Today’s Classic Album Review remembers one of the classic albums of the 1960’s. It is also one of the first albums looked at on the old Ultimate Twang blog.
The legendary Eddy Arnold recorded over 50 original albums during his long career (not including compilations and reissues), and arguably the best of them was his 1965 monster My World. My World and it’s two number one singles, “Make The World Go Away” and “What’s He Doing In My World” are often called Eddy’s comeback, though in all reality, it wasn’t so much of a comeback, as it was a return to the top. It’s true that Eddy hadn’t had a number 1 hit since “That Do Make It Nice” in 1955, but still, in the ten years that followed, his records continued to sell relatively well, as he scored twelve top ten hits on the Billboard country charts in that span, plus having 2 of his albums reached the top ten on the country album charts that Billboard started in 1964. And one of them, The Easy Way, had even hit number 1.
But this was the album that would send his career to new heights, surpassing even his peak of the late 40’s and early 50’s. After the success of this album and it’s two number one singles, Eddy would once again become a fixture at, or near the top of the charts for the remainder of the decade, with thirteen more top ten hits, including five more number ones. And he would become a fixture on prime television, appearing on nearly all of the top shows of the time, including The Tonight Show, The Dean Martin Show, and The Johnny Cash Show, among others.
And boy did the albums sell! His next seven albums, following My World, all peaked at number 1, and the next two after those, peaked at number 2 on Billboard.
As mentioned, this album features two number one hits, “What’s He Doing In My World” and “Make The World Go Away”. “What’s He Doing In My World” is the album’s lead-off and was the single that returned Eddy to the top in June, 1965. Both singles are stellar ballads, done in the full Nashville Sound style that by this time, made up the Eddy Arnold sound. “Make The World Go Away” had already been a top ten country hit for Ray Price, in 1963, but Eddy is said to have been inspired to record it after hearing a version by Timi Yuro that ultimately failed to become a hit. Of course, Eddy’s version is one of the all-time classics, and with good reason. A great vocalist and a great song, in this case, make a perfect match. Not only did both singles each spend three weeks at number one on the country charts, “Make The World Go Away” also gave Eddy Arnold his only top ten pop hit, as well.
Often forgotten is that there was a third single from this album, released between the two monsters. “I’m Letting You Go” is arguably one of the album’s strongest numbers, with thoughtful lyrics about a relationship that is ending, but not without a tinge of regret or second thoughts. “I’m Letting You Go” managed to crack the top twenty, early in the Fall of ’65.
Typical of most country albums of the day, there are several covers on this disc, including two songs made famous by Brenda Lee. “Too Many Rivers” is performed in an easy, light manner, but perhaps with a bit more bounce than even the Brenda Lee hit. “As Usual” is one of the many highlights of this album, an occurrence where the cover might even be better than the original.
That can also be said about “I’m Walking Behind You”, a 1954 pop hit for Eddie Fisher. Here, Eddy Arnold and producer Chet Atkins give the song a noticeable increase in tempo, compared to the Fisher version, which was very slow. The result is a nice, light, airy feel, juxtaposed with feelings of a jilted lover, watching his beloved being wed.
“It Comes and Goes” is the oldest recording on the album, which, according to the website Praguefrank’s Country Music Discography, was recorded during an October, 1963 session, while the remaining eleven tracks were recorded during sessions in January and June, 1965. From the pen of Bill Anderson, it plays on the phrase “it comes and goes”, stating that hurt of a breakup, “…comes every morning and it goes all night”. A solid song that surprisingly, no one ever made into a hit single.
Any time a song walks the line between being sentimental and being sappy, there’s the danger of it falling into the sappy side, with an even further danger of getting so far in, it winds up with what I’ll call a corny feel to it. “The Days Gone By” is a song that certainly straddles that line, but manages to avoid falling over into the sappiness. The lyrics call out to friends of the past, saying hello to them, and hearing their reply in the heart (though what they say is not mentioned, we can only assume it’s good!). And much of the reason that it avoids the pitfall of sappiness, is due to the way Eddy handled this song. Eddy performs the song in a way that makes you grasp the meaning and the feeling of the lyrics. But also in a way that is relatable, and not seemingly coated with tons of syrup.
The rest of album is nearly as good, with “If You Were Mine, Mary” presenting more of what was, at the time, a contemporary easy listening feel, and is the farthest this album strays from it’s country music roots, but gives Eddy Arnold a good vehicle to show his skillful handling of more pop-oriented material (as does “I’m Walking Behind You”), something that he would show even more on ensuing albums. “Taking Chances” and “Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane” are good, with the latter being noteworthy for it’s featured banjo work, something rarely heard on Arnold recordings.
Today, much thought will often be put in the order of the tracks on an album, but I don’t know if that was the case, fifty years ago. I say this because, to me, one of the things that often stand out to me when listening to an album, is how it ends; that final track; the last thing you hear. I like an album that has a strong beginning and end to it, which this album does. It starts with “What’s He Doing In My World” and ends with the Merle Kilgore-penned “You Still Got A Hold On Me”. Another song that is surprising that no one ever made into a hit.
This is one of the first albums that I recall hearing as a little boy (Dean Martin’s Greatest Hits being the other one), and is still one of my favorites. This album is devoid of any real weaknesses, as nearly all of the tracks are strong, plus while the overall sound is consistent, the tracks are a nice variety of country and pop writing, plus contain enough individuality in their arrangements that makes each one interesting to listen to.
This is a true gem of an album that never gets old. I rate it a 5 out of 5.
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. After convincing Vincennes University in Indiana to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting, he has spent most of his adult life on the radio, having worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina, including his current gig, hosting the weekly World Famous Ultimate Twang Radio Show. Listen Thursdays, 4-7p ET on WSFM-LP/AshevilleFM, which is at 103.3 FM in Asheville, North Carolina, as well as online at ashevillefm.org.