As Harriet Schock released her Nik Venet-produced American Romance on her own, with former labelmate Genya Ravan similarly giving the world For Fans Only on Award Records in 2002, yet another alum from the 20th Century label has heard the calling. Miss Diane Renay hit number one on the adult contemporary charts in 1964 with her Top Ten 45 RPM "Navy Blue," and has come up with a fantastic double-CD retrospective of her recording career which fans of girl groups and good music will absolutely treasure. There is a fun, 1987 dance-oriented remake of her biggest hit on CD two, but that's only one of the excellent moments here. "Little White Lies" sweeps in, opening CD one with that sound that Connie Francis did so well. It was produced by Pete DeAngelis, who worked with Frankie Avalon and Al Martino, and was released on Atco Records in 1962 when she was only 16. In "Dynamite" you can hear the distinct sound that Bob Crewe helped the Toys get when producers Linzer and Randell put together the recordings that make up The Toys: A Lover's Concerto/Attack for Crewe's label. In a bit of synchronicity, the Barbara Now album was released by the Toys' Barbara Harrison her own imprint, receiving good press, around the same time as this project. Harris sang backup on Renay's second hit, "Kiss Me Sailor" (not on this collection), and recorded the Beatles' "Yesterday" on her original A Lover's Concerto album. Renay includes her version of "Yesterday" here, which brings it all full circle. These amazing talents give the fans what record labels are supposed to in this business -- the release of great music. The classy Diane Renay shifts gears again with "Falling Star," followed by "The Company You Keep," and this material is so strong, one wonders why this artist doesn't have a string of hit records up there with Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, and other divas of the day. "The Company You Keep" has little riffs from her big hit, "Navy Blue," tucked neatly in the instrumentation, while "Troublemaker" has that gritty vocal style that made Brenda Lee's pop numbers so memorable.
There are 17 songs on CD one, which clocks in at around 42 minutes and 53 seconds. The second disc holds another 18 tunes for 62 minutes and 53 seconds, a whopping 105 minutes and 46 seconds of music from this pop princess who has been away from listeners for far too long. The liner notes are extensive and give the story; track number 17 is her first test demo, "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart," recorded when she was 13 or 14 years old, around 1960. There's the story of how her parents knew a cousin of producer Pete DeAngelis, who brought her to Atco and to the attention of Jerry Wexler, who introduced Renay to Bob Crewe. The liners are so packed with information that one needs to go to the web page, www.dianerenay.com, to get the six pages of liner notes and three additional bio pages. There is not enough room here to rave about the 35 tracks, from "Please Gypsy," which sounds like a sequel to Lou Christie's "The Gypsy Cried," to the beautiful covers of the Chantels' "Maybe" and Mel Carter's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me." This is magical stuff full of solid pop music, majestic girl group gems, and dynamic performances from Diane Renay's first demo up to the impromptu recording of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" during (but not at) the 1987 "Navy Blue" remake sessions. Diane Renay recorded a wealth of important music, and like the aforementioned singers, has not received her due. For fans of the genre, this double set is just terrific; every track is filled with the stuff that true fans go crazy at record shows looking for. Just a tremendous effort deserving of much attention.