Dion & the Belmonts

The Complete Dion & the Belmonts

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This two-CD set is pretty impressive on its face -- 47 songs recorded by Dion & the Belmonts during their three-year association. The problem for all but the most hardcore fans of either Dion or the Belmonts, however, is that a lot of the material is decidedly uneven, and a good deal of it isn't rock & roll by any stretch of the imagination. That doesn't mean that it isn't good -- merely that anyone expecting some undiscovered rock & roll or R&B gem along the lines of another "I Wonder Why" or "A Teenager in Love" is going to be sorely disappointed, as the seldom-heard tracks here are more along the lines of "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob Bobbin' Along." On the other hand, Dion completists and Belmonts completists, as well as fans of vocal pop music may well love this two-CD set, which traces the evolution of their sound from 1957 across three years, from mainstream mid-'50s pop into rock & roll, and back into pop music. It fills in all of the holes left in this corner of the lead singer's career in the Dion box set, which also makes it a little disillusioning; the group was pushed very quickly and energetically into pop music by their label, Laurie Records, but that was the norm for many careers in the years 1958-1960. Completists may also appreciate the little snippets of recording sessions for "I Wonder Why" and other key early songs, as well as the presence of a half-dozen outtakes, although casual listeners may find the session fragments and back-and-forth talk to be almost as annoying as rock & roll fans will the presence of songs such as the group's rather flaccid version of "In the Still of the Night." The sound is excellent and the tape research and restoration are impeccable, and the notes are extremely thorough.

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