Greetings from Asheville, where good music is on the turntable, and the computer, via the Ultimate Twang show on Asheville Free Media. Today’s Single Of The Day features the legendary Conway Twitty paying homage to the home of Country music, appropriately titled “The Grandest Lady Of Them All”.
Released by MCA in February, 1976, it didn’t turn out to be one of Conway’s biggest hits, but it still was able to break into the Country 20, peaking at sixteen. The first part of the year, the nation was putting the final touches on it’s Bicentennial celebration, and the music world wasn’t left out, as several songs along that theme would be heard. While “The Grandest Lady Of Them All” isn’t about the nation, it still fits in with the spirit of that time, as even by 1976, the Grand Ole Opry had long become an American institution.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always around. It’s a various artists collection for today’s Classic Album Review. Classic Country Duets, a 1985 MCA release, featured ten tracks from artists affiliated with MCA, as well as it’s predecessors, Decca and Dot.
The album starts out with a hit from Don Williams and Emmylou Harris, their 1982 top five hit, “If I Needed You”. Their voices work pretty well, together, but the real highlight of this track, is the composition, itself. Great piece of writing.
Next, a track lifted from the Barbara Mandrell Spun Gold album, is a Mandrell duet with Steve Wariner, “Overnight Sensation”. An average piece that really has very little country to it, the sound is mainly 1980′s Adult Contemporary.
While the previous track really couldn’t be considered a “classic”, the next track has not problem falling into that category. ”For Loving You”, the first in a series of duets for Bill Anderson and Jan Howard, spent a month at number one, at the end of 1967. Great track.
Remember, this album was released in 1985, when older performances weren’t nearly as readily available as they are now, so it was great to see the inclusion of the Jack Greene and Jeannie Seely hit “Wish I Didn’t Have To Miss You”. Easily the best of their duets, together, this just missed number one, at the start of 1970. Hank Cochran co-wrote the song; he and co-writer Dave Kirby surely had these two in mind when writing it, as it’s perfect for their vocals.
Side one ends with a track that features Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn. I guess using the term “classic”, they were referring more to the performers, as opposed to the performances. ”Sweet Thang” was a single, but missed the Country 40 in 1968 (whereas the version by Nat Stuckey was a top five hit). While it’s a decent performance, I would have rather seen “Mr. And Mrs. Used To Be” included.
The other really inexplicable addition opens side two, a Lee Greenwood and Barbara Mandrell duet from their Meant For Each Other album titled “Soft Shoulder”. Not even the best track on their album, why someone at MCA would use this over, say their hit, “To Me”, is beyond me. A fast-paced track, the performance is good, but the song is average.
There is a level of redemption, though, with the inclusion of the Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn number one classic “After The Fire Is Gone”. Do I really need to say anything about this outstanding recording?
Though not a hit, I am glad they did include the 1956 single from Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells, “Goodbye Mr. Brown”. Great piece of country music; one has to wonder why it wasn’t a hit.
While The Kendalls didn’t have any real success until “Heaven’s Just A Sin Away” on the Ovation label, they did spend time with Dot in the early 1970′s, releasing several singles, including three minor chart entries on covers of “Leavin’ On A Jet Plane”, “Two Divided By Love”, and “Everything I Own”. Yet, rather than one of those, a track from their only Dot album, a cover of “Never Ending Song Of Love”, was used, instead. Actually, the strongest of the three non-singles included on this album. Good bouncy, infectious track.
The album ends with a 1978 top ten hit for Merle Haggard and then-wife, Leona Williams. “The Bull And The Beaver” is an up-tempo piece of a man and woman flirting (to say the least) on their CB’s. Not the greatest song of Merle’s career, but it is a likable song.
Now out of print, I did run across a few used copies, most in the $5-$10 range. I found used copies on vinyl, cassette, as well as compact disc.
Albums like this are difficult to pick a Standout or Hidden Gem (though you could argue the Kendalls track, here), since there are usually a plethora of hits, though not so much, here.
Overall, it’s a decent compilation that really could have been better, by simply exchanging a couple of tracks, but still utilizing the same artists. With the advent of digital technologies, most, if not all of these tracks are available, elsewhere. I rate it a 3 out of 5.
Categories: Classic Album Reviews Tags: 1985, After The Fire Is Gone, Barbara Mandrell, Bill Anderson, classic country, Classic Country Duets, Conway Twitty, country albums, Country Music, country oldies, Decca Records, Don Williams, Dot Records, Emmylou Harris, Ernest Tubb, For Loving You, If I Needed You, Jack Greene, Jan Howard, Jeannie Seely, Kitty Wells, Lee Greenwood, Leona Williams, Loretta Lynn, MCA Records, Merle Haggard, Roy Acuff, Steve Wariner, Sweet Thang, The Bull And The Beaver, The Kendalls, Wish I Didn't Have To Miss You
Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable. Today’s Classic Album Review is Conway Twitty’s first Country effort, and his second album of using this title. Conway Twitty Sings was the title of his first MGM album, in 1958, during his rock ‘n’ roll days. When he joined Decca’s country roster in 1965, the title would turn up again, this time on his February, 1966 country and Decca debut. While that MGM album failed to chart, the Decca album would peak at a respectable twenty-five on the country album charts, yielding one Country 20 single.
The album opens with an excellent rendition of the Gordon Lightfoot written “Ribbon Of Darkness”, which had been a hit for Marty Robbins a few month earlier. Conway Twitty’s take is somewhat different than the Robbins version, and I’d argue it’s one of, if not the best version, outside of Marty’s, that I’ve heard of this song. A strong Hidden Gem contender.
The album is full of covers, including a take on the Porter Wagoner hit, “Green Green Grass Of Home”. It’s an okay version, but doesn’t really do much for me, either way.
One track that does impress, though, is Conway’s take on the Mel Tillis hit, “Wine”. Had Tillis’ version not been a top 15 hit a few months before, I would have argued that this was a missed single opportunity. Perhaps you still could argue that. Driving beat and catchy melody, and Conway nails it. Definite Hidden Gem contender.
In fairness, I don’t believe anyone could sing “The Other Woman” and possibly match the Ray Price version, but that said, I do like Conway’s version. A solid effort.
“Together Forever” is a song that Conway also wrote. A slower ballad, the overall sound has a feel that may remind you of Buck Owen’s “Together Again” or “Only You (Can Break My Heart)”. But the song is far from a copy-cat. Good lyrics and melody give this song the strength to stand on it’s own. The track appeared on Conway’s first single, paired with “That Kind Of Girl”.
While “Truck Driving Man” is a rollicking version, and a version that I’ve heard others speak highly of, it doesn’t do anything for me. In fact, to me, it seems just a little off, not quite fitting Conway’s style, which I’m sure, at this point, they were still working on developing.
Another Conway Twitty composition opens side two, and it’s a good one. ”That Kind Of Girl” is good, raucous, 1960′s country music at it’s best. This was the other side of Conway’s first single for Decca, but a bit surprisingly, neither side charted.
“I’ll Have Another Cup Of Coffee (Then I’ll Go)” is a song that is a near perfect fit for Conway, and is one of the best vocal performances on the album. The only downside, here, is the tempo. It’s slowed down, some, compared to the original Claude Gray hit, and thus, actually seems to drag a bit.
Conway Twitty also gives a nice performance on the classic “Tips Of My Fingers”. Nothing fancy, just good solid sounds.
“Guess My Eyes Were Bigger Than My Heart” was the second single from the album and the first Conway Twitty record to appear on the Country singles chart, peaking at nineteen in the Spring of 1966. Good, solid track that showed Conway’s potential in country music.
Another track I like, here, is Conway’s take on the Bill Anderson hit, “That’s What It’s Like To Be Lonesome”. A sound that doesn’t stray too far from the original.
The album wraps with a rocking version of “Honky Tonk Man”. Conway’s seemingly telling us that he hasn’t completely severed his rock ‘n’ roll beginnings, here. This version sounds nothing like the Johnny Horton original, but does sound more like Bob Luman’s version that charted in 1970.
This album is available on CD, as part of a two’fer package, teamed with his follow-up album, Look Into My Teardrops. As for used copies, they are out there, and the ones I found were generally in the $10 to $20 range.
Even though it failed to chart, I have to give the Standout Track to “That Kind Of Girl”, while the Hidden Gem is going to “Wine”. For me, the Weakest Track is “Truck Drivin’ Man”.
Overall, it was a good showcase to introduce Conway Twitty to the country music world. At times, you do get the sense that his style is still in the developmental stage, but he seems to answer any questions anyone might had, as to whether he could handle country songs, as well as he could pop/rock. And little did anyone know what this was the start of! Some good music, here, and a nice piece of country music history. I rate it a 3.5 out of 5.
Categories: Classic Album Reviews Tags: classic country, Conway Twitty, Conway Twitty Sings, country albums, Country Music, country oldies, Decca Records, Guess My Eyes Were Bigger Than My Heart, MGM Records
The immortal words from the great Darrell Waltrip will soon echo throughout the land, again, as this Sunday marks the annual running of The Great American Race, The Daytona 500. Second only to the Indianapolis 500 in regards to history, tradition, and grandeur, millions of fans around the world eagerly await the moment that forty-three Dodge, Toyota, Ford, and Chevy cars take the green flag for 200 laps of excitement.
On today’s Ultimate Twang show, we’ll pay tribute to Daytona, and it’s legends, with some great songs about racing, some of it’s legends like “King” Richard Petty and “Super Tex” A. J. Foyt, as well as a couple of good hot rod songs, as well. In addition, the UT Time Machine will make stops to this week in 1990, 1964, and 1982. Also, talk about great hits, how about Conway Twitty’s “Don’t Cry Joni”, Ray Price’s “Heartaches By The Number, Kenny Chesney’s “There Goes My Life”, or NC native George Hamilton IV’s classic “Abilene”?
We’ll wave the green flag on another edition of Ultimate Twang, this afternoon at 4p EST, on Asheville Free Media.
Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always found on the turntable, in the CD player, or in the MP3 player. Today’s Classic Album Review is a Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn classic from 1976, United Talent. Released in June, it was their sixth Decca/MCA duet release, and their fourth straight album to top the country bestseller lists, doing so for a week in August. In addition, there was only one single that came from the album, but it did well. “The Letter” was released just before the album, and would become a number three hit.
That’s the cut that also opens the album. Not the song made famous by The Box Tops and later, Joe Cocker, this track is a recitation where the woman wants her ex- to write a letter that she wants her current beau to find and hopefully get jealous and stop running around. Kind of sappy and syrupy, but still a good track.
“Just Lead The Way” has some beat to it, but comes off rather bland, mostly because the composition isn’t that great. Conway and Loretta’s vocals are fine.
At first, “Let Your Love Flow” might seem to be a rather awkward match for Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, but it actually comes off pretty well. No, it’s not as good as the Bellamy Brothers version, but it’s not bad.
“God Bless America, Again” is a cover of a Bobby Bare hit from 1969. Lyrics that were timely, given that 1976 was the Bicentennial, along with all of the strife that had been going on the previous years. Hear the song today, some would say it’s a sappy piece, while others would argue that it’s message is appropriate, today.
Perhaps the best track on side one is “Run Through The Wringer”. Bouncy with a great melody and catchy lyrics that you can’t help but like. This one has Hidden Gem potential.
One side of Conway and Loretta that doesn’t seem to get much mention, yet I think they almost always did well, is the novelty side. The best example is their hit “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly”, but here, we have one nearly as good in “Barroom Habits”. Up tempo, and mixed with that great “I’ve put up with enough” attitude that is so often heard in Loretta’s biggest hits, this track is definitely some attention, even after thirty-five years. Another Hidden Gem possibility.
“We’re Caught Between A Love And A Love Affair” is classic Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Simply a great piece of Country music, where everything comes together in a nearly flawless state, giving a result that is nothing short of impressive. Definite Hidden Gem contender, here.
“I’m Gonna Roll You Like A Wheel” isn’t quite as good as the previous two tracks, but still a good track. Got some beat, here, with this one, this version is actually better than the single version by Mickey Gilley and Barbi Benton, in my opinion.
“We’ll Finish Up Falling In Love” is yet another lively piece that may not be the best track on the album, but not one to be considered filler, either. Good piece.
The album wraps with a slower ballad, “The Only Way Around It (Is Right Through The Middle)”, a good, solid end to this album.
Out of print, used copies aren’t difficult to find. The ones I located were mostly in the $10 range, but as low as $4 and as high as $18.
“The Letter” was the album’s big hit, and thus gets “Standout Track”. Three tracks could really be considered Hidden Gems, I will go with “We’re Caught Between A Love And A Love Affair”. Weakest Track goes to “Just Lead The Way”, a track that just didn’t do anything for me.
Overall, this album ends stronger than it finishes, as I think side two is the stronger side (based on vinyl listing). The album really doesn’t hit full stride until “Run Through The Wringer”, and then, for the most part is able to build, or at least hold onto the momentum gained from that point on. While this isn’t their strongest album, it’s still a decent effort that didn’t disappoint the majority of their fans. I rate it a 3 out of 5.
Categories: Classic Album Reviews Tags: 1976, Barbi Benton, classic country, Conway Twitty, country albums, Country Music, country oldies, Loretta Lynn, MCA Records, Mickey Gilley, The Letter, United Talent