.... After tunes like "Stupid Cupid" and "Where the Boys Are" would become hits for Connie Francis, the still-teenage Sedaka began singing and playing on his own records, and (pardon the cliche) a star was born. His first release, 1958's "I Go Ape," began a five-year rule of the pop charts. For those who prefer the "first" string of hits to his "second," (as in late '50s and early '60s to mid- to late-'70s), then Neil Sedaka - All-Time Greatest Hits is definitely the CD you should choose to add to your collection.
Some might say sadly, the silly "monkey" (no, not "Monkee"--they came later) novelty song isn't included in this compilation album, but all the "important" hits are. A master of self-described "wraparound" ditties or so-called "sandwich songs"--a nonsensical or rhyming intro, followed by the verse and chorus, ending with the intro again--you'll find perfect examples of this style of songwriting in "Next Door to an Angel," "Calendar Girl," "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen," "Oh! Carol" (dedicated to then-girlfriend Carole King), "Stairway to Heaven," and one of only three #1 singles Sedaka would enjoy in his career: "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do," one of 1962's biggest hits. The last of these, of course, would be re-recorded by Sedaka in 1975 as a ballad and would once again hit the Top 10 on the charts.
Sedaka's mother complained that his pop success was ruining her desire to see him become a serious, classical pianist, so he tried to appease her by writing a ballad in a minor key. "You Mean Everything to Me" would become one of Sedaka's lesser hits but is probably one of the most satisfying cuts on this compilation. Another favorite features the whimsical Biblical references in the banjo-laden "Run, Samson, Run," one of Sedaka's last early hits. ....
But this compilation gives us a good sampling of his early successes: admittedly lightweight, but lots of fun.
Rating: **** (out of 5); updated 29 Jan 08 -- BOB BOURBEAU