Greetings from Asheville, where the good music can still be found on the turntable. For this Classic Album Review, I’ve brought from the vault, the fourteenth album, released by the legendary Carl Smith. The Columbia-issued I Want to Live and Love was his first release for 1965, entering the market in January, and was the first of three releases for that year. The album is mostly covers, and contained no singles, though a couple of tracks were good enough (more on that, later). It did not sell enough to make the charts.
The album kicks off with a spirited version of the Wiley Walker/Gene Sullivan song, “I Want to Live and Love”. I really liked this track, as Carl gives a great performance on this track.
I would have to rate Carl’s take on “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle”, as one of the better Hank Williams covers that I have heard, over the years. A song almost perfectly suited for Carl.
One would think that “Lonesome 7-7203” would be a great vehicle for Carl’s voice, and had it been done in the right key, it may well have. Unfortunately, it’s keyed too high (in my opinion), and as a result, it feels like a bit of a struggle between Carl’s voice and the song.
On the other hand, his take on the Webb Pierce hit “Memory Number One” is such, that had Webb not had a hit with the song, one could easily see Carl’s version doing well on the charts.
As Carl’s career advanced through the years, he began using Western Swing-style sounds, more often. That sound is utilized, here, on the Merle Travis hit “Divorce Me C. O. D.”, which works well, overall.
Side one ends with a ballad, “Oh How I Miss You (Since You Went Away)”. An okay track, but it (for me, at least) comes off rather bland.
Unfortunately, the opening track of side two also doesn’t quite do much for me. Carl’s cover of the Stonewall Jackson hit, “Waterloo”, is nice, but too tame. This is a song that needs to have more raucousness to it; needs to be blaring, almost in-your-face, in its sound, but that doesn’t happen, here.
I did like the ballad “I Dreamed of An Old Love Affair”, though. This is vintage Carl Smith, right here. One must wonder why it wasn’t a single.
Somewhat surprisingly, Carl and “Don’t Let Me Cross Over” seem to be a mismatch. This happens, sometimes. A singer and a song just don’t work well, together, which for me, is what happens, here. I can’t quite pinpoint the reason, but throughout the track, it just feels a little amiss.
Carl’s take on “B. J. The D. J.” also falls short, unfortunately. Again, though, like “Lonesome 7-7203”, the main issue is the key. If keyed lower, I think the result would have been outstanding. But, in this key, it sounds like he struggled to hit the song’s highest notes.
A nice recovery is made, though, with “I Cried Again”, which, while still a little high, key-wise, comes off very well, sounding like it was written specifically for Carl Smith.
And you get a nice end to the album with Carl’s take on the Eddy Arnold classic, “I’ll Hold You in My Heart (Til I Can Hold You in My Arms)”. Fine vocal performance, and relaxed style make this ending track, a winner.
This album is available on compact disc and as an MP3 download. As for used vinyl copies. Amazon and eBay show copies ranging from $3 to as high as $40. The Goldmine publication values near-mint copies at $25 for mono versions, and $30 if stereo.
Overall, it’s not Carl’s strongest album. It’s uneven, as there is a distinctive difference in performance levels between the two sides, as side one is easily the stronger side. Still, an album that has some good work on it, and not a throwaway release by any stretch.
As always, your opinion is welcome; just leave a comment below.
Saving vinyl one record at a time.
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ABOUT THE 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.