One of my earliest memories of car journeys was hearing a Neil Sedaka cassette my father owned. Unfortunately, just before turning six, my parents would separate and the Sedaka music would cease, so I’m unsure of which album I was specifically listening to. Although, I do believe that it was a compilation as a number of Sedaka’s greatest hits would frequent the hour-long drive, to the Hawkesbury River, in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area.
As a result of these journeys, Sedaka’s unique vocal delivery would remain ever-present in my mind. As I listened to songs such as Love Will Keep Us Together, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, and Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, I vividly recall being in the backseat of the car looking at either the picturesque landscape passing by, or the stereo cassette player in the car. It had so many buttons, I just wanted to press them all. Thankfully, I’ve never found myself in a recording studio, otherwise I would have likely found a different career path. Buttons, knobs, and dials, they never get old, do they?
While on the surface it may appear upsetting that these songs have negative connotations, relating to the separation of my parents, the music actually doesn’t upset me at all. If anything, it provides a positive memory to that period in time and as I can not recall many occasions when the family was together, this music becomes even more important.
While I love Neil Sedaka’s work, The Very Best Of is the first album of his that I have purchased. There are a plethora of Best Of and Greatest Hits et al releases for Sedaka. So many that I would suggest they would outnumber his still-in-print studio albums. Hence, it can be incredibly difficult to select one that accurately covers his career. I had initially thought that this one did, having looked at the track listing, however the track listing online failed to mention the final seven tracks are compiled into a Live Medley performance that was recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1974. While the performance is enjoyable, I would have much preferred to have these classics songs presented in their original studio recorded format as the medley included: Oh! Carol, Stairway To Heaven, Little Devil, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Next Door To An Angel, and Calendar Girl.
Oh well, I will just have to purchase another collection and see if I can get the originals. I would consider purchasing Sedaka’s individual albums, but collecting his back catalogue is incredibly difficult. Seriously, try and find some officially released Sedaka albums. Certainly in Australia it is near impossible. Even shopping online doesn’t solve the problem as a couple of Sedaka’s releases never saw an official CD release anywhere in the world. The majority of those that did are now out-of-print. Anyway, for now it is a matter of streaming the songs and albums I’m interested in, then buying when possible.
The songs below are a small selection from The Very Best Of Neil Sedaka that I feel highlight his career. I have omitted those songs included in the Medley, despite many of them being amongst my favourites. Although, a couple of the Medley (Live) tracks are also present individually on the CD.
Standing On The Inside highlights Sedaka’s unique vocal style, like no other song in his catalogue.
Love Will Keep Us Together is a song that I just love singing along to. It has a really upbeat style and makes you believe that love is the answer to keeping relationships together. This meaning reminds me of The Beatles song All You Need Is Love.
(I’m A Song) Sing Me is amazing. Not only is Sedaka’s vocal range and tempo fantastic, but I just love the idea that the song is singing a song. That in my opinion is epitome of good song writing.
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do is a classic. I love the jovial approach to the introduction of the song that is reminiscent of the 60s style, but the actual song is one of the greatest vocal ballads ever written and recorded in my opinion.
Laughter In The Rain is epic. This style of music I could listen to for hours and never tire. The song just encourages you to sing. Plus, who can forget the magic of that perfectly played saxophone. It truly enhances the song.
The Hungry Years is a terrible song name, but it a beautiful song that you must listen to.
Unfortunately, this CD release isn’t available on any streaming services, but a quick search for Neil Sedaka will help you find a plethora of other releases. I should also add that the before mentioned Medley (Live) is also not available on streaming services and only on this particular release.
If you are interested in picking up this CD, please note the track listing is strange. As mentioned earlier, online websites don't indicate some of his greatest songs are part of the Medley (Live) track. Also, there are at least two other songs on this compilation that are live recordings, but not noted as such.
The liner notes provide a little background on Sedaka’s career, but the booklet is printed on substandard stock and the photographs look like bad scans from the mid-90s. Plus what have they done with the photograph of Neil on the back of the album? It is terribly distorted and there is a heap of space that was never used.
As so many compilations are poorly produced, I really shouldn't be surprised by these issues. All I know is, if I were Neil Sedaka, I would not be pleased with my work being presented in this manner.
The sound quality is acceptable, but the purist in me would like to be able to listen to the original recordings as some of the songs I know so well, have a slightly different tonality to the way I remember them. That said, I may simply be evaluating quality, in this case, by my very own psychoacoustics.
Overall, this album is one that I am glad to own. That said, I wouldn’t recommend it as the best compilation highlighting Sedaka’s career.