While it's known by a fair number of rock listeners that Tony Orlando had a couple teen idol hits in the early '60s that predated his success with Dawn by about a decade, it's not generally known just how much material he recorded at this time. This anthology gathers all 27 sides he cut for Epic between 1961 and 1964, including both sides of all 11 singles he issued on the label (among them the hits "Halfway to Paradise" and "Bless You") and five tracks that only showed up on his sole Epic LP. It's admirable in its thoroughness, but won't convince many people that Orlando was any more than an average pop/rock singer of the time, albeit one who had more access to top Brill Building songwriters than most. It's also undeniable that "Halfway to Paradise" (written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King) and "Bless You" (penned by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil), with orchestral production recalling some of Gene Pitney's early hits, remain the most memorable of these tracks. Students of Brill Building pop, however, will be interested in the presence of numerous obscure tunes penned by major and minor Brill Building hitmakers, including not just Goffin & King and Mann & Weil, but also Jack Keller, Neil Sedaka, Howard Greenfield, Freddie Scott, Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman, Mark Barkan, Ben Raleigh, and Burt Bacharach-Hal David (who wrote both sides of Orlando's final Epic 45, "To Wait for Love (Is to Waste Your Life Away)"/"Accept It"). Much of the material leans toward the more formulaic and pop-oriented edge of the Brill Building sound, however, and though "To Wait for Love (Is to Waste Your Life Away)" is a decent and lushly produced Bacharach & David number, it would have sounded much better if Gene Pitney or Dionne Warwick had sung it. For all the middling quality of much of this, however, fans of early-'60s rock will likely find this much more interesting than Orlando's far more celebrated 1970s work with Dawn, if only for its historical value.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger