Dion – Kickin’ Child

Billed as “The Lost Album,” Dion’s Kickin’ Child was recorded in 1965 during the pop crooner’s short-lived stint for Columbia Records, who promptly shelved it. Although some tracks trickled out as singles or were issued with overdubbed orchestration, the album was never made available in complete form until now. It opens a fascinating window into the little-noticed second stage of Dion’s career, between the sugary early doo-wop of “Donna the Prima Donna” and the mellow maturity of “Abraham, Martin, and John.”

The 15 songs are mostly in acoustic folk format, although sweetened with a prominent electric guitar. It’s something of shock to hear the man who excoriated the rampant infidelity of “Runaround Sue” now completely turned around, lavishly praising “My Love” as a woman who is “true, like the stars are in the sky.” As “The Wanderer” Dion would proudly “roam around, around, around, around,” but on this disc he opines, “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound.” The boy was becoming a man.

A Dylan influence is most obvious on the album’s title track which, no, is not about an uncomfortable pregnancy but is instead the colorful appreciation a free-spirited rebel (“She don’t walk no line/ She don’t follow Daylight Savings Time”) rendered in the style of “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Dion adds a dose of psychedelia with “All I Want to Do Is Live My Life,” in which his “life” consists of watching cockroaches climb his wall, catching them when they fall, and then giving his brain “a bath in rubbing alcohol.” Finally there’s Dylan’s own “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” solemnly rendered and – unlike so many other cover versions — with all of Mr. Zimmerman’s verses intact. (Dion had attended the Columbia recording session for Dylan’s original.) At three and half minutes, it’s the album’s longest cut.

In a sad footnote, the triumphant resurrection of this long-suppressed treasure was the final project of Billy Miller, on whose Norton Records indie label it is now released. Miller championed countless re-issues and rarities over the years, but few with such a high profile. The album is dedicated to his memory.

Kickin’ Child
[Norton Records]