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The Man Who Sang “Liberty Valance”: RPM Continues Gene Pitney Reissues

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With one of the most resonant and recognizable voices in rock and roll, Gene Pitney (1940-2006) was the rare American talent to be able to withstand the British Invasion and continue to thrive. He collaborated with Phil Spector and The Rolling Stones, wrote hit songs for Roy Orbison, Bobby Vee, Ricky Nelson and the Crystals, and brought to life the songs of others, too. Among the recipients of the Pitney treatment were Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and even (two-time Oscar winner) Randy Newman. He popularized Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington’s “Town Without Pity,” an Oscar-nominated song from 1961, and had even greater success with “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance.” While it was an “exploitation” song not actually in the 1962 film of the same name, it became a signature song for Pitney.

His long out-of-print albums for Aaron Schroeder’s Musicor label were reissued in a series of two-fers by Sequel Records in the late 1990s. Upon their deletion, they began commanding high prices on the second-hand market. Pitney’s catalogue has since been marked by an inordinate number of budget releases, making it difficult for a new fan or even a longtime collector to know where to start. Thankfully, RPM (another arm of Cherry Red) is ready to reintroduce Pitney’s original album classics to a new generation. The label has begun reissuing the Sequel two-fers in new editions featuring updated liner notes by Roger Dopson as well as redesigned artwork. Last year brought Pitney’s first two albums, The Many Sides of Gene Pitney and Only Love Can Break a Heart, as RETRO 881, and just last week, RPM delivered Sings Just for You and Sings World-Wide Winners as RETRO 887. Hit the jump for stories behind both albums, plus track listings and discographical information!

Sings Just for You (Musicor 3004), released in May 1963, features as its centerpiece the 1963 hit single “Mecca.” A John Gluck/Neval Nader song, “Mecca” stands out for its use of exotic instrumentation, anticipating a psychedelic sound by a number of years. The rest of the album is of a familiar piece, primarily drawing on the work of New York tunesmiths (Mark Barkan, Ben Raleigh, Fred Tobias, Lee Pockriss). “Cornflower Blue” was composed by Sherman Edwards (of “Wonderful!  Wonderful!” and “See You in September”) who went on to create the book, music and lyrics for 1968’s Broadway musical 1776, while its lyrics were written by Hal David. The Edwards/David partnership was a successful, if short-lived one; Joanie Sommers’ “Johnny Get Angry” was another product of their teaming. Hal David would recur with two songs on Pitney’s follow-up, the second album of RPM’s new release.

While only Gene Pitney’s fourth album, Sings World-Wide Winners (Musicor 3005) was a “greatest hits” collection to capitalize on the artist’s singles successes and was released just three months after its predecessor. It repeated a number of tracks from The Many Sides of Gene Pitney and Only Love Can Break a Heart; repeating tracks wasn’t unusual for the era. “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” from the Burt Bacharach/Hal David team, was Pitney’s biggest single, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard chart. (Ironically, it was kept from pole position by The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel,” a song written by…Gene Pitney!) The producer of “Rebel,” Phil Spector, is represented on World-Wide Winners with “Every Breath I Take,” a Goffin/King song that was one of his earliest hit productions. Bacharach and David are also represented by “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance,” and the Western theme continues with the reappearance of the dramatic “Town Without Pity” from the film of the same name. Pitney’s own version of “Hello, Mary Lou,” which charted in Ricky Nelson’s version, appears as well.

RPM’s new release adds one bonus track, the German-language version of “Town Without Pity.” RPM’s next two-fer will combine 1963’s Blue Gene (Musicor 3006) featuring the No. 4 hit “Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa” with Meets the Fair Young Ladies of Folkland (Musicor 3007), an unusual concept album from 1964 with Pitney singing folk-styled odes to “Those Eyes of Liza Jane,” “Brandy is My True Love’s Name” and “Lyda Sue, Wha’dya Do?” and more.

You can order below!

Gene Pitney, Sings Just for YouSings World-Wide Winners (RPM RETRO 887, 2011)

  1. Teardrop by Teardrop
  2. Mecca
  3. Cornflower Blue
  4. Not Responsible
  5. Angels Got Together
  6. Don’t Let the Neighbors Know
  7. The Ship True Love Goodbye
  8. House Without Windows
  9. Aladdin’s Lamp
  10. Time and the River
  11. Peanuts, Popcorn and Crackerjacks
  12. Tell the Moon to Go to Sleep
  13. Mr. Moon, Mr. Cupid and I
  14. Only Love Can Break a Heart
  15. If I Didn’t Have a Dime (To Play the Jukebox)
  16. (The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance
  17. Louisiana Mama
  18. Every Breath I Take
  19. Tower Tall
  20. Hello Mary Lou
  21. Half Heaven, Half Heartache
  22. Garden of Love
  23. Town Without Pity
  24. (I Wanna) Love My Life Away
  25. Bleibe Bei Mir (Town Without Pity – German Version)

Tracks 1-12 from Sings Just For You, Musicor LP 3004, 1963
Tracks 13-24 from Sings World-Wide Winners, Musicor LP 3005, 1963
Track 25 from U.A. (Germany) single 67 019, 1963

Written by Joe Marchese

February 28, 2011 at 09:20

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