Greetings from Ashetopia, where good music is always found on the turntable, in the CD player, or in the MP3 player. Today’s Classic Album Review is an April, 1961 RCA Victor release from the legendary men of the West, The Sons Of The Pioneers. Lure Of The West featured twelve tracks, all western in theme, featuring several already well-known compositions. The Pioneer lineup, by this time, featured Lloyd Perryman, Tommy Doss, Karl Farr, and Dale Warren. In addition, singer/voice guru Thurl Ravenscroft provided deep background vocals on several tracks. The late Thurl Ravenscroft had a long, successful career as the voice of Tony The Tiger, as well as providing the memorable “You’re A Mean One, Mister Grinch”, on the now-holiday classic television special. In addition, his bass is heard on the refrain of “This Old House”, both on the Stuart Hamblen and Rosemary Clooney versions.
The album kicks off with a rousing rendition of “Saddle Up”. Catchy little tune recalling the legendary names of the Old West, such as Billy The Kid, Geronimo, and Jesse James. A great mood setter for this album.
My wife wasn’t overly impressed, but I have to differ on “Carry Me Back To The Lone Prairie”. No, it’s not the same level of classic Pioneer records, but it’s a decent track, featuring a slower and lonely sound of someone who longs to return to the prairie he loves.
Just like a horse at full gallop, so is “A Cowboy Has To Sing”. Great melody that is only enhanced with the fine harmonies of the Pioneers make this one of the album’s most fun tracks.
I can’t imagine someone not liking “When The Bloom Is On The Sage”. One of the album’s best songs, the harmonies are great and it’s simply a great melody. Gotta love this track.
Things slow down for “Hills Of Old Wyomin’”, which may not be quite as strong as the album’s best tracks, but is still more than simply filler. It’s a quality Western ballad that has such a nice laid-back rhythm to it that lulls you right into the song.
Side one ends with their take on the Johnny Bond composition “Cimarron (Roll On)”. If a Western song can be breakneck speed, this is it, right here, yet even with that, there’s a still a controlled feel to the piece. Another interesting aspect of this track, is the guitar riffs that sound like they were lifted from one of the Rock ‘n Roll records of the day, which provides a most interesting juxtaposition to the somewhat lush, horn-laden arrangement. And here’s the best part, it works. Works so well, in fact, you find yourself paying more attention to the music than the vocals, which of course, are not at all shabby, themselves.
Side two opens with the tall tale of “Pecos Bill”. Though not listed on the recording information, longtime Pioneer Bob Nolan is heard, here. Great track, that is nothing short of a riot to listen to. The highlight of this track has to be Thurl Ravenscroft’s work.
Perhaps the best known composition on this disc would be the classic “Take Me Back To My Boots And Saddle”. A great western piece, and you will be hard-pressed to find a better version than this one.
Can’t find anything bad to say about the Pioneers’ take on “My Adobe Hacienda”, either. Simply another spirit-lifting, enjoyable piece of music, with a great arrangement that simply makes the record.
“Along The Navajo Trail” takes you along a lazy, relaxing ride down the dusty trail. The great thing about this track is that it really does have that feel; simply closing your eyes and taking in the music, you’ll swear you’re right there for the ride.
“Cowboy’s Lament” is a famous song that is better known as “The Streets Of Laredo”. To me, Marty Robbins’ version is the standard to which all others are compared to. Is this version as good? No. But as all other versions are concerned, I would rank it as one of the better ones.
The album ends with a swinging version of “Ragtime Cowboy Joe”. A song that’s been around since 1912, it’s more of a Pop song, than Western, feels a bit out of character for the Sons Of The Pioneers, yet they handle the song quite well, with a cut that still has that Pop feel, but with a strong dose of Western mixed in, and the result is rather pleasing. Good ending track.
This album is long out of print, though I do believe some of the tracks have made it to some Bear Family compilations. As for used copies, they are pretty easy to find, and the ones I saw listed anywhere from $4 to $30.
Since this album contained no singles, the Standout Track will go to one of the well-known compositions on the album. I really like “Pecos Bill” and thus rate it the Standout Track. As for a Hidden Gem, I’m going with “A Cowboy Has To Sing”, though a good argument could be made for “Saddle Up”. As for The Weakest Track, there isn’t one, here. This album has twelve tracks that are all, at worst, very good.
Overall, this is a real feel-good album that is simply a joy to hear. The songs are strong, their arrangements are great (as well as interesting), and of course, it’s hard to beat that Pioneer harmony. A great recording that I rate a 5 out of 5.