When The Everly Brothers joined RCA Victor in 1972, their place in the popular music firmament was already all but assured. Their string of hits for the Cadence label beautifully fused tight, ethereal country harmonies with a rock and roll spirit, from 1957’s “Bye Bye Love” (U.S. No. 2) onward. When Don and Phil joined the Warner Bros. roster in 1960, they scored another smash right out of the gate with the chart-topping “Cathy’s Clown,” but by the late sixties, the hit singles had dried up. Artistically, the brothers were still vibrant, collaborating with members of The Hollies and The Beau Brummels and championing songs by Randy Newman and Jimmy Webb. Commercially, the brothers might not have been at their most viable when RCA Victor signed them in 1972, roughly four years after their final Warner Bros. studio album. The Everlys only remained at RCA for two LPs which rank among the least remembered in their catalogue. Luckily, Cherry Red’s Morello imprint has given both albums a new lease on life with the two-for-one release of Pass the Chicken and Listen/Stories We Could Tell.
Paul Rothchild (The Doors, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band) might not have been the most likely candidate to helm an Everly Brothers album, but he steered the direction of RCA debut Stories We Could Tell. Unsurprisingly, many of rock’s finest lined up to support the Everlys. John Sebastian (in whose home studio the album was recorded) and Clarence White sat in on guitar along with Waddy Wachtel. Ry Cooder brought along his slide, and both Spooner Oldham and Barry Beckett played keyboards with the young Warren Zevon. Jim Gordon, Russ Kunkel and John Barbata (The Turtles, Jefferson Starship) handled drum duties. Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett and two thirds of CSN – David Crosby and Graham Nash – added backing vocals.
An all-star cast requires all-star songs. The Stories the Everly Brothers chose to tell included three songs by “Burning Love” songwriter Dennis Linde, who also played on the LP. Kris Kristofferson’s “Breakdown,” Jesse Winchester’s “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz” and Rod Stewart’s “Mandolin Wind” were all inspired choices. Sebastian contributed the title track, and Delaney and Bonnie offered “All We Really Want to Do.” (The Everlys were no strangers to Delaney’s music, having recorded his song “(You’ve Got) The Power of Love” back in 1966 for Warners.) Don and Phil each wrote one track, and collaborated on a third (“Green River”). The album didn’t restore the Everly Brothers’ fortunes, not even making the Top 200 of the Billboard LPs chart, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Don and Phil returned to RCA later in 1972 with Pass the Chicken and Listen. This time, they recorded in Nashville under the auspices of the legendary Chet Atkins, with a band of the city’s great musicians including Hargus “Pig” Robbins and David Briggs. The concept of this LP was a simple one: to get back to basics. The original sleeve note promised: “Don and Phil were back in Nashville to record, back where all those biggies of the ‘Bye Bye Love’ days were cut, back working with Chet Atkins, back singing Boudleaux Bryant songs, back doing those loose head sessions with a steady flow of folks stopping by to listen.” It promised, “Reunion. Not rehash.”
For this return to the Everlys’ roots, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant (“Bye Bye Love,” “All I Have to Do is Dream”) contributed “Rocky Top” to the LP. Other country greats were also represented. Don and Phil tackled Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings’ “Good-Hearted Woman,” Mickey Newbury’s “Sweet Memories” and Roger Miller’s “Husbands and Wives.” Kris Kristofferson was back again on an Everlys LP with his song “Somebody Nobody Knows.” Folk hero John Prine’s “Paradise” and outlaw country pioneer Guy Clark’s “A Nickel for the Fiddler” were adventurous choices, while “Not Fade Away” revived the classic Buddy Holly hit in Everlys fashion. The blend of nostalgia and contemporary material on Pass the Chicken, alas, didn’t catch the public’s fancy, either.
There's more on the Everlys - plus Janie Fricke - after the jump!
The Everly Brothers didn’t record together again for more than a decade. When they did return with EB ’84, however, it was with a legion of adoring fans like Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne and Dave Edmunds leading the charge. Morello’s two-fer of Stories We Could Tell and Pass the Chicken and Listen includes brief liner notes from Michael Heatley. Both albums have been remastered by Alan Wilson.
The label also has a pair of albums from Janie Fricke on one CD. The Indiana-born singer walked the line between country and pop with a string of hit recordings in the 1980s, rising from background vocalist to marquee artist. Morello’s somewhat unusual release pairs 1985’s The Very Best of Janie (itself a Top 40 Country album) with a studio album from 1988, Saddle the Wind (No. 64 Country).
Fricke made a name for herself first singing commercial jingles and then as a background singer behind veteran artists such as Charlie Rich and most notably, Johnny Duncan. In 1977, Columbia released her debut long-player, Singer of Songs, but her breakthrough as a solo artist came in 1981 with two Top 5 C&W hits, “Down to My Last Broken Heart” and “I’ll Need Someone to Hold Me (When I Cry).” Between 1982 and 1984, she scored six country chart-toppers, three of them from the 1982 album It Ain’t Easy. (All three – “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy,” “He’s a Heartache” and “Tell Me a Lie” – are on The Very Best, though those two 1982 Top 5s aren’t.) All told, the compilation includes five of Fricke’s No. 1s. Fricke had teamed with outlaw icon Merle Haggard on 1985’s No. 1 hit “A Place to Fall Apart,” so Hag returned the favor for an exclusive track on The Very Best, “Ridin’ High.”
1988’s Saddle the Wind was Fricke’s second-to-last album for Columbia, and reached only No. 64 on the C&W Albums chart. (It was released under the name of “Janie Frickie,” as Fricke had changed her surname’s spelling to reflect its proper pronunciation.) The album was produced by Steve Buckingham, whose diverse credits include work with Dolly Parton, Dionne Warwick, Levon Helm and Loretta Lynn. Fricke turned to the classic country songbook of Bob Wills and Cindy Walker (“Sugar Moon”), Hank Cochran (“Don’t Touch Me”) and Willie Nelson (“The Healing Hands of Time”) as well as to Don Williams and Bob McDill (“I’m Not That Good at Goodbye”). Saddle the Wind yielded some minor hits (“Where Does Love Go (When It’s Gone),” “I’ll Walk Before I’ll Crawl” and “Heart,” the latter from “The Gambler” tunesmith Don Schlitz) but Fricke’s glistening country-pop style was falling out of favor on the charts. She still performs today, though, and even occasionally returns to the studio.
This collection, boasting some of Fricke’s greatest hits as well as an underappreciated album, includes a brief liner from Michael Heatley and remastering from Andy Pearce. Both the Everly Brothers and Janie Fricke titles are available now from Morello Records and can be ordered at the links below!
- All We Really Want to Do
- Green River
- Mandolin Wind
- Up in Mabel’s Room
- Del Rio Dan
- Ridin’ High
- Christmas Eve Can Kill You
- Three-Armed, Poker-Playin’ River Rat
- I’m Tired of Singing My Song in Las Vegas
- The Brand New Tennessee Waltz
- Stories We Could Tell
- Lay It Down
- Husbands and Wives
- Woman, Don’t Try to Tie Me Down
- Sweet Memories
- Ladies Love Outlaws
- Not Fade Away
- Watching It Go
- Somebody Nobody Knows
- Good Hearted Woman
- A Nickel for the Fiddler
- Rocky Top
Tracks 1-12 from Stories We Could Tell, RCA Victor LSP-4620, 1972
Tracks 13-24 from Pass the Chicken and Listen, RCA Victor LSP-4781, 1972
- It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy
- He’s a Heartache (Looking for a Place to Happen)
- You Don’t Know Love
- Let’s Stop Talking About It
- The First Word in Memory is Me
- Tell Me a Lie
- She’s Single Again
- Your Heart’s Not in It
- If the Fall Don’t Get You
- Ridin’ High – with Merle Haggard
- Sugar Moon
- I’ll Walk Before I Crawl
- I’m Not That Good at Goodbye
- Don’t Touch Me
- Where Does Love Go (When It’s Gone)
- If I Were Only Her Tonight
- The Healing Hands of Time
- Crazy Dreams
- Saddle the Wind
Tracks 1-10 from The Very Best of Janie, Columbia FC 40165, 1985
Tracks 11-20 from Saddle the Wind, Columbia FC 44143, 1988