EVERLY BROTHERS The Definitive Everly Brothers (Warner Bros./Warner Strategic Marketing)
Possibly entirely accurately titled, this double CD contains all 30 of the Everly Brothers' British hit singles alongside another 20 b-sides and album tracks. Paradise if you enjoy the brothers' music, but for all the undoubted influence they exerted on popular music, with Simon & Garfunkel and Paul McCartney, for example, being quick to praise them, I found this album a gruelling slog to get through. The tunes are familiar, of course, and the occasional tales of teenage transgression ("Wake Up Little Susie", "Poor Jenny") are fitfully amusing. And everyone from Gram Parsons to Everything But The Girl to The Walker Brothers have found something in these songs, arguably qualities that the Everlys skate, or more frequently trample, over. The risible disaster ballad "Ebony Eyes" and its cod-cinematic central narration cannot be said to not have dated a little in the last 40 years, whilst plodding covers of "That'll Be The Day" and "Love Is Strange" are not pleasant to behold. Am I being too harsh? I don't think so: contemporary work by Buddy Holly or The Beatles, for example, still punches its weight today, so why should these songs be judged by different standards? Ultimately, much of "The Definitive Everly Brothers" is polite pop music, a tale of untapped potential that suggests Brian Wilson forever trapped in 1964, unable to develop any further than "I Get Around".
And then, halfway through the second CD the hits dry up and a strange thing happens. Phil and Don turn to a kind of lightly psychedelic country-fried pop that's not far adrift of Kenny Rogers And First Edition, and it's actually pretty entertaining. "Lord Of The Manor" takes "Gosford Park" down South and plays unusual tricks with song structure, with a long, instrumental introduction and a sudden, slashing edit at the close. "Green River" at least attempts to emulate the kind of cosmic country-rock Gene Clark and Gram Parsons were custom-tooling at around the same time, and "Empty Boxes" brings things full circle by sounding uncannily like Simon & Garfunkel. But, unfortunately, it's a case of far too little, far too late for me. If you enjoy the music of the Everly Brothers, this album is self-recommending. If you don't, all the Everly Brothers you need is probably Simon & Garfunkel's versions of "Bye Bye Love".