Saturday, August 24, 2019
It Hurts To Be In Love - Gene Pitney
Gene Pitney was basically a singles artist. If he ever recorded an essential album, I have not heard it. His albums generally contain a hit single or two and a bunch of filler so most people who are not big fans should probably just pick up a compilation. I'm a moderate fan but I like Pitney's voice enough to pick up his albums when I run across a bargain. Since his records are relatively easy to find and generally not expensive, I've ended up with a bunch of them. I rarely play them but I enjoy them when I do. This is my favorite of the ones in my collection. The album begins with a bang with Pitney's soaring melodramatic performance of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's "I'm Gonna Be Strong" which was a top ten single for Pitney. The song showcases Pitney's range and strength as a singer, but it is a little over the top for my taste. My favorite version of the song is Jackie DeShannon's cover of it on "This is Jackie DeShannon" and I also prefer Tim Rose's performance of the song on "Tim Rose." It is followed by "Walk" by Howard Greenfield and Helen Miller which is a charming, jaunty song that lightens the mood of the record. Van McCoy's "I Love You More Today" is a pedestrian and sappy country-flavored ballad that Pitney makes listenable with his emotional vocal. The record picks up again with the upbeat and poppy "Who Needs It" which was written by the successful British songwriting team of Len Beadle and Robin Conrad (a pseudonym for Peter Callender.) It has a British Invasion sound and is one of my favorite tracks on the album. "Follow the Sun" was composed by Peter Udell and Gary Geld who wrote Brian Hyland's big hit "Sealed With a Kiss." The song has a rhythm and blues sound to it which Pitney bolsters with his robust vocal. "Lips Are Redder On You" was written by legendary British producer Joe Meek. It is a cheerful poppy song that Pitney puts over with ease. Side two opens with another Greenfield/Miller composition "It Hurts To Be In Love" which was a top ten single for Pitney. The song was originally intended for Neil Sedaka and Pitney recorded his version over the original Sedaka backing track, I think I still hear Sedaka on the background vocal. It is an extremely catchy and appealing song, one of my all time Pitney favorites. Al Kooper wrote "The Last Two People on Earth" with Bob Brass and Irwin Levine. Blues Project fans should not get too excited, the song is utterly mediocre although the science fiction theme is kind of interesting. The main reason I bought this album was to hear "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday" which was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The song was deservedly a hit single in England where it was the first Jagger/Richards song to crack the top ten. The song sounds nothing like the Rolling Stones, but its dramatic character is perfect for Pitney's emotional style. It is my favorite track after the title cut and the album is worth buying for it alone. "E se domani" is an Italian song written by Giorgio Calabrese and Carlo Alberto Rossi. I presume this is the same version that appeared on Pitney's Italian language album "Gene Italiano" released earlier in the year although I have no idea why it was stuck on this album as well. This old-fashioned song is fine if you like that sort of thing but it does not fit in with the rest of the record at all. "Hawaii" is another Kooper/Brass/Levine composition. I would not say it is better than "The Last Two People on Earth" but it is a lot more fun. The album concludes with "I'm Gonna Find Myself a Girl" by Ray Adams, Elaine Adams and Valerie Avon who were in the English pop group, The Avons. It is a subdued but enticing love song that features a double tracked vocal from Pitney that reminds me of the Everly Brothers. It gives the album a pleasant finale. Six of the twelve tracks on this record are memorable and worthwhile which is a good ratio on a pop album in the mid-1960s. As a result I play this album as much as I play my Pitney compilation album. If you are a Pitney fan, it is well-worth seeking out and probably would appeal to most fans of pre-Beatles pop music. Recommended to fans of the early Warner Bros. Records era Everly Brothers.