This set, with its self-explanatory title--ANTHOLOGY: 1961-1968-- provides a valuable service in compiling 16 of Gene Pitney's best moments from the '60s. Though Pitney is sometimes dismissed as a negligible teen-idol type, or criticized for his melodramatic delivery, his vocal range is quite impressive, and his emotionally charged performances can transcend theatrics to get at something genuine and heartfelt.
Pitney's biggest hits--"24 Hours From Tulsa" and "Town Without Pity," among them--are here, of course, along with other, lesser-known gems. All of it is infused with a wrenching sense of heartache and despair. Like Roy Orbison--to whom he is often compared--Pitney's singing is the epitome of romantic yearning, yet the most revealing aspect of this well-selected collection is Pitney's remarkable stylistic range, as witnessed on tracks ranging from the "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" to the middle eastern-inflected "Mecca."