By Richie Unterberger

By the time The Everly Brothers Sing hit the racks in 1967, Don and Phil Everly had tried just about everything on their LPs in their attempts to recapture the wide audience they'd enjoyed in their late-1950s/early-1960s heyday. They'd recorded pseudo-concept albums as soundtracks for parties; devoted most of an LP to country covers; filled out a couple of other albums primarily with interpretations of rock and soul oldies; and recorded in England with the Hollies. There might have been no such driving concept behind The Everly Brothers Sing. Yet it more consciously strove to put the duo into contemporary musical trends than anything else they'd recorded up to that point. And like most such strenuous efforts to get past-their-commercial-prime stars in tune with commercial trends of the day, it failed miserably at the sales counter, despite containing their final Top Forty hit, "Bowling Green."

    It seems that the various hats they tried on for size on The Everly Brothers Sing -- including mainstream pop-rock, soul, and even a bit of psychedelia -- could have been less a conscious strategy than a function of their rather scattered approach to album-making at the time. The Everlys have since admitted that much of their recording during this period was fit in around their touring, rather than the other way around. They also weren't able to spend as much time on their songwriting as they would have liked, and The Everly Brothers Sing had just two songs credited to Don and/or Phil Everly on the initial release, one of which had first appeared way back in late 1965 on a single.

    As a consequence, their English bass player Terry Slater, unusually, was the primary writer on the LP, the original label crediting him with authorship of five of the twelve tracks, including "Bowling Green." Slater had first met the Everly Brothers on a British tour in 1963, where he was guitarist with one of the supporting acts, the Flintstones. "Bowling Green," Phil Everly would recall, evolved from a guitar riff he played to Terry, and though it got to only #40 in the United States, it was a much bigger hit in Canada.

    "Bowling Green" was more ornately arranged than much of what the Everlys had done throughout their career, and the rest of the album was also often characterized by musical settings that were fussier and more heavily orchestrated than most of what they'd cut in preceding years. Certainly the production team was coming from various sides of the more commercial worlds in rock and pop. Producer Dick Glasser worked with the likes of Jackie DeShannon, Andy Williams, Hank Williams Jr., the Ventures, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, James Darren, Freddy Cannon, and the Vogues over the course of his career. Gene Page would become the most renowned of the three arrangers, and is probably most famous for his orchestrations on hits by Barry White, though he also put Johnny Mathis, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and many others on his resume before his death in 1998. Also contributing arrangements were Billy Strange -- then hot for his roles in Nancy Sinatra's records, as well as an esteemed session guitarist -- and Al Capps, who accumulated credits with Frank Sinatra, Brian Hyland, Bobby Vee, Johnny Mathis, and Bobby Sherman.

    Possibly as a result of using such a support cast, the album put less emphasis on the Everlys' vocal harmonies, and more on the musical backgrounds, than was customary for their releases. Whether intentionally or not, the impression was left that someone or some people involved in the record were listening pretty closely to what was on AM radio at the time, and trying to move to the duo in that direction. Certainly the influence of vocal groups like the Association and the Turtles can be heard on songs like Slater's "A Voice Within," which adds showbizzy horn arrangements a la the Supremes' "The Happening" for good measure. The Association's more baroque-pop moments are mirrored on Slater's "Talking to the Flowers," and "Deliver Me," with its "Cherry Cherry"-like rhythms, seems pretty determined to cut in on a piece of Neil Diamond's action. Slater's "Mary Jane" -- released, amazingly enough, as a single -- is as close as the Everlys got to psychedelia, in the fuzz-crusted guitar, windblown harmonies, brief break into fairground tempo, and not-so-veiled reference to marijuana in the lyric. "I'm Finding It Rough" was an ordinary enough bubbly pop-rocker until its odd snatch of tabla-like sounds near the end, while the final Slater number, "Do You," again dipped into the breezy sound of the Association circa 1967.
    Near its end, the LP took another odd turn by concluding with three covers of then-recent rock hits. "Somebody Help Me," originally a British chart-topper for the Spencer Davis Group, had actually already been used on the Everly Brothers' 1966 album Two Yanks in England. Procol Harum's classic psychedelic hit "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was all over the airwaves in the summer of 1967, though of all the many covers the Everlys cut in their long career, this has to qualify as one of the most unlikely selections they chose to tackle. Bringing matters to a close was the soul-rocker "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," which the Buckinghams took into the Top Five in 1967, and which gets a quite uncharacteristic (by Everlys standards) let's-try-and-get-down-and-funky treatment here.

    It could be said, in fact, that the album as a whole was less characteristic of the familiar Everly Brothers sound than any of their previous LPs. In part that's due to the aforementioned shortage of original material, though the album did at least include the wistfully upbeat Don-Phil collaboration "I Don't Want to Love You," which was used as the B-side of "Bowling Green." Don Everly's "It's All Over," like "Somebody's Help Me," had already been in circulation for a while, first as a late-'65 single, then as a track on the 1966 album In Our Image. Listen carefully, however -- this isn't the In Our Image version, but a different take, with a prominent flamenco-like guitar figure and a somewhat brighter, more pop-oriented feel.

    Although the Everly Brothers' next album, 1968's Roots, was also devoted almost exclusively to outside material, it took them on a far more country-rock-oriented tour. The Everly Brothers Sing, one of their most neglected albums, was really their last shot at mass pop acceptance -- the irony being that it ended up being one of their least popular albums of all. -- Richie Unterberger

contents copyright Richie Unterberger , 2000-2010
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              unless otherwise specified.