Neil Sedaka Sings His Greatest Hits from 1962 -- containing the pop singer's material from the late '50s/early '60s -- is not to be confused with the 1976 Rocket Records compilation Neil Sedaka's Greatest Hits, though the two 12-song single discs from different decades make an almost comprehensive collection of his 21 Top 40 recordings, as well as pretty good bookends. You won't find "Where the Boys Are," his big Connie Francis hit, here, though Sedaka does belt that one out live,
which brings our attention to the downside of this otherwise fine roundup of songs composed with lyricist Howie Greenfield. The first ten songs to make the grade from 1958-1962 are here, including the double-sided "You Mean Everything to Me" and "Run Samson Run," Top 20 and Top 30
showings, respectively, that are about as effective as "Sweet Little You" and "King of Clowns," not up there with the best of Sedaka. The amazing thing about the material, though, is seeing the proficiency the team of Greenfield and Sedaka attained, and that progress is easy to follow. "The Diary" hit when the singer was 19 years of age in December of 1958, four months after Little Anthony took "Tears on My Pillow" Top Five. The influence of one song on the other is obvious; the composers emulated the music they heard on the radio while developing their own voices. The success of "Calendar Girl" in 1960 and "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" in 1961 have the charts rewarding the pair as their craftsmanship evolved. Did their "Stairway to Heaven" inspire the more famous Led Zeppelin song? It probably did -- Page and Plant were always in the market for a good title to lift; they have Rosie & the Originals to thank for influencing their sole hit of 1973, "D'yer Mak'er." This record is more influential than it has been given credit for; the culmination of Sedaka and Greenfield's efforts resulted in their finest moments here, "Next Door to an Angel" and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do." Both are exciting pop songs that remain irresistible and exhilarating decades after they were recorded. Rather than start things chronologically with "The Diary," Nevins-Kirshner smartly open up the album with "Next Door to an Angel" and kick off the flip with "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do." Maurice Seymour's four snapshots of Sedaka on the original issue of this disc range from high-school yearbook-type photographs to the look of a soon-to-be crooner, and if a picture's really worth a thousand words they explain why Sedaka still doesn't get the attention a Barry Mann, Gerry Goffin or Jeff Barry sometimes receives from the underground, that hipness that eluded Sedaka despite the blessings of Elton John in the next decade and the fact that this original is second only to Neil Diamond in popularity of male Brill Building stars. Yes, there are the obligatory tacky liner notes from a mysterious "Carol" (teasing that maybe Carole King scribbled the silliness) and, as mentioned, filler that the Connie Francis hits "Stupid Cupid" (August of 1958, four months before Sedaka's first hit on his own) or "Where the Boys Are" could have cured. LaVern Baker's R&B "I Waited Too Long" in June of 1959 is proof of how hip this artist really was at a very early age. Its inclusion here would be preferable to "King of Clowns," but those were the '60s -- and it doesn't take away from the fun that does exist in these grooves.