By Richie Unterberger

1961 was a year of some turmoil and confusion for the Everly Brothers. Although "Walk Right Back"/"Ebony Eyes" had given them a double-sided Top Ten single early in the year, they were beginning a commercial downward spiral that they would never pull out of during the 1960s. A split from their manager and publisher, Wesley Rose, drained a lot of their energy. There were also the distractions of a six-month stint in Warner Brothers' acting school in Hollywood, though it didn't actually lead to a film career for either Don or Phil Everly; an attempt to launch their own Warners-distributed label, Calliope; Don Everly's divorce from his wife; and impending draft into the military for both brothers. There was also the utter failure of their third Warner Brothers album, Both Sides of an Evening (released in August), to make the charts at all -- an especially bitter failure as their initial two Warners LPs, It's Everly Time and A Date with the Everly Brothers, had both gone Top Ten.

    Part of the reason Both Sides of an Evening had done so poorly was that as a result of firing Wesley Rose, the Everlys no longer had access to the compositions of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. The husband-wife team, either singly or working together, had provided the duo with many of their big early hits and standout album tracks. But they were now unable to get their songs recorded by Don and Phil, as the Bryants' work was administered by Rose's publishing company, Acuff Rose. In addition, Don and Phil did not record any of their own material, as Acuff Rose would have gotten the publishing for those. Instead they had largely opted for non-rock pop standards and movie tunes that were a long way from the mix of rockabilly, pop, country, and blues/R&B that had made their first two Warners albums (as well as the records they cut for Cadence prior to switching labels) so outstanding.

    Only three months after the three-day recording sessions for Both Sides of an Evening, the Everly Brothers began recording their follow-up LP, Instant Party, in Nashville at the end of August. Given Both Sides of an Evening's frosty public reception, it's rather curious that they opted to pretty much repeat the format the next time around. Just as Both Sides of an Evening had been a pseudo-concept album, with one LP side designated "for dancing" and the other "for dreaming," so was Instant Party, complete with corny back cover liner notes offering party tips for decorations, food, drink, dessert, dancing, and "party psychoanalysis."

    In truth, however, Instant Party was hardly party music, or at least unlikely to be played at a party by the typical (young) Everly Brothers rock'n'roll fan. Instead, it was again filled mostly with pop standards and selections from Broadway and film musicals, with nary an Everlys original in sight. What's more, the sessions were again done in haste -- though at a speed that was common for the era -- with most of the songs laid down over the course of four days at the end of August and the beginning of September. The final three tracks were done on November 13, just twelve days before Don and Phil began a joint stint in the Marine Corps, with a six-month hitch to be followed by an annual month in the reserve over the next eight years.

    Even Everly Brothers fans would have to concede that much of the material selected for Instant Party was peculiar. There was Cole Porter's "True Love," from the film High Society; "Oh! My Papa (O Mein Papa)," from the Swiss musical Fireworks; "Theme from 'Carnival' (Love Makes the World Go Round)," from the Broadway production Carnival; and the standards "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "Autumn Leaves." There was also the infamously titled "When It's Night-Time in Italy It's Wednesday Over Here," which was about as far as the Everlys had ever gone into novelty kitsch. And there was another Broadway staple, "The Party's Over," which by some stroke of genius was placed not as the finale, but as the next-to-last track on side two.

    On some of the other songs, the Everlys covered material more in line with the rock'n'roll sound they'd helped pioneer in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The rockabilly-leaning "Step It Up and Go" was a folk tune suggested by their father Ike Everly, with Don and Phil's arrangement credited to the pseudonymous Jimmy Howard in order to avoid the clutches of the Acuff Rose publishers. While "Jezebel"'s roots lay in the pre-rock era, with Frankie Laine scoring a huge hit with the song in the early 1950s, it was a fairly good fit for the Everlys' dramatic harmonized treatment. In fact, it was a rather similar number to another standard the pair modernized, "Temptation," which had given them a small hit single in the summer of 1961. (The Everly Brothers, incidentally, were not the first rock'n'roll stars to rock up "Jezebel," Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps having done so back in 1956.) "Trouble in Mind" was perhaps the album's highlight, the bluesy and wistful mood marking a welcome return to the approach the pair had brought to earthy ballads such as "Nashville Blues" (on 1960's It's Everly Time). Dad Ike was credited with the adaptations of "Long Lost John" and "Ground Hawg," both of which had a more overt country feel than anything else on the LP.

    Like Both Sides of an Evening, Instant Party -- released at the beginning of 1962, in the midst of the brothers' Marine Corps training -- failed to chart. Although there would be four more Everly Brothers LPs on Warners in the next three years, it would not be until the beginning of 1965 that another relatively standard Everlys album appeared. The four intervening longplayers included two hits collections (one of which included some re-recordings of material they'd originally done for Cadence), a Christmas album, and a release devoted to covers of country hits. This relatively fallow phase of their career was further marred by an absence of big hit singles -- they would never return to the American Top Ten after 1962 -- and battles with drug problems, more on Don's part than Phil's. As a tribute to both their artistry and perseverance, however, the Everly Brothers would continue to record throughout the 1960s and re-enter the album market in 1965, continuing as well to push their music forward through the British Invasion and to the dawn of country-rock. -- Richie Unterberger

contents copyright Richie Unterberger , 2000-2010
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