Released to coincide with the German documentary Der Rote Elvis [The Red Elvis], The Very Strange Story of Dean Reed: The Red Elvis! reissues all of Dean Reed's Capitol and Imperial recordings from the late '50s and early '60s. Reed later became an international figure because of his left-wing political activism and relocation to East Germany in the '70s, but his early recordings are conventional teen idol pop sides that in no way reflect his later politics. "The Search" was a very minor U.S. hit in 1959, but that's as close as Reed came to finding success in his homeland. When "Our Summer Romance" became a huge hit in South America the following year, he followed his fame and moved to the Southern hemisphere to perform there not long after his Capitol contract ran out in 1961. Reed wrote a handful of his early songs, but most came from the pens of professional songsmiths such as Barry Mann, Barry de Vorzon, and Boudleaux Bryant. Although a few of his recordings are teen pop versions of country songs, like Bill Carlisle's "Female Hercules" and the Davis Sisters' "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know," and "Pistolero" is a Mexican-American story-song of the sort associated with Marty Robbins, Reed's style is pure pop. He is a capable vocalist, but sometimes goes overboard with his vocal stylings; his recording of "Donna Donna," for one, is markedly inferior to Kris Jensen's version because of Reed's overly dramatic performance. Reed's biography is fascinating, but his music will be of interest only to viewers of his documentary and the most avid collectors of teen music from the period.
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AllMusic Review by Greg Adams