunes. He seamlessly blends folk and jangly rock guitars (Tom Paxton's "Wondering Where I’m Bound" and "Tomorrow Won’t Bring the Rain"); the blues (the title track); swaggering rock & roll (Dylan's "Baby, I’m in the Mood for You"), and Mort Shuman's "All I Want to Do Is Live My Life"), and pre-psychedelia ("Now," one of a pair co-written with the Wanderers' drummer Carlo Mastrangelo), and recasts it all in his own image. Check "Knowing I Won’t Go Back There" and "You Move Me Babe," where the seasoned doo wop crooner meets folk-rock head on, only to enfold both styles into himself holistically. Dylan's "It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue" and "Farewell" will never sound the same given the rippling, soulful beauty in his delivery. Wilson and Dion were made for each other. It’s too bad Columbia didn’t see it that way at the time -- history might have been different. This record would still be gathering dust if it weren't for stubborn rock & roll archivists Miriam Linna and Billy Miller, who doggedly pursued Sony to find the album in the label's vaults so they could release it on their Norton label. Sadly, Miller didn’t live to see it, but his final will and testament is presented here as he intended, with completely remastered sound. Kickin’ Child not only ranks with Dion’s best (standing between career highlights "Runaround Sue" and "Abraham Martin and John"), but it's absolutely one of the greatest folk-rock records ever.