Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Review: The Everly Brothers’ 'Complete US & UK Singles As & Bs & EPs: 1956-1962'

The great, good, and otherwise Rock & Roll records of the fifties have all fallen into the British public domain in recent years, which means there’s been a flood of budget reissues from sources of all reputes. Acrobat Music has gotten into the act by putting out triple-disc comps collecting all of the U.S. and U.K. single and EP sides of artists such as Duanne Eddy, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Burnette, and most recently, The Everly Brothers. So for under £12 ($20 American) you can horde a walloping wealth of PD tracks from some of the best artists of Rock & Roll’s inaugural decade. In the case of The Everly Brothers’ Complete US & UK Singles As & Bs & EPs: 1956-1962, that is 75 cuts, which amounts to about sixteen pence per song. And man oh man, you are getting some great songs for that pocket change. As you should already know, The Everly Brothers became a hit-spewing duo by marrying R&R and C&W with authenticity only rivaled by Johnny Cash’s marriage of those distinct genres. The hits might deliver thigh-whacking fun (“Bird Dog”, “Wake Up, Little Susie”, “Claudette”) or gut-gripping poignancy (“Let It Be Me”, “Devoted to You”, “Crying in the Rain”) or something in between (“Bye Bye Love”, “Cathy’s Clown”), but the quality was always high as the sun.

One would be unreasonable to expect the quality of the budget Complete US & UK Singles As & Bs & EPs to rise to that level, but this is still a very nice collection for the price. The mastering is more than acceptable, neither overly bright nor overly loud, which is how a lot of budget CDs overcompensate for the poor quality sources they use. Disc One of Complete US & UK Singles As & Bs & EPs generally utilizes good sources (a shrill “Oh, What a Feeling” and a slightly noisy “Always with You” are the most noteworthy exceptions), which is key since it’s the disc with most of the biggest hits, as well as their consistently excellent flip sides. Dodgy sources are more plentiful on the second disc, and some of its most essential tracks— such as the terrific hit “Walk Right Back” and the manically clattering “Muskrat”—are left sounding like low-kbps MP3s. This issue evaporates on disc three, which basically sounds good all the way through. A track or two, including Love Hurts, is a tad fuzzy but far from unlistenable.

The material beyond the most well known tracks on all three discs set is strong, and since the group’s first four LPs comprised cuts from their 45s and EPs exclusively, Complete US & UK Singles is also an LP collection of sorts... though one that jumbles the order of those albums beyond recognition. The packaging is refreshingly thoughtful as well, containing a thick booklet with historical liner notes and a good discography. Manage your expectations slightly and you’ll find Complete US & UK Singles As & Bs & EPs: 1956-1962 is a terrific value for twelve quid or twenty bucks. Get it on Amazon.com UK or pre-order on Amazon.com here:

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