By Richie Unterberger

Conventional rock critic wisdom often has it that after the Everly Brothers left the independent Cadence label for the newly emerging major Warner Brothers at the beginning of the 1960s, they never quite recaptured their early greatness. While the brothers' Cadence hits remain their most famous recordings, in fact this dismissal of their subsequent output is highly flawed. There were many fine recordings during the pair's decade-long association with Warners, even if the big hits stopped flowing after 1962. And their Warners years could have hardly gotten off to a better start, their first single for the label ("Cathy's Clown") reaching  #1 in the spring of 1960. At the same time came their excellent maiden Warners LP, It's Everly Time, which itself made #9 on the album charts.

    It's Everly Time was an unusually strong, consistent record from a time when rock'n'roll albums were often hasty throwaways, stuffed with filler far below the level of an artist's hit singles. This more considered approach, it should be noted, wasn't alien to the Everlys, as their three Cadence LPs had all been top-notch works. They even had the courage to do a concept album of sorts, 1958's Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, with no hit singles to anchor it, and a traditional folk and country focus far away from (and far less commercial than) their popular pop-rock smashes. Courageously, It's Everly Time would not even include their then-current chart-topper "Cathy's Clown," although it would appear on their next LP.

    The twelve-song set, however, would maintain strong links with the country-pop-rockabilly fusion they'd perfected at Cadence, even as they moved toward somewhat fuller and more sophisticated arrangements. Though Warner Brothers was based in Los Angeles, for the time being they continued to record in Nashville with top session players, laying down all dozen tracks over the course of five sessions in March 1960. Too, fully half of the songs were penned by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant (Boudleaux Bryant writing one of those, "Just in Case," on his own). Boudleaux, writing either on his own or with Felice, had been responsible for several of the brothers' biggest Cadence hits, including "Bye Bye Love," "All I Have to Do Is Dream," "Wake Up Little Susie," "Bird Dog," "Problems," "Poor Jenny," and "Devoted to You."

    None of the Bryants' songs on It's Everly Time would become hits, and remain largely undiscovered delights in the catalogs of both the songwriters and the Everlys. Certainly one or more of the early members of Fairport Convention had the album, as the band did a superb version of the Bryants' compositions here, "Some Sweet Day," for the BBC in 1968 (it was also reported around that time that they would be recording a version for a single, though such an item did not appear). "Sleepless Nights" is one of the Everly Brothers' most exquisite romantic ballads, though the Bryants' other efforts on the LP tended toward more forceful midtempo rock'n'roll, even adding a touch of the blues for the appropriately titled "Nashville Blues."

    Some of the other tunes Don and Phil Everly covered for the album reflected their oft-underappreciated love for hard R&B and rock'n'roll. The lilting but funky "What Kind of Girl Are You," a Ray Charles composition, was originally recorded as "What Kind of Man Are You?" on an obscure Charles release on which Brother Ray didn't actually sing, the vocal being taken by Mary Ann Fisher (of his female backup group, the Raelets). As another testament to the Everlys' willingness to dig hard for unusual and interesting material, "I Want You to Know" had first appeared on a 1957 Fats Domino B-side.

    A couple of the other songs were more indicative of the country-pop that had a more prominent place in the brothers' public image. "Carol Jane" was written by their friend Dave Rich, more known for penning "Lonely Street" (which, as Don Everly would later recall, the Everlys had wanted to do before Cadence Records chief Archie Bleyer took it to Andy Williams, who had a #5 hit with it in 1959). Also in a more innocuous vein were "That's What You Do to Me" and "Memories Are Made of This," the latter of which had been a #1 hit for Dean Martin in 1956 (and went to #5 in a competing version by Gale Storm).

    As the Everly Brothers seemed to have been granted a good deal of creative freedom in choosing and recording the material on It's Everly Time, and as both Don and Phil had begun to blossom into outstanding songwriters at Cadence, it's a little surprising that the album had just one original composition. But that one original, Don Everly's "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)," would become the most famous track on the record by far. Plucked for release as a single a few months later, it rose to #7 in the fall of 1960. "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)" is certainly one of the Everlys' finest lovelorn, melancholy ballads, and has attracted a number of cover versions over the last few decades, with Dillard & Clark, Francoise Hardy, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Hank Williams Jr., and even the Wind in the Willows (the late-'60s band including a young Deborah Harry) among those who've put it on record.

    Both the Everly Brothers and Warner Brothers had a lot riding on the siblings' 1960 releases. The Everlys were looking to justify both their move from Cadence and their new, huge seven-year Warners deal; Warner Brothers, these days a giant of the industry but in those days a very new label with an uncertain future, were banking on the duo to give the company greater clout in the expanding rock'n'roll marketplace. As one of the very greatest pre-Beatles, non-compilation rock albums, balancing all sides of the Everlys' repertoire -- ballads, rockers, R&B, and country-pop -- It's Everly Time succeeded gloriously. It was an approach, thankfully, that would be repeated and equaled on their second Warners album later in 1960, A Date with the Everly Brothers, also reissued on CD by Collectors' Choice Music. -- Richie Unterberger

contents copyright Richie Unterberger , 2000-2010
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