Today’s Cool Album of the day (#490 in the Series) is Dion, Wonder Where I’m Bound
When is an album not an album ?
Well, in this case it’s when an artist’s old record company decides to gather up a bunch of previously unreleased tracks, recorded years before, and rush-release them to cash in on the artists current success!
That’s exactly what happened to Dion in 1969 and, let’s be honest; it was probably no surprise to anyone, just the kind of stunt that record companies pull all the time really. This time around it proved to be a great move though, “Wonder Where I’m Bound”, the album of material they’d rejected before, turned out to be better than the album it was designed to compete against. Indeed it has proved to be a bit of a “lost classic” of the 60’s. Really, it’s that good.
Here then is the story of the album that almost didn’t exist………………..
Dion Francis DiMucci has had a very long, varied and interesting career, currently 54 years and counting, and over those years he’s dipped a toe into many musical waters, proving himself to be pretty damn skilled at everything he’s done. Over the years he’s been a rock n rollin’ teen idol (late50’s/early 60’s), tried his hand at folk/pop (late 60’s), been a singer/songwriter (early 70’s) and also been a fine Christian rock singer in the early 80’s. Crikey. Throw into that mix a superb “Wall Of Sound” type effort with legendary producer Phil Spector in 1975 and, as you can see, he’s put together quite a CV!
And there’s more..….squeezed in amidst all that (and goodness knows where he found the time) there was also the man’s early 60’s conversion to the Blues.
Following early successes like “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer” Dion made the move to Columbia Records in 1961 and kept his run going with a further three big hits : “Ruby Baby”, “Donna The Prima Donna” and “Drip Drop”. Very soon however he was getting ready to move on , artistically speaking. The times they were, indeed, a-changin’ and so were his musical tastes.
Partially inspired by the (then recent) release of a compilation called “King Of The Delta Blues Singers” by Robert Johnson, and the work of his Columbia label mate Bob Dylan, Dion’s music was heading in a completely different musical direction.
Now, Dion is not the kind of guy who does things half-heartedly so before long almost everything he was laying down in the studio was in a blues/folk vein and his record company wasn’t too pleased when they heard the results. They were in a style which, no doubt, was becoming increasingly popular but it just wasn’t the kind of thing which the record buying public associated with Dion and it certainly wasn’t what Columbia had signed up for. They did manage to squeeze out a few singles and an album of slightly more accessible material but the harder-edged stuff stayed firmly in the can. The result was, of course, frustration on both sides. The inevitable parting of the ways followed very shortly.
A brief period in the wilderness followed, during which he managed to overcome a long standing heroin addiction, before he made a triumphant return in 1968 with the superb “Abraham, Martin and John” single and a more than decent self-titled album. The album only made it to #128 on the charts but it received great reviews which was enough to persuade Columbia that it was maybe time for them to try and recoup some of their investment. That’s where we come to the 1969 release of Wonder Where I’m Bound.
Now, I have absolutely no idea just who was given the task of trawling through the vaults and assembling this patchwork quilt of an album but whoever it was did a damn good job of it. It’s a fine album indeed and here’s a few of the highlights :
• The title track. Immaculate, a worthy introduction to the albums charms and surely as fine a rendition of Tom Paxton’s song as there’s ever been.
• The two Bob Dylan songs, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “Farewell”, both sung with real passion, Dion relishing the lyrics and really going for it on both. Producer Tom Wilson, well known by this time for his work on some seminal Dylan albums, produced the latter and four other tracks on this release and I’m sure Dylan fans would enjoy them, there’s a very familiar feel to them and indeed Wilson was working with both artists in 1965 I believe. The Dylan connection is also acknowledged in this albums cover art which is very “dylanesque”.
• There are three Dion originals on here, the best of which is “Knowing I Won’t Go Back There”, a bitter lament, looking back on a lost love, a girl who found someone else and moved on. It’s a revelation and you’re left wondering how the hell a cut as good as this could possibly have been deemed unworthy of release . Crazy !
• “Now”. What a song ! A folk/rock beauty that could have been a BIG hit if covered and sweetened up a little by some Top 40 act. Catchy as heck, with some great hooks.
Finally, there’s a beautiful anachronism on here. Standing quite apart from all the other songs is “A Sunday Kind Of Love”, a real throwback to Dion’s earlier sound, it’s a doo-wop ballad with strong echoes of The Beach Boys “In My Room”. Sung perfectly, it’s out of place (and originated at the earliest session used for the album, in 1963) but the performance is so good that you won’t mind a bit. A diamond in the rough which ends up fitting to perfection.
And that, pretty much, is that. Wonder Where I’m Bound was released in 1969 and slipped immediately from view, selling almost nothing and getting lost in the memory of all but the most seasoned Dion obsessives. I’m well on the way to becoming one of those myself !
Re-released just this very year, this is one for all lovers of 60’s music and, well, just good music in general.
The album that almost never was..…..…………
—Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland
- I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound (Paxton) 2.58
- It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (Dylan) 3.34
- A Sunday Kind Of Love (Belle, Prima, Leonard, Rhodes) 2.48
- Knowing I Won’t Go Back There (DiMucci) 2.58
- 900 Miles (Guthrie) 3.34
- Now (DiMucci, Mastrangelo) 2.45
- Southern Train (Unknown) 3.47
- The Seventh Son (Dixon) 3.21
- Farewell (Dylan) 3.30
- Wake Up Baby (DiMucci) 3.15
- Baby, Please Don’t Go (Williams) 2.13
- Dion Di Mucci – Vocals , Guitars
- Official Dion Website
- See more from 1969
- See more features on other members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
I was so much older then , i'm younger than that now.........