Greetings from Asheville, where it’s time for another Classic Album Review, pulling out a vintage collection from the vaults of The World Famous Ultimate Twang. Today’s chosen album is a 1970 release from Ray Stevens. Best known for his novelty and comedy songs, Everything Is Beautiful is anything but. We sometimes forget there’s been a serious side to Ray’s music, and this is a prime example of what he could do on the serious side. His first album for the Barnaby label, it was release in May, breaking into the top 60 on the album charts. The classic title cut was the album’s only single.
The single, “Everything Is Beautiful” was high on the charts at around the time the album was hitting the stores. Ray’s biggest selling single, with estimates as high as 3 million copies sold. There’s really not anything to say, here, other than it’s a classic, hitting number one on both the pop and AC charts, while becoming his first Country 40 single, peaking at thirty-nine. The kids heard at the beginning, singing “Jesus Loves The Little Children” were from Nashville’s Oak Hill Elementary. Reportedly, Ray recorded them, himself, and the kids included his daughters.
Next, Ray covers the Youngbloods’ hit, “Get Together”, in my opinion, one of the best top 40 hits of the late 1960′s. Ray’s version is more lush and polished, but a highly enjoyable version, featuring a fine vocal performance.
When Ray takes on Joe South’s “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”, he sells the song as well as Joe South, himself, did. A strong Hidden Gem contender, one of the album’s best tracks.
And it’s nearly the same story on Ray’s take on “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”. As good as the hit, B. J. Thomas version. Reportedly, Ray was offered the song before Thomas, but turned it down in order to record “Sunday Morning Coming Down”. Unfortunately, that single flopped, while the B. J. Thomas recording of this song became a smash. Another Hidden Gem contender.
“Leaving On A Jet Plane” is one of the I-can-take-it-or-leave-it type of songs for me, but that said, Ray’s version is good. A much more polished version that Peter, Paul, & Mary’s; or John Denver’s.
Side two opens with Ray’s strong vocal work on “Love Theme From Romeo And Juliet”. The instrumental version had been a number one pop hit for Henry Mancini, Ray’s vocals merely enhance an outstanding melody.
“She Belongs To Me” falls a little more on the country side, but is not as strong of a song as the others on the disc. Alright, but a little bland and seems to drag a bit, despite a medium tempo.
On the other hand, I do like “Early In The Morning”, which is a really nice piece of early 70′s pop. Very catchy melody, featuring a refrain hook that will stick with you all day.
The tempo picks up a bit more with “A Brighter Day”. Lyrics are the highlight, here, a really good track that one wonders could have been a single?
Ray ends the album with a couple of Beatles’ songs, first being “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”, which was part of the Abbey Road release. Of course, it’s not in the same league as the Fab 4, but still, I do like this track, a lot. Enough that I would consider it a Hidden Gem contender.
Same goes for Ray’s take on “Something”. Nice vocal on an outstanding composition (one of my favorite Beatles songs). Good end to a good album.
The album is still available as an MP3 download, as well as compact disc. Should you choose to go for vintage vinyl, most copies I saw were less than $10.
Of course, the title track gets the Standout Track nod, while in a tough call, I give “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” the Hidden Gem. “She Belongs To Me” is the Weakest Track, just not as strong as the other ten.
Overall, a fine album from one of the all-time greats; a man who should really get serious consideration for the Country Music Hall Of Fame. It should be noted that this really isn’t a country album, it was a pop release, aimed at the top 40 and AC markets. Still, there’s elements of country throughout. I rate it a 4.5 out of 5.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
Greetings from Asheville, where the good music is always on the turntable, and on the exclusive home of the Ultimate Twang radio show, Asheville Free Media. Today’s Single Of The Day had all of the ingredients to be a classic chart-topper; a great sound, strong composition written by a top songwriter, tied together by a legendary voice. Yet, amazingly, the record, while a hit, didn’t perform nearly as well as one might think. The record is “Kentucky Rain” by Elvis Presley, co-written by Eddie Rabbitt. Released January, 1970, by RCA Victor, the record could be found not only on the Country 40, but also the Top 40 and the Adult Contemporary chart. While it did top the AC chart (as well as Canada’s Country chart), the single could only muster a peak of sixteen on the pop charts, while only peaking at thirty-one on the Country side.
But that’s not the end of the tale. Since it’s chart run, the record has maintained a long level of popularity that’s kept it in rotation on country (now mostly classic country), AC, oldies, and even easy listening formats, up through today. How many other 1970 releases can boast that? Not many.
So, while it’s chart performance may not be eye-catching, it’s endearing longevity to music fans has helped turn it into a classic.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
Greetings from Asheville, where there’s always good music to be found. Today’s Classic Album Review is a 1970 piece, teaming Buck Owens and Susan Raye. Released by Capitol in September, The Great White Horse was the second of four duet albums for the pair. The album enjoyed some success, peaking at twenty-two on the bestseller lists, while featuring only one single, the title cut, which was a top ten hit, that Fall, peaking at eight and giving Susan Raye her first top ten appearance.
“The Great White Horse” is the title cut, possessing a sound that really was unlike anything that Buck Owens had ever performed. Nearly as far into country-pop as he would venture. The sound, while not a perfect fit for his vocal style (though it works very well with Susan Raye’s vocals), is a perfect fit for this song. A track that wouldn’t rate as the best for either artist, yet it’s a decent recording that still works pretty well.
It’s back to more of that traditional Buckaroos sound on “I’ve Never Had A Dream Come True Before”, in fact a sound very reminiscent of what is heard on hits like “Together Again” or “Only You (Can Break My Heart)”. Both Buck and Susan are in peak form, on this track, one of the album’s high points.
“Then Maybe I Can Get Some Sleep” is a song that borders on novelty; definitely considered lite fare. Again, a track that works pretty well. Very much an early 1970′s sound, here.
Once again, back to the traditional sound with “I Thank Him For Sending Me You”, which, much like “I’ve Never Had A Dream Come True Before”, is one of the album’s highlights.
Side one ends with a cover of Buck’s 1964 hit, “I Don’t Care (Just As Long As You Love Me)”. Somewhat subdued, compared to the original, I think it comes off pretty well as a duet.
Side two opens with another very strong track, as Buck Owens and Susan Raye cover the Merle Haggard “Today I Started Loving You Again”. Simply put, this may be the best version I’ve heard, outside of the Merle Haggard version.
Another former Buck Owens hit gets covered as they team on the 1966 classic “Think Of Me”. While the instrumentation is a little different, the overall feel is pretty much the same. Again, a song that comes off surprisingly well as a duet, thanks in large part to the performances of Buck Owens and Susan Raye.
Overall, there’s three covers of Buck’s hits, on the album. The third one is the best of the trio, Buck’s 1967 number one hit, “Your Tender Loving Care”. Kudos to whoever came up with this arrangement, it really makes the record.
The only track that doesn’t really come off that well, to me, is their cover of the Jack Blanchard/Misty Morgan hit, “Tennessee Bird Walk”. Just not to the same level as the original.
About the closest they come to the classic “freight train” sound is the final cut, “High As The Mountain”. A fun, bouncy track, it’s got a similar rhythm, but not as heavy of arrangement as those classic records, which in this duet setting, is better.
Out of print, you can find used copies, generally in the $5 to $15 range.
The title cut gets the Standout Track, while “Today I Started Loving You Again” is the Hidden Gem. ”Tennessee Bird Walk” gets the Weakest Track nod.
Overall, a decent album, but not one that will rate as either artist’s best. Not groundbreaking, but it is pretty solid. I rate it a 3 out of 5.
Greetings from Asheville, where the turntable is always spinning with some great tunes from the past, including today’s Single Of The Day. Your single, today, comes from Arlene Harden and would be her biggest solo hit.
Arkansas native Arlene Harden began singing during her teenage years, with her sister Robbie, and brother Bobby, as the Harden Trio. After spending time on the Ozark Jubilee and the Louisiana Hayride, during the early 1960′s, the trio scored a big hit in 1966, when “Tippy Toeing” just missed hitting number one. Two more Country 40 singles ensued, including the Country 20 “Sneaking ‘Cross The Border” in 1967, before the trio split in 1968.
As a solo artist, Arlene actually began recording before the split, and had her first Country 40 single, before 1968 had ended, with “He’s A Good Ole Boy”. In all, she would score seven Country 40 hits, but only one would break into the Country 20, today’s Single Of The Day.
Taken from her album Arlene Harden Sings Roy Orbison, “Lovin’ Man (Oh Pretty Woman)” would be her highest charting single, when it peaked at thirteen, during the Summer of 1970. Exactly the same song as the Roy Orbison classic, “Oh Pretty Woman”, except for some tweaking of the lyrics to make it work for a female vocalist. While it’s not in the same league as the original (and to be fair, there is no version that even comes close to Orbison’s), it’s not a bad record, utilizing nearly the same beat and tempo, but with a more Country arrangement. Arlene’s vocals are good and overall, you have what would have been a nifty little summertime record for Country radio back in the day.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
Greetings from Asheville, where it’s time for yet another Classic Album Review, and today, it’s a good one. May, 1970, is the release date for today’s gem, Roy Drusky’s All My Hard Times. The release was Roy’s second-to-last for Mercury Records. Peaking at twenty on the country albums list, the title cut was the only single, and it’s peak at nine, would be Roy’s last top ten hit.
The title cut is the opening cut of this album, and what a cut it is! One of my Roy Drusky faves. An oft-used theme, throughout the history of country music, where a man’s luck has been mostly bad in his life, but in this case, there’s hope! He’s found just the right woman and so now all is right. In all seriousness, though, it is a great track, resisting any temptation to fall into the pit of sameness, with many of the other songs of this subject. A nice gospel-ish feel, as well.
This album is loaded with cover versions, and one of the best on the album is Roger Miller’s “Lock, Stock, And Teardrops”. A loping tempo, with Roy Drusky singing on the lower end of his range, but still comfortably, I’d argue that this version is as good as the Miller original. A Hidden Gem contender.
Though not as fully produced as the Ray Price classic, I’d argue that in some ways, Roy Drusky’s take on “For The Good Times” possesses a just-as-smooth and slightly more relaxed feel to it.
The Roy Drusky take on the Merle Haggard classic “Silver Wings” is completely different than Merle’s. Of course, nothing to complain about, vocal-wise, but the finished product is a little too polished for me. Still, not terrible, though.
Another Hidden Gem contender is one of the album’s original tracks, “At Times Everybody’s Blind”. Great melody, with an easy mid tempo pace. In this case, the polish is just fine, resulting in an outstanding track that I would argue was a missed single opportunity. It was the B-side to the title cut.
Side one ends with Roy Drusky’s version of the Charley Pride hit “(I’m So) Afraid Of Losing You Again”. Nothing fancy, just a simple track.
Side two opens with another original, and in this case, a song that I wonder if there might have been plans to release it as a single. I say that, because “You’re Shaking The Hand” gets co-billing on the album cover. If that was indeed the case, then what a shame those plans were scrapped. Again, a track strong enough to be worthy of a 7″ release. Great, mid-tempo track, here.
Next, it’s a cover of the Glen Campbell hit, “Everything A Man Could Ever Need”. Not bad, but this track is missing something, and that something is the fuller arrangement of the original, which results in a richer sound. Slick and polished isn’t always bad, as long as it’s used on the right pieces.
It’s hard to say which is the best cover on the album. On one hand, there’s the previously mentioned Roger Miller cover, then, you also have a stellar cover of the Eddy Arnold hit, “I’m Letting You Go”. The outstanding vocal work from Roy Drusky, mixed with a perfectly sparser arrangement, results in an outstanding track that you can’t not like. Also a Hidden Gem contender.
“Please Don’t Let Me Love You Anymore” is the album’s final original piece. A good quality, mid-tempo track that possesses a strong melody, along with some great steel guitar work, as well. You could also argue that this track could have been a great single, as well.
The album wraps with “You’re My World”, one of the great melodies of the 1960′s. Originally an Italian hit, the English version was first a hit for Cilla Black in 1964, and later, Helen Reddy in 1977. I first became familiar with this track, as a child on Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” album (read that review, here). Whereas Glen’s version gets a little over-dramatic in places, the Roy Drusky version comes off a bit more restrained, but not without losing all of the drama, which is good for this piece. A piece that will certainly challenge anyone’s vocal range, it’s a very good end to this album.
Long out of print, I did locate several used copies in the price range of $5 to $15.
I give the title track the Standout Track. Hidden Gem is difficult, as there are several worthy contenders. I am going with “At Times’ Everybody’s Blind”. Weakest Track, I go with “Silver Wings” only because the arrangement is a little too slick.
Overall, a very good body of work from Roy Drusky. There’s enough difference in the compositions, the arrangements, and the tempo, that keeps any feeling of sameness at bay. Some might scoff that it’s too much Nashville Sound, but with maybe one exception, I would disagree. It’s a solid body of work that’s already been burned to CD from my vinyl copy, and has been played several times over the past week. This one’s a 4.5 out of 5.
Categories: Classic Album Reviews Tags: 1970, All My Hard Times, Charley Pride, Cilla Black, classic country, country albums, Country Music, country oldies, Eddy Arnold, Glen Campbell, Helen Reddy, Mercury Records, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Roger Miller, Roy Drusky