Bobby Vinton: The Best Of

Excellent collection of ‘60s crooner’s top hits

A wave of attractive, talented male singers sprouted in the lull between Elvis’ induction into the army and the Beatles arrival on U.S. shores. Among them, Bobby Vinton had one of the prettiest voices, an instrument with which he carved out a niche of pop songs that didn’t even feint towards rock ‘n’ roll. While Bobby Vee, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon and others were non-threatening hit-makers who barely hinted at the darker side of ‘50s rockers, Vinton looked further back to earlier, pre-rock pop. His lushly orchestrated recordings were more apiece with the pre-rock ‘n’ roll hit parade than with the amalgam of blues, R&B, country and gospel that in 1963 might have seemed like a commercial fad that was then in repose or decline.

Vinton made no pretension to following in the footsteps of rock ‘n’ roll, as his ballads were winsome and filled with treacle and tears. What made the songs work, and surprisingly still keeps them emotionally effective, is the sweetness with which Vinton indulges the songs’ idealized heartaches. Romantic totems of roses, childhood sweethearts, high school romances, unrequited love and broken hearts are all magnified by vocals that sound as if they might break down at any moment – Roy Orbison minus the operatic distress. Vinton hit a weeping artistic peak with the teary-eyed soldier of “Mr. Lonely,” but even his occasional declarations of love, like “There! I’ve Said it Again” and “My Heart Belongs to Only You” are just as much wishful thinking as they are returned fulfillment.

These fourteen tracks cover most of Vinton’s Top 20 hits, including his four chart toppers, but given Vinton’s sustained success through the ‘60s and early ‘70s, this isn’t complete. In addition to a couple dozen lower charting singles, the top-20 “Clinging Vine” (#17) and seasonal “Dearest Santa” (#8) are missing. A more important omission is his Top-5 comeback “My Melody of Love,” waxed for ABC in 1975 after having departed from Epic. This marked a brief return to the Top 5 and garnered enough publicity to land Vinton a television show. You can find it on the much shorter Collections, but you’re best bet is this set (or Varese’s more complete All-Time Greatest Hits), plus a digital download of “My Melody of Love.” [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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