Album Review #27: A Date With The Everly Brothers by The Everly Brothers (1960)

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Think about this for a second: without these guys, there’d be no Beatles or Beach Boys as we know them. Would anyone want to live in a world like that? I don’t think so. They were trailblazers in the world of pop-oriented rock and roll, and their influence on future musicians for decades to come simply cannot be measured. All future influence and importance aside, this is a damn strong pop-rock album in its own right. Short and sweet, it crams as many insanely catchy lyrics, choruses and melodies as is possible to fit inside its 27-minute runtime. It’s funny how albums so short can have such huge and lasting impact: Fats Domino, The Crickets and Little Richard, just to name a few, and now we have the Everly Brothers to join those prestigious ranks.

Blending elements of Elvis-style rock and roll with surf rock and Louvin Brothers-esque close vocal harmonies, this record creates a distinctive blend of pop-rock that’s extremely receptive to 60’s prom setlists and extensive radio play alike. Some may use those descriptors as an insult, but I think it really just proves how well the Everly Brothers know their craft. Don and Phil know exactly what to do to hammer a catchy melody or hook into your brain after just a single listen, and their knowledge of the art of pop is immediately evident. Commercially viable does not mean bad, and this album is only one of countless examples.

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Image Source: yourtoojerry.blogspot.com

Despite being a relatively short album compared to typical album runtimes, it actually works in a surprising amount of musical diversity. There’s Surf Rock in tracks like “Made to Love” and one of my personal favorites, “Sigh, Cry, Almost Die.” There’s slow ballads, like “That’s Just Too Much,” “Always It’s You” and one of their most well-known hits, “Love Hurts.” There’s even a hearty helping of blues rock, showcased at its best in “Baby What You Want Me to Do,” with some excellent piano and rhythm guitar. And with all of these suberb tracks, the album isn’t even done yet: there’s still songs like “Lucille,” “Donna Donna,” and of course, “Cathy’s Clown.”

This is an album that simply doesn’t waste a track. Every single one of this album’s 27 minutes is jam-packed with pop-rock perfection, and its short length means that you finish the album wanting more. Don’t be put off by their teenage-heart-throb image or their boy-band aesthetic, because they really do know how to make a good song.

Favorite Tracks: “Baby What You Want Me to Do,” “Sigh, Cry, Almost Die,” “Lucille,” “Cathy’s Clown”

Next Up:  Back at the Chicken Shack by Jimmy Smith (1960)

Album Review #14: Here’s Little Richard by Little Richard (1957)

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What can I really say about this one that hasn’t already been said? Here’s Little Richard is a true classic of early rock ‘n’ roll that still holds up almost sixty years later. It’s short, at only about twenty-eight minutes in length, but I personally find it to be to the album’s benefit. It leaves you wanting more, and with the sheer amount of energy contained in this record, any longer and it would simply tire out.

Pretty much all of the tracks here are great, but of course the opening track “Tutti Frutti” is a standout. Simply put, it is one of the most iconic songs of the entire decade, and is exciting, catchy and just plain fun. “Ready Teddy” is great for the same reasons, with really the entire album exuding pure energetic frenzy like no other album at the time did. “Oh Why?” is a change of pace, with sad and lonely lyrics and a great singing performance. Every song here is excellent, without a single wasted moment to be found.

This album is a true landmark in rock’n’ roll, paving the way for the entire genre to follow. It’s short, sweet, and if you haven’t already given it a listen, do so as soon as possible. It’s not that long, after all. It’s worth it.

Favorite Tracks: “Tutti Frutti,” “Ready Teddy,” “Oh Why?”

Next up: Dance Mania by Tito Puente and His Orchestra (1958)

Album Review #8: The “Chirping” Crickets by Buddy Holly and the Crickets (1957)

The Chirping Crickets cover

Jeez, 25 minutes? A little on the short side, wouldn’t you say? Anyways, this is a great album, and one of the most important records for the future of rock as a whole.

The songs are simple. No flair, no solos, no extravagance. Just basic, stripped down love/rejection songs—the longest of which is only two and a half minutes—with a simple message and catchy melodies. The Crickets certainly knew what they were doing, and in this case the simplicity really benefits the album. “Not Fade Away” is probably my favorite track, with a great stop-and-start structure filled with a strong feeling of restrained energy. “An Empty Cup (And a Broken Date)” is another highlight, and a rather sad one too, with a slow tempo and some pretty depressing lyrics. Buddy Holly is a great singer, able to sing thoughtful ballads and energetic rock songs with equal mastery, and the backup vocals accompany the music with a country-like harmony. The instrumentation isn’t complex, usually only utilizing the standard guitar/bass/drum combo, but I find that the music’s simplicity is really its strongpoint. It really works well for the music that they play: flashiness is unneeded, only good ol’ catchiness and rhythm.

A shadow of tragedy looms over some albums, and sadly this one is no different. The Crickets would only make two albums before Buddy Holly left the band to pursue a solo career. One year later, while touring with fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and Jiles “The Big Bopper” Richardson, the airplane they were aboard lost control in the wintry conditions and crashed, killing the three of them plus Roger Peterson, their pilot. The tragedy may have become known in later years as “The Day the Music Died”, but their music truly did live on, having a massive impact on the course of music history for decades to come. I would highly recommend the album Chantilly Lace by The Big Bopper, and Self-Titled by Ritchie Valens is an absolute must-listen (the fact that it isn’t featured in this book is seriously a crime). Listen to these albums, and keep their memory alive.

Next Up: The Atomic Mr. Basie by Count Basie (1957)

 

 

Album Review #6: This is Fats Domino! by Fats Domino (1956)

This is Fats Domino cover

First off, let me say something: the book has a major error in the entry for this album. It lists the wrong title, citing the admittedly confusingly similar album This is Fats!, released a year after the correct album, This is Fats Domino!. The track listing and accompanying short essay is for the correctly titled album, so that will be the album I review here. Hopefully this will be the only major error made in this book, but I’m only six albums in at this point, so that’s difficult to say.

Anyways, this album didn’t impress me as much as I had hoped. It’s a quality album, don’t get me wrong, but it just didn’t make that much of an impact on me. The opening track, “Blueberry Hill”, is very good, with great jazz instrumentation and a memorable vocal performance. It was one of his biggest hits, and for good reason too. However, this is one of those albums that sadly makes the huge mistake of making the best track the first track, and a lot of the following songs just don’t meet the expectations that “Blueberry Hill” sets. There are still quite a few good songs though, such as “What’s the Reason I’m Not Pleasing You”, “Reelin’ and Rockin'”, “Poor Poor Me”, and the instrumental “The Fat Man’s Hop”. The instrumentation is very good throughout, with particular note going to the piano, saxophone and percussion.

Overall, I wasn’t quite disappointed, but I wasn’t quite impressed either. I don’t have a positive or negative opinion. I’m just kind of indifferent, to be honest. There were several good tracks, but it just didn’t really do much for me. What are your thoughts?

Next up: Songs For Swingin’ Lovers! by Frank Sinatra (1956)

Album Review #1: Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley (1956)

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We start off this monster of an album list with a true classic: the world’s first taste of the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. I’ll have to admit, I was very surprised by this album. As my first taste of classic 50’s rock n’ roll, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it or if I would simply find myself uninterested. But this album really surpassed my expectations; the fast songs were incredibly catchy, the slow songs were incredibly well-performed, and altogether it was just a very solid album.

No album is without its flaws, however. I noticed several inconsistencies with volume and audio quality; on some tracks Elvis sounded almost like he decided to start singing away from the mic mid-song for no particular reason, and a couple tracks were of a noticeably lower audio quality than the rest. This didn’t really have much of an impact on the listening experience, though. The tracks were just too strong for something like that to have an impact on the album’s quality.

The opening track, “Blue Suede Shoes”, is a great kick-off, with an energetic performance and great guitar and drums to back it up. The album’s many slow ballads are heart-felt and and well-sung, and are split up with fast rocking tracks in between to keep up the pace. The best of these is definitely “Tutti Frutti”, an incredibly peppy and upbeat Little Richard cover that really bounds with energy (however, the original is still superior, in my opinion). “Blue Moon” is another highlight, but in a different way. It’s very minimalistic, stripped down and slow-moving, but great nonetheless.

Overall, I enjoyed this album very much, and would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in classic rock n’ roll.

Next Up: In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra (1955)