Dion’s Lost “Kickin’ Child” (Album Review)

Dion DiMucci remains one of the most underappreciated great early rock and rollers.  Yes, everyone knows his work with the Belmonts and later on classic songs like “Runaround Sue.”  But fans and critics often unjustly overlook other phases of Dion’s career.

Such is the case with his folk-rock work from the 1960s (as well as his blues music).  Fortunately, Dion – Kickin’ Child 1965 Columbia Recordings — an album that would have been at the forefront of the folk-rock movement had it been released in 1965 when it was recorded in the Spring and Fall of that year — has finally been released.

The 15 songs on the album produced by Tom Wilson include ten written or co-written by Dion, as well as three Bob Dylan songs. One of the Dylan covers is a wonderful bluesy version of “Baby I’m in the Mood For You.”

Some of the songs would later appear on compilations, but the album never saw the light of day until now because Columbia refused to release it.  Listening to the album now, it is impossible to understand that decision.  But I am glad we can enjoy it now.

For example, one may easily imagine an alternate universe where the album was released in 1965.  In that universe, “My Child” became a hit that forms the soundtrack of our memories of the 1960s.

Dion recently explained to Billboard how he left the record label after they refused to release Kickin’ Child. For decades, the experience gave Dion bad memories.

But when Dion recently listened to the remastered album, “The cloud lifted like vapor. It just lifted right out of my head. And I heard the music loud and clear like it was present to me. It wasn’t a novelty. It was rich. It was artistic, it was heartfelt. It was live. It was the real deal. And I said, ‘Man, this stuff is good.’ And I was proud of it.’”

One of my favorite tracks on the album is Dion’s cover of Tom Paxton’s “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound.”

The liner notes explain how Dion’s work at this time influenced others, even without the release of Kickin’ Child.  For example, he suggested to Wilson to add an electric band to Bob Dylan’s “House of the Rising Sun” (Dylan loved it).

Critics are now giving the album some of the attention it should have received more than fifty years ago.  For example, Allmusic understandably calls Kickin’ Child “absolutely one of the greatest folk-rock records ever.” American Songwriter gives the album four out of five stars.

Dion’s voice is in fine form. And the band from the Fall 1965 recording sessions — The Wanderers — has a great sound. The group included included The Belmonts’ Carlo Mastrangelo on drums.

Another standout track is “Knowing I Won’t Go Back There.”  The song, written by Dion, previously appeared on the compilation album Road I’m On (another Dion album worth seeking out).

Kickin Child is a wonderful album, and anyone who loves music from the 1960s folk and folk-rock scene should definitely check it out.

Dion has mentioned that there exists other unreleased music from this era.  So, hopefully there will be more coming as we continue to reassess the great career of Dion.

Leave your two cents in the comments.

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Dion: “New York Is My Home”

Dion Dimucci is releasing a new album, New York Is My Home. The album features ten new songs, mostly co-written by Dion, that focus on Dion’s experience in New York City. On the title track, he is joined by Paul Simon.

The Bronx-born Dion says he knew Paul Simon would understand the song “New York Is My Home” because Simon grew up in Queens. The Italian Tribune quotes Dion stating, “We share a love for rock ’n’ roll street music, the way it was done when we were kids. I knew Paul would ‘get’ this song. And he did.”

Dion released a video for the title track, the first single from the album. Check it out.

Dion has explained that some other songs on the album, like “The Apollo King” and “I’m Your Gangster of Love,” are based upon people Dion knew. Dion imagined “Visionary Heart” as a message that the late Buddy Holly might send to him. For various reasons, Dion remains connected to Buddy Holly in a number of ways. As discussed in more detail in another post, Dion was touring with Holly when Holly was killed in a plane crash.

Dion has continued to create some overlooked outstanding music late in his career, including some fantastic blues albums. So, I’m looking forward to the new music. The album New York Is My Home, which features guitar and keyboards from Jimmy Vivino of Conan O’Brien’s show, is available starting February 12, 2016.

Leave your two cents in the comments.

  • Dion’s Lost “Kickin’ Child” (Album Review)
  • Valentine’s Day and Two Love Lessons
  • Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend John?
  • Dion’s Impromptu Lunchtime “Ruby Baby”
  • Who Flipped a Coin With Ritchie Valens?: The Day the Music Died and the Coin Toss Controversy
  • Dion’s Tank Full of Blues (CD Review)
  • (Some related Chimesfreedom posts.)

    Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend John?

    Less than five years after John F. Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963, the country lost Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy to the bullets of assassins in 1968. Later that year, in tribute to the fallen men, Dion released the song, “Abraham, Martin, and John,” which became a hit in a country in shock and mourning.

    The song, written by Dick Holler, has been performed by a number of artists, but nobody has matched Dion’s moving version. In the video below, he performs the song on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. [June 2014 Update: The performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is no longer available on YouTube, so below is a performance from Live Nashville Now, where Dion performs the song with Aaron Neville, where they intertwine the song with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”]

  • RFK (and Aeschylus) on MLK Assassination
  • Dion’s Lost “Kickin’ Child” (Album Review)
  • Valentine’s Day and Two Love Lessons
  • Dion: “New York Is My Home”
  • Trailer for “11.22.63” Stephen King Miniseries
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and “We Shall Overcome”
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    Dion’s Impromptu Lunchtime “Ruby Baby”

    During the recent holiday weekend, Dion Dimucci met the Del-Satins for lunch. Of course, with such talent around the lunch table, they could not help but break out in song. Check out Dion and the Del-Satins singing a lunchtime “Ruby Baby.”

    [October 2014 Update: The Facebook app may not let the video play here for you. If so, go to Facebook at this link to play the video.]

    What is your favorite Dion song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

  • Dion’s Lost “Kickin’ Child” (Album Review)
  • Valentine’s Day and Two Love Lessons
  • Dion: “New York Is My Home”
  • Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend John?
  • Who Flipped a Coin With Ritchie Valens?: The Day the Music Died and the Coin Toss Controversy
  • Dion’s Tank Full of Blues (CD Review)
  • (Some related Chimesfreedom posts.)