Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Dion's early-'70s albums have been quite overlooked, even in comparison to his similar late-'60s folk-rock records, and even by many Dion fans. This single-disc CD pairs 1970's Sit Down Old Friend with 1971's You're Not Alone, both records showing Dion continuing to mature as a singer/songwriter and blender of folk, rock, and blues stylings. Sit Down Old Friend was a change of pace even by the standards of his mellower, folk-rockish late-'60s comeback records. This was Dion unplugged: just him on acoustic guitar (both classical and steel string), and no other accompaniment, with all but three of the songs written or co-written by the singer. There's an intimate warmth and vulnerability here that you associate with demos that tend not to be issued in this original form, instead being embellished and worked over into something slicker. For whatever reason, in this case Dion was able to slip the material through to the consumer in this unadorned format. It's a wistful and reflective set, as unplugged acoustic guitar albums tend to be. But the inherent mellowness of the format is given a harder and more emotional edge by Dion's blues leanings, and the sense of a man emerging from hard times into something better. His voice has rarely been more expressive than it is on "I Don't Believe My Race Is Run" and the cover of Jacques Brel's "If We Only Have Love." It's a quality overlooked effort of the early singer/songwriter era, though it's missing any classic or hitbound tunes that might have made it a major work. You're Not Alone was a low-key record in which Dion continued his explorations into introspective music that bridged the folk-rock and singer/songwriter styles. Whereas Sit Down Old Friend was solo acoustic, though, Dion did revert to full-band arrangements for the follow-up. Fortunately, the backing -- including notable session players Paul Griffin on organ and Hugh McCracken on both electric and acoustic guitar -- was tastefully understated, which would not often be the case the further Dion moved into the 1970s. It's respectable, yet not as good as Sit Down Old Friend and his best late-'60s folk-rock records, with a slight slide in the quality of the material, and less of the near-naked atmosphere that made Sit Down Old Friend stand out. Sometimes the slow and introspective tenor of the tunes gets sluggish, rather in the same way as Bobby Darin's folk-rock records of the 1960s, though Dion was always a better and edgier folk-rock singer than Darin was. Most of the set is self-composed, and it's fair but not exceptional singer/songwriting, with covers varying from effective (Melanie's "Close to It All") to unimaginative (the Beatles' "Let It Be"). There's just one outing into the rootsy blues that Dion had developed a flair for from the mid-'60s onward, "The Stuff I Got"; "Attraction Works Better Than Promotion" has to qualify as one of his most offbeat song titles. The CD also adds a 1973 track, "Doctor Rock'n'Roll," as a bonus cut.

by Richie Unterberger

Tracks :

1 Natural Man Abbott, Holler
2 I Don't Believe My Race Is Run DiMucci, Fasce
3 Jammed Up Blues DiMucci
4 Little Pink Pony DiMucci
5 You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover Dixon
6 If We Only Have Love Blau, Brel, Shuman
7 Sweet Pea DiMucci
8 Just a Little Girl DiMucci
9 Let Go, Let God DiMucci
10 King con Man DiMucci
11 Sit Down Old Friend DiMucci, Fasce
12 Close to It All Safka
13 Sunnland DiMucci, Fasce
14 Windows DiMucci, Tuohy
15 The Vistor DiMucci, Fasce, Tuohy
16 Peacefule Place DiMucci, Fasce
17 Let It Be Lennon, McCartney
18 The Stuff I Got DiMucci
19 Blackbird Lennon, McCartney
20 Joise DiMucci, Fasce
21 Attraction Works Better ThanPromotion DiMucci, Fasce
22 Doctor Rock'n'Roll DiMucci

Artwork Included
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