Runaway with Del Shannon/Hats off to Del Shannon

by: Del Shannon

This smartly assembled compilation of two early Del Shannon albums offers a convenient way to collect this material on one disc as well as creating a good thumbnail sketch of this underrated performer's early style. Runaway With Del Shannon is a tentative affair due to hit-and-miss material. Songs like "Misery" ape the style of "Runaway" a little too closely, and a few of the slower numbers slip into mawkish melodrama ("The Prom" is the big culprit in this area). However, the album plays well as a whole because Shannon delivers strong vocals throughout and the skillful arrangements and production show a fully developed style that shines even when the songs themselves do not. It also offers a few hidden gems that are just as impressive as "Runaway": the best is Shannon's soulful version of "His Latest Flame," which captures the song's heartbroken mood in a much more powerful way than Elvis Presley's better-known version. Hats off to Del Shannon was a U.K. album assembled exclusively from singles material and thus has a greater overall consistency in both songwriting and performance, as Shannon shows off his arresting vocal style and ability to mix rock and pop on a string of classics like "The Swiss Maid," "Hats off to Larry," and "Cry Myself to Sleep." A few of its tracks aren't as sharp as these hits ("Don't Gild the Lily, Lily" is undone by its too-clever lyrics), but the majority of the album offers solid early-'60s pop confidently delivered in Shannon's richly emotional style. The package is rounded out by informative liner notes and a trio of worthwhile bonus single mixes: the single versions of "Runaway" and "Hats off to Larry" are of particular merit because they are much punchier than their album counterparts. All in all, Runaway With Del Shannon/Hats off to Del Shannon is a great choice for Shannon fans and worth a spin to anyone with a serious interest in early-'60s pop music. ~ Donald A. Guarisco

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