By Richie Unterberger

In 1965, the Everly Brothers' momentum, for the first time in four years, was on the upswing. Although the Top Forty singles had ceased at home, in Britain they were regaining popularity, with "The Price of Love" and "Love Is Strange" charting high in the UK listings. They were also, for the first time in four or five years, cutting albums that were pure rock'n'roll, keeping abreast of the changing times with a fatter sound and more modern arrangements. In early 1965, on Rock'n Soul (also released on CD by Collectors' Choice Music), they'd devoted virtually an entire album to updated covers of early rock'n'roll classics, with a nod to the exploding popularity of soul music in a version of Martha & the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street." Later in 1965, they'd use much the same strategy for its follow-up Beat & Soul, though they wouldn't lean quite as heavily on '50s rockers this time around, and take on a few more then-recent rock'n'soul tunes. Among the Hollywood session greats contributing to the album were guitarists James Burton, Glen Campbell, and Sonny Curtis; bassist Larry Knechtel; drummer Jim Gordon; keyboardist Leon Russell, then still years away from establishing himself as a recording artist in his own right; and, on piano, another youngster whose solo stardom lay a few years down the road, Billy Preston.

    Opening the LP was "Love Is Strange," originally an essential rock'n'calypso hit for Mickey & Sylvia in 1957, and  a #11 hit for the Everlys in Britain in late 1965. The Everlys' version was typical of their general approach to rock'n'roll oldies, retooling and modernizing the arrangement substantially, yet not so much as to be disrespectful. A chiming, almost folk-rockish clang replaced the searing Mickey Baker opening guitar riff, while the rhythm was evened out into a midtempo clip-clop, some countryish piano flourishes thrown in for good measure. Don and Phil Everly also took some liberties by altering the spoken dialog in the middle, though obviously they couldn't emulate the sassy male-female repartee that had been a part of Mickey & Sylvia's original.

    Some of the other covers on Beat & Soul also dated from rock'n'roll's earliest years. The brothers had paid tribute to both Ray Charles and Little Richard on Rock'n Soul, and probably needed no prompting to do so again here. Charles in particular was no stranger to the Everlys' recorded repertoire; even before doing "I've Got a Woman" on Rock'n Soul, they'd recorded Brother Ray's "Leave My Kitten Alone," "This Little Girl of Mine," and "What Kind of Man Are You?" (the last of which the Everlys changed to "What Kind of Girl Are You"). On Beat & Soul they take a pass at "Lonely Avenue," cut by Charles for Atlantic in 1956, though it had been penned by the great songwriter Doc Pomus. Likewise, the duo had visited the Little Richard catalog several times before running through "The Girl Can't Help It" on Beat & Soul, first by covering both "Rip It Up" and "Keep a-Knockin'" on their 1958 debut album, and putting another of his big hits, "Slippin' and Slidin'," on Rock'n Soul.

    Chuck Willis was also saluted on Beat & Soul, with a quite countryish take on "What Am I Living For" proving that the Everlys didn't always put an out-and-out mid-'60s rock stamp on their covers, though they certainly used fuzz guitar aplenty for "C. C. Rider." Completing the revisitations of their formative days was "I Almost Lost My Mind," a big early-'50s R&B hit for Ivory Joe Hunter, though it would take Pat Boone to cross it over into the hit parade. Like "What Am I Living For," "I Almost Lost My Mind" is well suited for an arrangement that verges on country-pop, as Don and Phil bestow upon the tune here.

    Some of the other covers chosen by the pair, however, were more aligned with the soul and blues material gaining great popularity on both sides of the ocean in the mid-1960s. In this company, the inspirational "People Get Ready" was right off the boat, having been a Top Twenty hit for the Impressions just a few months before the Everly Brothers cut it. Don and Phil brought a slight country flavor to the harmonies and arrangement, though it wasn't nearly as countrified as "I Almost Lost My Mind" or "What Am I Living For." "Walking the Dog" had been a Top Ten hit for Rufus Thomas in late 1963, and in turn almost immediately covered by the Rolling Stones as one of the highlights on their debut album. The Stones, and the Beatles, and too many other groups to name had also done "Money," which even by 1965 was well on its way to becoming one of the most covered rock songs ever. While Willie Dixon's "My Babe" had been a big R&B hit for the great Chicago blues harmonica master Little Walter in the mid-1950s, a decade later it was well on the way to being a staple for white rock bands, and was recorded by British Invasion group the Animals, the Spencer Davis Group, and even Gerry & the Pacemakers.

    Yet the finest song on Beat & Soul is the most anomalous one, and the only original on the set. Written by Don and Phil, the pensive "Man with Money" had been buried on the B-side of "Love Is Strange," though it was one of the finer originals they recorded in the 1960s. It's not clear what it's doing on an LP otherwise wholly populated by covers; perhaps it was felt that an album featuring "Love Is Strange" as the opening hit track should include the B-side as well. No doubt in part because "Love Is Strange" was a British hit, "Man with Money" did not escape attention in the UK, where it was recorded by the (admittedly obscure) bands the Eyes and the Wild Uncertainty. It was also cut by the Who in 1966, though it remained unreleased until its appearance as a bonus track on the 1995 expanded A Quick One CD (the Who also did it at a BBC radio session the same year).

    Having perhaps exhausted their urge to raid the closet for rock and soul oldies, the Everly Brothers would return to a more mixed bag approach for their next album, 1966's In Our Image. Both Rock'n Soul and Beat & Soul, however, commemorate their rock'n'soul influences and their courage to interpret these without compromising their own personality. -- Richie Unterberger

contents copyright Richie Unterberger , 2000-2010
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