Saturday, June 16, 2012


One of my more recent acquisitions, this is the original version of the tune that became a huge hit for Gene Pitney in 1964. I had known about this for about 10 years, and it took me that long to track down a copy (which is surprising, considering that it was released twice within a few months). What I didn't realize was the parallels between Frankie Laine's and Gene Pitney's singing styles.

Both could be considered "histrionic" tenors (though Frankie's voice was much huskier than Gene's), both had a flair for country & western (check out Gene's duets with then-labelmates George Jones and Melba Montgomery for a slice of pure pleasure, and of course Frankie will forever be known for "Rawhide") and rhythm and blues (Gene's "You're A Heartbreaker" is KILLER blue-eyed soul, and Frankie was the ORIGINAL blue-eyed soul brother, selling TONS of records in the R&B market before anyone ever heard of the term "crossover"). Plus they shared an Italian heritage (Pitney was half-Italian, half-Polish, Laine's real surname was LoVecchio) which brought an extra dimension to their singing.

Anyway, take a listen to this record. The arrangement (by Spector right-hand man Jack Nietzsche) was completely ripped off for the Pitney version, and Terry Melcher did a heck of a job making Frankie Laine sound up-to-date (at least for 1963).

Of course, no one in the world was ever gonna touch Gene Pitney on this song - the high note Gino hits at the end of his version is one of the greatest moments in the history of recorded music. But Frankie Laine comes in a close second.

Frankie Laine - I'm Gonna Be Strong (Columbia 4-42884) - 1963

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