Decades before New Jersey native Joe Pesci won an Oscar for Goodfellas, cracked us up in Home Alone and the Lethal Weapon films and made “the two yoots” – uttered by his character Vincent Gambini in the 1992 hit comedy My Cousin Vinny – an essential pop-culture catchphrase, the actor was a budding recording artist on Brunswick Records.
Continuing its tradition of re-issuing must-hear blasts from its culturally impactful past, the classic indie R&B label is releasing Little Joe Sure Can Sing!, Pesci’s long out of print and up till now nearly impossible to find album, to all major streaming and retail outlets. Originally released on vinyl in 1968, the collection was released November 5, 2021 on Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, YouTube, Amazon, Napster, and more.
Recorded under the moniker “Joe Ritchie,” the jazz, pop, and blues-influenced 10-track collection feature unique renditions of three Beatles classics (“Got To Get You Into My Life,” “Fixing a Hole,” “The Fool On the Hill”), three vintage late 60’s Bee Gees gems (including “To Love Somebody”), Mel Torme’s “Born to be Blue,” Eddie Jones’ “Let’s Stop Fooling Ourselves” and “Stop and Say Hello,” originally recorded by Pesci’s childhood friend and fellow “Jersey Boy” Frankie Valli.
“Before Joe Pesci became a film legend, he was a singer,” says Rich Kamerman, COO/Label Manager of Brunswick Records, whose iconic artists and hits included Jackie Wilson “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”) and the Chi-Lites (“Have You Seen Her”). “Unlike the soul and R&B that Brunswick was best known for, the artist billed as ‘Joe Ritchie’ delivered inspired versions of several early Bee Gees classics, paid tribute to the Lennon-McCartney songbook, and got bluesy on a Mel Torme gem, among the ten tracks on Little Joe Sure Can Sing!
“What could have been a mere curiosity from the distant past is actually a lost classic begging to be discovered by new generations of music lovers,” he adds. “Original vinyl copies continue to be sought-after collectibles, but now everyone can enjoy the album on their favorite streaming and download sites.”
Brunswick CEO Paul Tarnopol – son of the late Nat Tarnopol, who was President of the label during its 60’s-70’s heyday – adds that the original release of the “Joe Ritchie” album was a bit of a mystery. “Between 1960 and 1970,” he says, “Nat had transformed Brunswick from a label best known for Lawrence Welk and Brenda Lee records into an R&B powerhouse with artists like Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Lavern Baker, Gene Chandler, the Young-Holt Unlimited and the Chi-Lites. The ‘Little Joe’ album was released right in the middle of this renaissance.
“Since Nat passed away before Goodfellas, My Cousin Vinny and JFK made Joe Pesci a triple Oscar-winning superstar, Nat Tarnopol was never asked why he released the Pesci album on a label with a roster of entirely soul and rhythm and blues artists.”
Little Joe Sure Can Sing! makes a unique cameo appearance in the new film The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel to the famed HBO series The Sopranos. Ray Liotta’s character is a jazz junkie whose nephew brings him albums to listen to behind bars. The cover of the Pesci album is seen alongside others like jazz legend Miles Davis.
Though officially “retired” from acting, Pesci has appeared in several films throughout the 2000s, most notably and recently, The Irishman, which reunited him with Robert DeNiro and director Martin Scorsese, whom the actor had first collaborated with on Raging Bull.
In 2005, Pesci was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.