Dion
Born To Be With You


4.5
superb

Review

by danielsfrebirth USER (27 Reviews)
January 8th, 2014 | 3 replies


Release Date: 1975 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Though Dion's Phil Spector-produced masterpiece Born To Be With You initially presents itself as a towering and untouchable collaboration, it gradually reveals itself as one of the most poignant and human pop albums ever made.

Given the towering statures of both figures in the pop music world, it's unsurprising that Dion and Phil Spector made an album together. What is surprising about the resulting album, 1975's Born To Be With You, is that it works as well as a collaboration between these two possibly could. Spector is clearly aware he's working with a pop legend and steps up his game accordingly, imbuing his productions with care, love, and every bit of his characteristic, almost absurd maximalism--he's never sounded like he's having more fun producing a record than on Born To Be With You. And though Dion's voice doesn't always possess the same boyish eagerness as on his '50s and '60s singles, he's still a vocal force of nature, effortlessly rising above Spector's production squall.

The album opens with the nearly seven-minute title track. Though its glacial pace is slightly frustrating, it's one of the most awe-inspiring pop songs I've ever heard. The "Be My Baby" beat that runs throughout it is positively gargantuan, with each snare hit rending the equally bombastic sonic landscape before it quickly reassembles. The slow pacing allows Dion to take liberties with his vocal phrasing--there are countless adorable little rock n' roll ad-libs (my favorite: "the stars were in the right place, baby!"), and several times Dion employs awkward, moaning note shifts that are hardly pretty but coax out an unbelievable amount of emotion. That his rough, relaxed vocal manages to effortlessly rise above Spector's musical maelstrom is nothing short of a miracle.

The next song, "Make The Woman Love Me," is another Spector sound gala, but it's enough of a departure from the previous song to be effective. Opening with a strikingly personal detail about a pair of Levi shoes the narrator wanted as a child, "Make The Woman Love Me" is a consciously self-serving plea for God to do exactly as the title suggests. Though the song delivers on quite a bit of the title's potential creepiness, it does so knowingly--Dion promises he'll "take it from there" once God shifts the woman's heart. It's an incredible song, and it differentiates itself from "Born To Be With You" in that it feels less like a showcase for the singer than a peek into his mind.

Born To Be With You contains two tracks not produced by Spector, both of which were written by Dion and benefit from their relatively tame arrangements. "Your Own Backyard" is a remarkably candid reflection on Dion's heroin addiction; its more conventional studio polish separates it from the rest of the album and casts the listener into the singer's personal struggles rather than merely his craft.

The other is "New York City Song." I don't know whether or not this one is based on something from Dion's life, but I wouldn't be surprised if so. A description of a man growing disillusioned with New York city after his girl falls into the party scene, it seems to continue a narrative that begins with "Your Own Backyard" about a man trying to figure out what to do and where to go in life while repeatedly escaping the lure of hedonism and decadence.

Conversely, the non-Spector songs increase the power of the Spector tunes that follow. "Your Own Backyard" is followed by an incredibly weird arrangement of "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands," which finds Dion singing through a similar filter to what The Strokes' Julian Casablancas would employ a quarter-century later. It's a jarring change from the album's most "normally" produced song to a strange beast such as this. Even more powerful is the transition from "New York City Song" to the stunning "In And Out Of The Shadows," probably the album's best pop song and certainly its catchiest.

The peak of Spector's Wall Of Sound experimentation on the album is the climactic "Good Lovin' Man." Opening with a titanic vocal melody that could have come from no less than ten singers belting in harmony, "Good Lovin' Man" is so obscenely excessive it could have only come at the end, and it ends the album on a humorous and light-hearted note. It's also the only song that sounds both like a classic Dion song and a classic Phil Spector production. Dion's vocal is pure rock n' roll, unmistakably the product of the same set of lungs that howled out "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer" fourteen years prior.

The brilliance of Born To Be With You lies not only in the fact that it's as good as a Phil Spector-produced Dion album could possibly be but that's as much as a Dion album as it's billed to be. Though the album sets Dion up as untouchable pop behemoth early on, we get to know him better and better throughout the album until, by the end, you feel like you've just had a beer with him. For all its meticulous, mathematical craft, this is one of the most human pop albums I've ever heard, as well as one of the best.



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user ratings (9)
4.2
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
undertakerpt
January 8th 2014


1645 Comments


(He's got) the whole world in his hands is such a tune

Good idea - destruction derby

Bad idea - destruction wheelie bins

Schizophrenik
January 8th 2014


848 Comments


pretty solid review, though I didn't read the whole thing

runaround sue is an awesome song

trickert
June 27th 2023


184 Comments


I've always loved Your Own Backyard, first Mott the Hoople's amazing version, then finding Dion's original. There's great stuff on this album.



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