Gene Pitney

Blue Angel: The Bronze Sessions

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With his clear and highly emotionally charged singing style, Gene Pitney struck his commercial peak in the early '60s (just before the Beatles hit) with top-notch records like 1961's "Town Without Pity" and a pair of 1962 delights, "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance" (a pop-country crossover before there was such a thing) and "Only Love Can Break a Heart," from the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songwriting team. The rise of rock (as opposed to rock & roll) in the wake of the Beatles essentially doomed Pitney's career in the U.S., but he remained a top concert draw and managed a few more hits in Europe in the '70s, although nothing remotely approached his peak singles from the decade before. This double-disc set effectively tells the musical story of the latter-day Pitney, containing all 12 tracks from his Pitney '75 album for Gerry Bron's Bronze Records imprint along with seven other cuts from the Bronze sessions and a second disc bonus EP featuring a half-dozen tracks Pitney made for his own Pittfield label in 1990. It would be great to say that Pitney kept his touch to the end, but as these tracks show, that really isn't the case. With a few exceptions (the breezy country harmonies of "California Free," the sincerity of "Morning in April," the spunk of "Train of Thought"), the Bronze material sounds mostly dated and forced, and Pitney's trademark quavering vocals here sound less like a personal style than a serious affectation. The Pittfield cuts have even less originality, sounding sadly like Pitney performing his own karaoke show, and his version of a hit he wrote for the Crystals thirty years earlier, "He's a Rebel" (done here as "She's a Rebel"), is an embarrassment. Stick with a good collection of his '60s hits. This one is for zealous fans and collectors only.

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