on 26 August 2007
For anyone like myself who followed the Everlys' career in the late 1950's and on into the 60's, this double CD is a must-have. I can now file away my crackly old Warner Bros. 45s and LPs and listen once again to those crystal-clear harmonies. Don and Phil Everly were once described by guitar maestro Chet Atkins as "the greatest vocal duo of all time", and millions would agree.
Atkins himself was "instrumental" in their early career, using his influence and contacts to bring them to Nashville, and then participating in their hit-making sounds on Cadence. Inevitably a move to a bigger label had to happen, and they signed for Warner Bros. in late 1959, immediately hitting pay dirt with timeless classics "Cathy's Clown", "So Sad", and "Walk Right Back".
The Everlys came from a family steeped in Country music, and they emulated the harmonies they heard. Add in the Pop sounds and their appeal became universal. They were really in the right place at the right time as U.S. acts dominated the British charts in the the late 1950's, but the reverse applied when The Beatles arrived, and the Everlys' hits dried up.
This collection has an air of authenticity about it, with the reproduction Warner labels and comprehensive booklet. There's also plenty of material here which never found its way onto the singles charts but is superb listening and defines the era.
By 1969 their Warner contract came to a close, and a rocky road lay ahead for them, but even through their various ups and downs there was a faithful following. You just can't deny their top quality, and they've left a lasting legacy. I can still listen to the contents of this collection and enjoy it just as when the songs were brand new.
I write this on the day we heard of the death of Phil Everly at the age of 74. Don is, mercifully, still with us at a ripe 76. So this is as much in tribute as to review what in any case is an almost flawless compilation of fifty of the songs the brothers recorded for Warner in the sixties.
These treasured, timeless tracks follow on from their early classics such as Bye Bye Love, Claudette, Bird Dog and When Will I Be Loved, as seamlessly as you might expect, if with a slightly smoother production all round.
Apart from the remarkable number of incredible examples of Don & Phil`s genius - Cathy`s Clown, So Sad, Walk Right Back, Love Hurts, Lucille, Temptation (arranged brillinatly by Don), Crying in the Rain, Ebony Eyes, the excitingly hectic The Price of Love, Love is Strange (a great performance, with its semi-serious dialogue in the middle), Gone, Gone, Gone (underrated then as now), the brief but lovely B-side Don`t Forget To Cry, intense ballad It`s All Over (covered creditably as a hit single by Cliff in his younger, less mannered years), the wonderful Bowling Green, with which they often began their concerts, the rhythmically hypnotic I Wonder If I Care As Much (another great B-side) - there are many lesser known songs here, some of which are as wondrous as the abovementioned.
Highlights of these would be a terrific song called Nashville Blues - which has become a favourite of mine ever since first hearing it when I bought this 2-CD collection - as well as Sleepless Nights, their blissful renditions of the old standards Don`t Blame Me and True Love, the country hit I`d Be A Legend In My Time, Sing Me Back Home, and too many others to mention.
There are a couple of `novelty` tracks on disc 2 that one could have done without, but overall the compilers have done Everly fans proud.
I got to see Don & Phil just once, in Brighton about twenty years ago, and I was stunned simply to be in the same room as two such legends of my youth. They were superb, but then I doubt if they were capable of being otherwise.
The Everlys are and were the sound of teen love and desire - and not a few adult passions too! - but they also happened to sing like two Kentucky angels, their voices not merely blending but making one voice, an immaculate vocal euphony harmonising with itself, so to speak. This kind of music never dates, never sounds old or `retro`, it will always sound utterly wonderful, and the Everlys - despite the death of Phil - will live so long as people listen to glorious music sung with the passion, intensity and sheer musicality of these two guys.
The booklet and notes are excellent, and the whole thing reeks of class.
Essential, to anyone with ears to hear and a beating heart.
The Everly brothers had several hits on the Cadence label, notably Bye bye love and All I have to do is dream, before signing to Warners in 1960. They started very successfully but their popularity faded gradually. By the end of the sixties, only their most dedicated fans paid any attention to them - yet their music was always of a high quality. They continually updated their music, trying to reflect changing fashions, making this a very interesting compilation.
The first CD includes all but one of the big British and American hits, together with some of their most interesting album tracks (especially Sleepless nights and Love hurts). See my review of It's Everly time//A date with the Everly brothers for more about some of these songs. Two of the last three tracks on this CD are covers of country songs written by Don Gibson (Just one time and Sweet dreams). Even at their most popular, they never really strayed too far from their country roots.
The second CD opens with The price of love, their last major British hit - it reached #2 in 1965, but I don't think it did anything in America. It was a brilliant, infectious song with a touch of R+B. At around that time, the Everlys were being compared to the Beatles, but the truth is that the Everlys were a major influence on the Beatles, so people got the comparison the wrong way round.
The remaining tracks, covering the second half of the sixties, see the Everlys experimenting with a variety of styles, including more country songs, albeit with a pop/rock beat.
This is a fine collection for those (like me) who's interest in the Everly brothers goes beyond their hit singles. If you only want their hits, you can get them elsewhere without all the other stuff.