The other night, I was listening to Cyndi Lauper's SHE'S SO UNUSUAL when It suddenly hit me that the "bully boy" male chorus on the retro-ish "I Kiss You," was a cop from early Dion hits like "The Wanderer." Well, let's call it a "quote," not a "cop." Whatever you call it though, it just goes to show how enduring Dion's sound really was. These days, it seems that Dion doesn't always get his due from rock historians and critics, and the current listening public is likely to think you mean Celine should you announce that you're a Dion fan.
Of course, Mr. DiMucci is fondly remembered by those in the know--and he's survived lo these many years. There were good reasons for his durability. He really could sing, was a solid performer on stage, and he was as rootsy as any body from the Bronx could hope to be. In fact, his eclecticism and his degree of comfort in multiple genres bespoke an a musically sophisticated sensibility that one is tempted to describe as urban. For early 60s rock, it was certainly "urbane."
Dion has been anthologized to death, so it's nice to have an actual early album available on CD. Two of Mr D's biggest--the title track and "The Wanderer"-- are included, which alone are worth the price of admission. But it's fascinating to hear them in the context of a 1961 album. As others have pointed out, the album is a typical assemblage of a few actual hits, covers of hits by other artists of the day, and a few originals that were never destined to be hits (whether they are truly just "filler" or not is subject to debate).
There's an interesting tension here between the teen pop typical of the doo-wop stuff he'd been doing with the Belmonts, and the rockier stuff that demonstrates the grit and the punch he was capable of. He does a very credible version of "Kansas City," for instance. No surprise, then, that Dion would go on to do straightforward R&B and blues releases later in his career. As a mature artist and grown up "hoochie coochie" man, he may have found that he couldn't quite reduplicate the commercial success of youth. But he was wise enough to know he couldn't stay a "teenager in love" forever--and that realization helped ensure that he'd become more than just a nostalgia act.