Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable. Today’s Classic Album Review looks back at a 1961 Hank Snow release, Souvenirs.
One of the big leaps forward in recording technology, were stereo recordings. The technology was patented in 1931. But stereo recordings were not on the market until 1958. Stereo quickly gained in popularity. Record labels brought their veteran artists into studios to record stereo versions of their earlier hits. Sometimes, the newer versions would come off well, sometimes they didn’t. Souvenirs is an example of a project that did work, for the most part.
Recorded over two days in the fall of 1960, Souvenirs featured new, stereo versions of twelve of Hank’s hits and best-known songs. All but two had been top ten hits. Four, “I’m Movin’ On”, “The Rhumba Boogie”, “The Golden Rocket”, and “I Don’t Hurt Anymore”, became number one hits. The album, released by RCA Victor in February 1961, never charted. Billboard didn’t begin tracking country albums until 1964.
The album starts with one of Hank’s early hits, “The Rhumba Boogie”. Tempo is slower, and a definite smoothing of the sound is apparent on this version. Not bad.
Rather than the smoking fiddles of the original, “I’m Movin’ On” has steel guitars on the intro. Overall, this track isn’t much different than the original. The differences being stereo, some background vocals, and a slower tempo.
Hank’s vocals on this version of “(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such As I” are actually better than the original version. Here is a case where smoothing out the sound makes for a better recording than the original.
I’d have to say the same, as well, for “The Golden Rocket”. I like this rerecorded version better than his original.
From a vocal standpoint, “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” may be better on this album, than on the original, sung in a lower key. Yet the original arrangement is better than this version. Better without the backup vocals.
Hank’s original recording of “Music Makin’ Mama From Memphis” is a rollicking, rocking record, as hot as anything heard on early 1950’s country radio. Unfortunately, that excitement and energy are lost on this version. The tempo has slowed and has changed to sound more like “The Rhumba Boogie”. That doesn’t work on this track. This is a case where the original is superior.
Side two begins with a non-charting song for Hank Snow. But it became a favorite of his fans, nonetheless, “With This Ring I Thee Wed”. Other than the background vocals and the addition of an organ, there’s little difference between this and the original. Hank’s vocals do sound a bit better, as his voice had mellowed a bit with age. Plus the techniques used in recording also play a part. When most of these hits were originally recorded, the artist stood away from the microphone and belted out his parts. By the time of these recordings, though, the artists had moved closer to the mic. This resulted in a more intimate sound, and I’m sure making it easier on the artist’s vocal chords.
“Conscience I’m Guilty” is another track, where I like the newer version, better. It benefits from the smoother production, making a more pleasurable listening experience
On the other hand, “Bluebird Island” seems to be lacking from the original. That missing element would be Anita Carter, who sang with Hank on the original version. Having the Anita Kerr Singers sing her part, isn’t the same. The original wins, here.
In 1949, Hank Snow was an established recording star in Canada, but still largely unknown in the United States. That began changing, though, with his release of “Marriage Vow”. “Marriage Vow” was Hank’s first chart hit, introducing him to the country music audience in the United States. Here, Hank gives a new interpretation of his first hit, and this recording works well, I must say. I’m not sure I’d rate it higher than the original, but I think it’s as good.
“These Hands” is another hit, that often gets overlooked, due to the sheer number of hits Hank Snow had in his career. It’s a shame, too, as it’s a wonderful sentimental song of man looking back on his life. And the remake is as good as the original. This is one of those songs that would be hard to accept with anyone else singing. This may well be the standout track on this album.
Like “With This Ring I Thee Wed”, “My Mother” is a song that didn’t chart, but is a favorite of Hank’s fans. A song that warns that you should show your affections to your mother, while she’s still with you, before it’s too late. Not one of my favorite Hank Snow songs, but this version, I think, is better than the original. This type of song benefits from then state-of-the-art recording technology that brought an intimacy that is a great benefit for this type of song.
As for availability, this album is available on compact disc. Also, a quick scan of various sales sites shows several vinyl copies available. Most I saw were less than $10, a good buy in my opinion.
Overall, for an album of remakes, Souvenirs comes off very well. That is from one who generally prefers the originals, especially with the original artist. Listening to this disc, you’ll hear a bit of freshness in the tracks. And credit goes to Hank Snow, and his producer, Chet Atkins. Unlike some remakes I’ve heard, these do not have the feel of something rushed to completion. Even though the album was recorded in two days (the norm in 1960). As always, your thoughts, comments, and opinions are welcome.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, model railroader, 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. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.