Jim Reeves “Distant Drums” Classic Album Review
Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always around. Today’s Classic Album Review is a 1966 classic from the legendary Jim Reeves. Distant Drums was RCA’s first release for the late singer, that year, and the album became his second number one album, spending seven weeks on top. In addition, seven singles were included on the album.
The title cut starts things off. A 1966 number one hit that has a haunting feel to it, given the escalating situation in Vietnam, at that time. One of the classic melodies of Jim’s career.
“Is It Really Over” was a 1965 number one hit for Jim Reeves, perhaps the most lushly produced single in his hit list. While the polished sound covers some of the intimacy in his vocal work, it’s still a great track, where overall, that slick production doesn’t really hurt the track.
When I say that Jim Reeves had an intimate sound, what I’m saying is that his mellow, velvety tones, mixed with the right arrangement, has that sound of someone singing in a small environment, around just a few people, in a relaxed setting. ”I Missed Me” is the perfect example. One of his great performances, this was a 1960 hit, but often gets overlooked, when Jim Reeves hits are talked about, which is too bad. Great sound, right here. The record would peak at three and spend half a year on the charts.
Of course, not every Jim Reeves recording was of the above styles. He could speed things up, as well, which we’re reminded with his 1965 hit,”Snowflake”. A spritely piece, it contains an irresistable melody and a refrain that stays in your head all day.
I think that “A Letter To My Heart” may well be the most underrated Jim Reeves hit of all time. Though it only peaked at twenty in 1962, while it’s flip-side, “Adios Amigos” was hitting number two, this is an outstanding piece that is an incredible mix of loneliness, despair, and pain, juxtaposed with a bit of a beat, along with Jim Reeves’ incredible delivery. It results in a haunting, nearly bone-chilling track, especially when he sings the line, “Then heart, stop beating for me”.
Side one ends with another 1962 hit, “Losing Your Love”. You can pretty much take what I said for “I Missed Me” and reprint it, here. Another great track.
Seven of the album’s tracks were also hit singles, including the opening cut of side two. ”This Is It” was a 1965 number one hit, and simply put, one of my Jim Reeves faves.
“Not Until The Next Time” is melodic and simple. Nice track. A track that originally appeared as the B side to his 1964 hit “I Guess I’m Crazy”.
“Good Morning Self” is a very good melody, with some good lyrical work. A medium-up tempo track that Jim handles in his typical stellar style. Hard not to like this one.
“Where Does A Broken Heart Go” has the slicker production, but it doesn’t mask the performance. Arguably one of his best performances on the album.
RCA went back into the late 1950′s to pull out the bouncy “Overnight”. From his transition period of going from traditional to the smoother styles, as this track has elements of both sounds.
The album wraps with Jim’s take on the Margaret Whiting and Jimmy Wakely hit, “The Gods Were Angry With Me”. Again, more of the transitional sound, and a good ending track for this album.
Though it doesn’t currently appear to be on the market, this album has seen life on CD, along with it’s original vinyl issue. I do believe, as well, that it may have been on 8-track, at one time, too. Used vinyl copies that I saw were mostly around the $10 range, and the few used CD’s I saw, just a bit higher.
I think you have to give the title cut the Standout Track, though any of the seven singles could be argued for. My Hidden Gem is “Where Does A Broken Heart Go”. I really don’t see a Weakest Track, here, as the non-singles are pretty good works, in and of themselves.
Overall, it almost has the feel of a greatest hits, with so many singles. The nice thing, here, is a nice mixing of arrangements, song styles, and tempos. If there’s a weakness in a Jim Reeves album, it’s that, in some cases, they tend to be 10 to 12 tracks of similar sounding tunes, that, even with his exceptional vocal abilities, can start to sound the same. Not the case, here. I give this a 5 out of 5.