A look back at this past week's Ultimate Twang radio program, heard on Asheville Freemedia's WSFM-LP, 103.3FM in Asheville and at http://ashevillefm.org, worldwide
Categories: Artists, Music, & Radio Tags: Anne Murray, AshevilleFM, Brooks And Dunn, Buck Owens, Chet Atkins, Conway Twitty, Country Music, Don Gibson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell, Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, Sonny James, Tanya Tucker, Ultimate Twang, Waylon Jennings, WSFM
Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable or in the CD player. Today’s Classic Album Review is a 1991 release for George Strait. To date, George has released twenty-six studio albums, with Chill Of An Early Fall being his eleventh release. Released in March, by MCA Records, the album sold over a million copies, yet became his first studio album since 1982’s Strait From The Heart to miss the number one spot, as it peaked at four. Three of the four singles from the album climbed into the top ten, with “Lovesick Blues” missing out, peaking at twenty-four.
The title cut is the opening track of this collection. “The Chill Of An Early Fall” is quite a song, an outstanding ballad, and frankly, one of George’s most underrated hits. Charting in the Fall of 1991, it would climb as high as three on the charts.
Sometimes, within the first few seconds, you can tell that a song is going to be great, and such is the case with “I’ve Convinced Everybody But Me”. Great bouncy rhythm, led by a heavy dose of steel guitar, stellar twin fiddles, great lyrics and melody. A strong Hidden Gem contender. Pure country at it’s best.
“If I Know Me” was the album’s first single, and in the Spring of 1991, it became George’s twenty-first number one hit. A quality piece, showcasing George Strait’s stellar capabilities with a ballad; something of which many must have agreed with, since it spent two weeks at number one.
Performing even better as a single is “You Know Me Better Than That”, spending three weeks at number one during the Summer of 1991. Bouncy and lite, I’ve always loved the lyrics of this piece. Great song.
Back in the mid-1960’s, Lefty Frizzell recorded a song titled “A Little Unfair”. “Anything You Can Spare”, the album’s next track, has a similar melody, rhythm, and overall feel. Really like this track, another Hidden Gem contender.
Next, we begin a string of covers, starting with the Bob Wills classic “Home In San Antone”. While I don’t know that anyone can top the original version, this is an excellent cover of the Texas Playboy sound.
If there’s a weak track on the album, it’s “Lovesick Blues”. It’s an okay version, but as I’ve said before, simply no one can sing this song nearly as well as Hank Williams could, not even George Strait. Simply, no one should ever be allowed to record this song, as I don’t think anyone will ever be able to do it proper justice.
“Milk Cow Blues” is an old blues song, written by and first recorded by Kokomo Arnold, back in 1934. Over the years, artists such as Johnny Lee Wills (Bob’s brother) and Elvis Presley would record versions. I’ve never thought of George Strait as a blues singer, or for that matter, even having much blues influence in his style, but he pulls off this track quite well, actually. While it’s Texas swing-style, it still retains a strong blues feel to it. Good stuff, right here.
“Her Only Bad Habit Is Me” is a ballad, that again, has a little blues feel to it. While much slower in tempo, it still, like the previous track, has a nice mix of the blues and Texas country sound. One could hear Bob Wills doing this number. Would have been perfect for Tommy Duncan’s vocals.
The album returns to a straightforward country sound for the final track, the ballad “Is It Already Time”. This is George Strait at his best. A strong end to a strong album.
Originally released on vinyl, cassette, and compact disc, the album is still available on compact disc and MP3 download. Used compact disc copies appear to be mostly under $5, while used cassettes and vinyl, under $10.
The album’s Standout Track has three strong possibilities, but I have to go with “The Chill Of An Early Fall”. Again, some great contenders for Hidden Gem, my pick is “I’ve Convinced Everybody But Me”. “Lovesick Blues” is my Weakest Track, simply for the reasons I mentioned, above.
Overall, I consider this an excellent album, one that deserves much more acclaim than it seemingly has received. George Strait fans already know how good this work is, but any fan of country music should like this collection. I rate this one a solid 5 out of 5.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
Categories: Classic Album Reviews Tags: 1991, Bob Wills, Chill Of An Early Fall, classic country, country albums, Country Music, country oldies, George Strait, Hank Williams, If I Know Me, Kokomo Arnold, Lovesick Blues, MCA Records, You Know Me Better Than That
Greetings from Asheville, where there’s always good music on the turntable, in the CD player, or in the MP3 player. Today’s Classic Album Review goes way back to the 1950’s, 1957 to be exact. The Song Of Robbins was the second Marty Robbins album to be released, the first on 12″. Released in April, by Columbia Records, the album did not chart, nor were any of the track released as singles, which, in the early days of albums was not at all unusual. This is pre-western, pre-Hawaiian, pre-pop, pre-racing Marty; pure country Marty Robbins.
The album kicks off with Marty’s take on the Hank Williams classic “Lovesick Blues”. This is one of those songs where I always say that it shouldn’t be recorded, again, because no one, outside maybe Charley Pride, has ever been able to do the song justice. That said, upon hearing Marty’s version, I’ll add him to the list, even maybe slightly above Charley, as Marty comes as close as anyone not named Hank Sr. in nailing this one.
Marty’s nickname, early in his career, was Mr. Teardrop. Recordings like his version of another Hank classic, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, are a prime reason. In addition to Marty’s stellar performance, I really like the arrangement, here; a blues/pop-style piano, mixed with steel guitar, and an acoustic guitar being played in a style and sound very similar to how Hank Snow played.
“It’s Too Late To Worry Any More” is a pretty decent track, straight-ahead country music, featuring a stellar performance by Marty Robbins, on a song that isn’t as strong as the first two, but benefits from having Mr. Robbins doing the singing.
While the arrangement is straight country, the feel of “Rose Of Ol’ Pawnee” has a western feel to it, a snippet of things to come.
Again, a preview of future sounds, as Marty’s vocals on “I Never Let You Cross My Mind” have a smoother, pop edge, despite the hard country sound. A mid tempo track, by now, if one is new to the music of Marty, this album, if nothing else, has already shown his incredible vocal talents.
Side one’s final track shows just a tad more twang in the vocal, though not a large amount. “I Hang My Head And Cry” possesses a great melody that you can’t help but like. You’ll also notice the steel guitar playing that sounds very similar to early 1950’s Eddy Arnold records. That may well be due to the fact that Eddy was one of Marty Robbins’ influence.
Side two opens with Marty’s take on the Gene Autry hit “You Only Want Me When You’re Lonely”. Something not always mentioned about Marty’s vocals, but I think should be, is the soulfulness that often comes out. I think Marty could have been a good R & B singer, had he wanted to. This track is a prime example.
Side two is heavy on covers, including a third Hank Williams track, “Moanin’ The Blues”. Here, Marty gives more of a rockabilly performance, giving that feel entirely with his voice; the music is straight country.
The Ernest Tubb hit “I’ll Step Aside” is next up. Performed at a quicker pace than the original, Marty returns to a traditional country vocal style, here, and gives a stellar performance.
“All The World Is Lonely Now” is a very strong composition, with a fine medium-up pace. It feels like Marty’s wanting to cut loose, but is holding back, here, trying to stay pure country.
As I mentioned, earlier, Eddy Arnold was one of Marty’s influences, and here, you get a taste of Eddy with Marty’s cover of “Bouquet Of Roses”. Ironically, it’s only track that I have any level of apathy about. Not a bad take, yet it comes off with a neutral feel, to me.
The Lulu Belle And Scotty classic, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”, wraps this album, doing so in exceptional style. Though keyed a bit higher than I’d prefer, it still is a recording that one finds hard to come up with any faults about.
You might be surprised to know that this album is still available on CD. That would likely be the easiest way to grab a copy, as I didn’t find too many used copies and those I did were pricey, mainly over $40.
My Standout Track goes to his version of “Moanin’ The Blues”. I’ll give “I Never Let You Cross My Mind” my Hidden Gem nod, and as far as the Weakest Track goes, I guess I’d pick “Bouquet Of Roses”, only because of the twelve tracks, it’s the one I had the least reaction to.
Overall, this album is a vintage piece of classic country music. Even though Marty had already been around a few years, this album feels like a preview, in a way. It’s almost like he’s saying, “Here’s what to expect in the coming years, from me”. Some straight country, some pop, some rock ‘n roll, and of course, western. And as we’d soon find out, he could sing them all with ease and style. I rate this one a 4.5 out of 5.
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 revisits the early days of the smooth singer, George Hamilton IV. A North Carolina native, George was still a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, when he scored his 1st hit single, “A Rose And A Baby Ruth”, which hit the Pop top 10 in 1956. From then, until late 1960, he would be a part of the ABC-Paramount roster; first as a Pop singer, then later, as a Country singer.
It is during this time period, that today’s album covers. Country Style was a 1966 release on the Grand Award label, made up of various tracks from his ABC days. The album covers both the Pop and Country stylings of George Hamilton IV, and includes five tracks from his first album, On Campus, along with two tracks from his second ABC album, Sing Me A Sad Song; A Tribute To Hank Williams.
It’s one of the 1958 Hank Williams cuts that lead off the album, “Take These Chains From My Heart”. Not a bad track, this is still when George was being marketed in the Pop field, so it includes the full orchestra sounds.
“A Walk On The Wild Side” is one of George’s final recordings for ABC-Paramount. By now, he’s a Country singer, in fact, this was his final single for ABC, before joining RCA Victor. Good, solid Country, right here. I’m surprised it didn’t at least chart.
Some old songs should be left to fade away, or if they must be brought back, at least majorly updated (as Bobby Darin did with this song). “Clementine” was old, even by 1958 standards, sounding dated, a feel that was heightened by the slow tempo and lush orchestration. What also hurts this song (at least in it’s original form), is that you can’t not think of Huckleberry Hound when you hear it.
‘Loneliness Is All Around Me” doesn’t possess the strongest set of lyrics, yet it does have a catchy melody and I think the arrangement is nearly perfect. From his later days at ABC, this was the B-side of his 1st Country hit, “Before This Day Ends”.
Judging from the Pop tracks, here, I believe that the movers and shakers at ABC thought they could make George the next Perry Como, which is understandable, with the smooth tones he possessed. And that feeling really comes through on “One Heart” from 1958.
Side one ends with the track “Tell Me Why”, one of the five that first appeared on the On Campus album. This track just comes off as too syrupy, for me.
Side two opens with a track from his first Nashville session. “Tremble” is an okay track, set in the West, with the story of a lynching, as told from the perspective of one of the participants. One thing I did notice, here, though, which I thought very interesting, is a few similarities to the story of Christ’s death. Intentional or coincidental? I do not know that answer.
“Aura Lee” is a very old song (even in the 1950’s) that dates back to the Civil War days. Very mellow and lush. Even if you haven’t heard the song, you’re still very likely to know the melody, as it is the same used by the classic Elvis hit, “Love Me Tender”.
“Little Tom” is a cover of the 1955 Ferlin Husky hit. George’s version also was a single, released in 1959, but for me, just doesn’t come off as well as the original. I think the song works better with the deeper vocals of Husky.
Also from the Pop days of George Hamilton IV, and a nice, easy track, “Love’s Old Sweet Song”. Also one of the On Campus tracks.
His take on “Your Cheatin’ Heart” is one that certainly shows the Country-style vocals wanting to break out of George, but are still hampered a bit by the Pop styling he’s recording under. That said, it does have a cool, swinging, Dean Martin-like beat to it.
The album wraps with the vintage “Drink To Me Only With ThineEyes”, also taken from the On Campus release. The song dates to nineteenth century England, with the lyrics dating to the seventeenth century. Nothing fancy or spectacular on this track, just good, solid music. If you like the song, the singer, or both, you’ll like it.
This particular album is long out of print, though most, if not all of the tracks can be found on other collections. If you strongly desire a copy of this release, they are out there, but apparently not overly numerous, as I found only a couple, both around $10.
My Standout Track pick is “A Walk On The Wild Side”, a single that should have charted. My Hidden Gem pick is the swinging version of “Your Cheatin’ Heart”. Weakest Track goes to “Tell Me Why”, which is simply too syrupy for me.
Overall, this is an interesting look at the early days of George Hamilton IV. It would have been nice to have had one or two of his big ABC hits, here, but I’m sure they weren’t too keen on loaning those masters out. Still, though, we get to hear his transformation from Pop to Country on these tracks. Now to me, it feels like that perhaps ABC wasn’t sure exactly how they wanted to label George Hamilton IV, at first, seemingly trying to make him in the vein of Perry Como or Guy Mitchell, before going the Country route. And once they finally made that decision, then it seems like he really starts finding his style, by the time he left the label. With a couple of his hits included, this album would be a 3.5 or 4, but even without them, it’s still an interesting enough piece to listen to, that I give it a 3 out of 5.
As always, I’d love your comments on today’s article.
Categories: Classic Album Reviews Tags: 1966, A Walk On The Wild Side, ABC-Paramount Records, classic country, country albums, Country Music, country oldies, Country Style, Ferlin Husky, George Hamilton IV, Grand Awards Records, Guy Mitchell, Hank Williams, Little Tom, Perry Como, RCA Victor Records, Your Cheatin' Heart
Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always found on the turntable, in the CD player, or in the MP3 player. My attention was drawn to music at a very early age, well before school-age, and specifically, the sounds of Eddy Arnold and Dean Martin. However, the first real “oh wow” moment that I recall, musically, came courtesy of the man on today’s Classic Album Review.
I don’t recall my exact age, maybe 7, maybe 8, but I recall numerous requests made to my dad, concerning his bringing out some of his 78’s to play for us. He finally relented, and one night, he came down the stairs with several selections in hand. The passing of nearly forty years, now, had pretty well dimmed what selections he played, except two; the two that introduced me to one of the most incredible talents in history, Hank Williams. And the two songs? “Settin’ The Woods On Fire” and “Lovesick Blues”. Because of those two records, when my own record acquisitions began, two of the first albums that I had (and still have) were Hank Williams.
Today’s Classic Album Review is not one of those albums, but rather one I acquired many years later. The Very Best Of Hank Williams was a September, 1963 release by MGM, featuring twelve of his better known hits. While I’ve not done the counting, it would be most interesting to see just how many hits compilations that MGM and it’s successors, such as Polydor and Mercury, have released of Hank; I wouldn’t be shocked if the number was close to one-hundred. And what’s just as interesting, is the ways these packages have been created. Many albums were a simple repackaging of his original recordings. Others, were re-channeled for a stereo effect, while still other releases featured additional overdubbed accompaniments, including full string sections.
This album is one where additional musicians were overdubbed on the originals. Unlike most of our reviews, there is no need to go track-by-track, here, as all twelve are well known, and in most cases, classic, recordings of Hank Williams, including:
Your Cheatin’ Heart
Half As Much
Cold Cold Heart
Hey, Good Lookin’
Why Don’t You Love Me
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
For the most part, the overdubs are not overly noticeable, except in spots, particularly in areas with no vocals. The one exception, here, is “Ramblin’ Man”. Why would someone decide to add a triangle to the track? It adds nothing and is actually somewhat distracting.
It’s also worth noting that the version of “Lovesick Blues” on this album is not the original hit single version, but rather a version that, according to what I have been able to find out, was actually recorded in late 1949.
I don’t believe this album is currently available, though it did remain in print into the CD era. I found numerous used vinyl, cassette, and CD copies, mostly under $10. I will note something, here, though, concerning the album. I once had this album on cassette, and while it contained the same tracks, they weren’t all the same, as both “Jambalaya” and “Kaw-Liga”, on the cassette, were the versions that had full string sections overdubbed. Were any vinyl versions like this or the CD’s? I do not know. I do know that there were at least three albums released with full strings dubbed in the tracks.
No Hidden Gem or Weakest Track for a collection like this. These are all classic tracks.
Overall, with the wealth of material available, today, there isn’t really a need for this album, unless you are trying to acquire vintage Hank Williams albums, or if you’re curious about how the overdubs sound (which they may also be available on other CD’s, too). Still, it is Hank and twelve of his classics, so even with overdubs, I still have to rate this a 5 out of 5.
Your thoughts? I encourage you to leave a comment, below.
Tomorrow, we stay in the 1960’s for a release from a man who can still be found on stage, especially the Grand Ole Opry.
Categories: Classic Album Reviews Tags: 1963, classic country, Cold Cold Heart, country albums, Country Music, country oldies, Half As Much, Hank Williams, Hey Good Lookin', Honky Tonkin', I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, Jambalaya, Kaw-Liga, Lovesick Blues, Mercury Records, MGM Records, Polydor Records, Ramblin' Man, The Very Best Of Hank Williams, Wedding Bells, Why Don't You Love Me, Your Cheatin' Heart