The Everly Brothers’ contribution to American popular song can hardly be overestimated. With hits like “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up, Little Susie” and “When Will I Be Loved,” brothers Don and Phil merged classic country and rock-and-roll into an influential whole, while their longing, ethereal vocal blend on “All I Have to Do is Dream” established them as timeless balladeers. At the beating heart of The Everly Brothers’ sound was their deep respect for the music of the land, the rough-and-tumble, hardscrabble, homespun ballads they had learned as children in the Midwest. Their 1958 album Songs Our Daddy Taught us was a concept album at a time when only Frank Sinatra was turning them out with regularity, and was Americana before the phrase was in vogue. A move from Cadence Records to Warner Bros. Records in 1960 quickly yielded the hit “Cathy’s Clown,” but by the end of the decade, chart success had dried up despite the high quality of their Warner Bros. years. At WB, they had collaborated with The Hollies and The Beau Brummels, and championed songs by Randy Newman and Jimmy Webb.
Where would they land next? RCA Victor signed them in 1972, four years after their final WB album, but by then, Don had already begun his solo career at Ode Records. At RCA, the Brothers would release two LPs before going their separate ways in July 1973 for almost a decade, and Phil would issue his solo debut, Star Spangled Springer, in 1972. In 2014, Cherry Red’s Morello imprint reissued both of the Everlys’ RCA platters on one CD. Now, the label is following that release up with a two-for-one reissue of Phil Everly’s two solo albums for Pye Records, originally released in 1974 and 1975.
There’s Nothing Too Good for My Baby, Phil’s Pye debut, was recorded at the label’s London studios and produced by Everly and Terry Slater. Formerly of the U.K. beat group The Flintstones, Slater had befriended the brothers in the early 1960s. He co-wrote nine of the LP’s eleven songs – the exceptions being the title track (a revival of a 1931 standard popularized by comedian Eddie Cantor) and “We’re Running Out” from the pens of Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood. Phil had previously recorded their “The Air That I Breathe” before The Hollies turned it into a major hit. One of the Everly/Slater compositions bore the credit of a third writer. “It’s True” had been written with a member of the Everly Brothers’ band named Warren Zevon, who would re-launch his own solo career just a couple of years later. Phil was joined for the album by Barry Morgan (drums), Tony Campo (bass), Foggy Little (guitar), Joe Moretti (guitar), and Kenny Clayton (piano). Clayton also arranged and conducted the expansive tracks. There’s Nothing Too Good didn’t often echo back to the classic Everlys styles, instead taking in contemporary pop, vaudeville (the Cantor tune), rock (“Invisible Man”), doo-wop (“New Old Song”), and even light reggae (“We’re Getting Out”).
Despite (or perhaps because of) its variety, the LP (renamed Phil’s Diner in the U.S.) failed to catch on. Everly and Slater regrouped for a follow-up album. Mystic Line enlisted Warren Zevon a bigger capacity. The future “Werewolves of London” artist arranged the LP and played keyboards, and also co-wrote the ballad “January Butterfly.” In Zevon’s hands, the sound of Mystic Line nodded a bit more to Phil’s country roots, though not exclusively. “Back When the Bands Played in Ragtime,” like “There’s Nothing Too Good for My Baby,” explicitly looked back to a bygone era, and “Lion and the Lamb” cranked up the volume and the guitars. In addition to Zevon on keys and Everly on guitar, the musicians included Martin Kershaw and Foggy Little on guitar, Frank McDonald on bass, Ronnie Verrell and Clem Cattini on drums.
Everly wrote the rest of the album either solo or with Slater, and revived the Brothers’ classic “When Will I Be Loved” in a new reggae arrangement. “Patiently” had been written by Phil back in 1960; Everly’s 1974 vocal on the laid-back track makes the clear the debt owed by Paul Simon to his friend and hero Phil. But without the tight harmony of brother Don, listeners once again didn’t cotton to Phil’s album.
Everly requested to be released from his three-album Pye contract, and Mystic Line marked his final recordings for the label. Morello has included two outtakes, both of which have been included on the past CD reissues of these titles: “The Three Bells” and “Baby You Know Me.” Phil would finally attain solo success in 1983 when a duet with Cliff Richard, “She Means Nothing to Me,” ascended to the top ten in the United Kingdom. Later that year, Phil and Don put acrimony behind them to reunite onstage at Royal Albert Hall. They remained a duo, on and off, until Phil’s death in January 2014.
There’s Nothing Too Good for My Baby/Mystic Line includes an eight-page booklet with two pages of liner notes from John Tobler. Alan Wilson has remastered. This two-for-one release from the late Phil Everly can be ordered at the links below!
- Sweet Music
- Goodbye Line
- Feather Bed
- Too Blue
- There’s Nothing Too Good for My Baby
- Invisible Man
- We’re Running Out
- It’s True
- New Old Song
- The Three Bells (Bonus Track)
- Lion and the Lamb
- Mystic Line
- January Butterfly
- You and I Are a Song
- Words in Your Eyes
- Better Than Now
- When Will I Be Loved
- Back When the Bands Played in Ragtime
- Baby You Know Me (Bonus Track)
Tracks 1-11 from There’s Nothing Too Good for My Baby, Pye NSPL 18448, 1974
Tracks 12 & 23 first released on The London Sessions, Sequel NEXCD 164. 1991
Tracks 13-22 from Mystic Line, Pye NSPL 18473, 1975