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On a list of artists whose legacy has been ill-served by the dozen or so hits by which theyíre remembered, the Everly Brothers could lay fair claim to the top spot.
Take their third Cadence single, a rockabillified cover of Ray Charlesís "This Little Girl of Mine," released right between the iconic "Wake Up Little Susie" and "All I Have To Do Is Dream." The a-side reached No. 26 in early 1958, but has never found favor with the nationís oldies-format programmers.
And the b-side is even more obscure. Itís not the songís fault. "Should We Tell Him" has all the elements of the Everlysí early formula: propulsive acoustic guitars, Chet Atkinsí pinpoint leads, Donís limpid solo vocal turns in the verses, brother Philís high harmonies, and lyrics that elevate adolescent problems to high pop drama. The protagonist "takes his best girl dancing/to my best friendís mansion," only to overhear them whispering, "Should we tell him?/To let him go on trusting isnít fair." When he runs to a local café, the storyís the same: "Should we tell him that his girl doesnít care?"
Itís a fine recording. But the newly unearthed acoustic version on Too Good To Be True (Varese Vintage) is even better. With no band, the harmonies shine more brilliantly, and a variant chorus ups the paranoid stakes to Orbisonian levels: "Should we tell him?/I seem to hear it everywhere I go." Both this disc and its companion volume Give Me a Future are decisive evidence that, as songwriters, both Phil and Don could give Felice and Bordeleaux Bryant (the team behind "Susie," "Bird Dog," and others) a run for their money. Many of these demos for country publishing monolith Acuff-Rose feature only one Everly, which is disappointing. Still, this is the only place youíll hear unrecorded originals like Philís bitter "Turned Down" and "Iíll Bide My Time," or Donís "Capitan, Capitan," a 1960 anti-war song that anticipates later folk-rock trends.
If the Everlysí í50s output has been winnowed to a handful of golden oldies in popular memory, their later work has virtually vanished. Walk Right Back, a readily available (but unevenly mastered) Warner Bros. double-disc, cherrypicks í60s recordings. And many of the 15 albums recently reissued by Collectorsí Choice have never appeared on CD in their original form.
The album most worthy of attention is 1968ís Lenny Waronker-produced Roots(Warner Bros.), an arty Left Coast country set with songs and arrangements by Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman ("Illinois," unrecorded by its author), and the Beau Brummelsí Ron Elliot, bracketed by clips from the Everly Familyís early í50s radio shows, on which "Little Donnie" and "Baby Boy Phil" cut their teeth on old-timey gospel ("The Old Rugged Cross") alongside parents Ike and Margaret. But the rock-oriented releases Beat & Soul and Gone, Gone, Gone are just as eye-opening. In Our Image (1966), assembled from freestanding single sides, may be the best of the lot. Tough ("The Price of Love") and tender ("It Only Costs a Dime") originals sit alongside sharply selected outside material. It took four people, including British R&B figure Kenny Lynch, to write the swaggering "Leave My Girl Alone," but the result was worth it. Over meaty guitars and electrified celeste, Don faces down a rival ("Iíve got trouble enough without having you to fight"), coming on like the narrator of "Should We Tell Him" pushed to the edge of violence.
Perhaps inevitably, the close-harmonized final verse pulls back, owning up to the vulnerability the Everlysí vocal blend always excelled at: "I donít even wanna know your name/I just want my life to be the same."
Issue Date: January 6 - 12, 2006
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