Cherry Red’s imprint Morello has been releasing twofers from some of country’s biggest artists for several years now. They’ve had a lot of great recent releases in 2016 and we’d thought we’d highlight some of them for you. All of the following twofers feature eight-page color booklets with two pages of liner notes and reproductions of sleeve notes and/or back covers. They each have notes written by journalist Tony Byworth with the exception of Dottie West CD. All of the reissues are produced by Lee Simmonds and feature remastering from Alan Wilson at Western Star Studios.
After having the success of his immortal 1959 “El Paso,” Marty Robbins returned to a more rootsy country sound in the 1960s. That sound is exemplified on 1964’s R.F.D. (referring to the U.S. Postal delivery service) and 1967’s My Kind of Country, both produced by Don Law and Frank Jones on the Columbia label. There aren’t any lush orchestrations on these albums and Robbins only contributed one original to each (“Melba from Melbourne” on R.F.D. and “Sixteen Weeks” on Country) but they show him at the top of his recording prowess. Both were top 10 Country albums.
Despite being one of the pioneering female country artists of the 1960s, not many of Dottie West’s original albums have made it to CD. Morello is rectifying that by pairing her first two albums on the RCA label, both from 1965: Here Comes My Baby and Dottie West Sings. After penning Jim Reeves’ 1963 hit “Is This Me?,” Dottie auditioned and signed with RCA. Chet Atkins, architect of “The Nashville Sound” served as the producer on these first two albums, with Anita Kerr providing arrangements. The first LP is highlighted by the title song “Here Comes My Baby” written by Dottie and her husband Bill. The single would hit #10 on the Country chart and earn Dottie the inaugural Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The album itself would hit #12. The second album didn’t fare as well on the charts, but did hit the country Top 40. In addition to several more West-West originals, other songwriters on these albums include Willie Nelson (“Night Life,” “Touch Me,” “Happiness Lives Next Door”), Boudleaux Bryant (“Take Me As I Am (Or Let Me Go)”), Hank Cochran (“Mama, You’d Have Been Proud of Me,” “Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me)”), Miriam Eddy (also known as Jessi Colter – “No Sign of Living) and Roger Miller (“When Two Worlds Collide”). The notes are provided by journalist Walt Trott.
George Jones was already a country legend when he married Tammy Wynette in 1969. But while the marriage would only last until 1976 and was tempestuous to say the least, it also had a profound impact on both artists’ careers. Jones bought out his contract at Musicor and moved to Epic so that he could begin recording with Wynette and her producer Billy Sherrill. The pairing with Sherrill might have seemed odd to some as he was a big part of the “countrypolitan” sound while Jones was much more a traditional country singer. Ironically, though, the association with Sherrill would far outlast Jones’ marriage to Wynette. With their duets between Jones and Wynette becoming big hits, Epic began to flood the market with Jones product. 1972’s A Picture of Me (Without You) was Jones’ one of five album from him during the year – three solo and two duet. It would reach #3 on the Country album charts and the title song by Norro Wilson and George Richey would become a #5 single. The LP also featured songs of heartbreak from writers such as Ernest Tubb (“Tomorrow Never Comes”) and Tom T. Hall (“Second Handed Flower”). Around nine months later, Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half As Bad As Losing You) was released. The title song is a novelty with tongue-twisting lyrics by Bobby Braddock; it would reach #7 on the Country singles chart. Jones co-wrote “What My Woman Can’t Do” with Sherrill and Earl Montgomery and it did a little better, placing at #7 on the chart. Jones also paid tribute to one of his biggest influences with a cover of Lefty Frizzell’s “Mom and Dad’s Waltz.” The album itself would place at #12.
For the next Jones twofer, Morello has put together two of George Jones’ albums of duets. As the 1970s wore on, Jones’ addictions began to catch up with him. He began to miss concert performances and was reportedly in dire financial straits. It took over two years to record 1979’s My Very Special Guests (which is featured second on Morello’s compilation). The album had Jones teaming up with musical admirers and friends such as Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Johnny Paycheck. He would even reteam with Tammy Wynette for “It Sure Was Good” (ironically co-written with her new husband, George Richey.) It also featured some non-country artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Dennis and Ray (from Dr. Hook), Pop and Mavis Staples and James Taylor. Perhaps most surprising at the time was his duet with Elvis Costello. While today Costello is known to have wide musical tastes and influences, he was at the time known only as a punk/new-wave artist. But Costello was a longtime Jones admirer and would even get a British hit with a cover of Jones’ “A Good Year For the Roses” the next year. Unfortunately, this album stalled at #38.
Jones would have a big hit in 1980 “He Stopped Loving Her Today” but it was not until 1981 when he met Nancy Sepulvado that his life would turn around. The two would eventually marry but he hit bottom when he was committed to a psychiatric hospital in 1983. After that, he got sober. As a tribute to his new wife, he recorded Ladies Choice, an album of duets with female artists, in 1984. The idea was to mostly have up and coming country artists but there were also veterans present. Among his duets partners are Brenda Lee, Janie Fricke, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Emmylou Harris (the only recurring partner from the earlier album), Lacy J. Dalton, Deborah Allen, Terri Gibbs and Leona Williams. This album fared slightly better than Special Guests, but still only made it to #25 on the charts. Ironically, the biggest success came from the only non-duet on the album: “She’s My Rock.” The Gene Dobbins tune which Jones sung about Nancy peaked at #2 on the Country singles chart for three weeks.
Much like George Jones, Tammy Wynette had a very successful career prior to their marriage. She had #1 Country hits such as “Take Me To Your World,” “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and, of course, the smash “Stand By Your Man.” Working with producer Billy Sherrill, Wynette was just as prolific as Jones in releasing albums for Epic during this period. As her marriage was ending, she recorded I Still Believe In Fairy Tales, released in 1975. This album was mostly filled with songs about heartbreak and features two originals by Wynette: “The Bottle” and “Your Memory’s Gone To Rest.” The title track, written by Glenn Martin, was released as a single and climbed to #9. The album would go to #23. Her next album would be much more successful. Recorded and released in 1976 after her divorce, ‘Til I Can Make It On My Own, proved that Wynette, could indeed make it on her own without Jones, hitting #3 on the Country Albums survey. The title tune, co-written by Wynette, Sherrill and George Richey (whom she would marry in 1978), crossed over the Top 100 on the Pop Charts and hit #1 on the Country chart. It would become one of Wynette’s signature songs and among her favorites of songs she wrote.
Watch this space soon for more of the Morello round-up featuring albums from the 1970s all the way through to the 1990s. You can find order links for this group of releases below!