By Richie Unterberger
When The New Album was released in late 1977, the Everly Brothers had actually been broken up for more than four years (though they would, of course, reunite and start touring and recording again in 1983). Don Everly and Phil Everly had each been performing and recording as solo artists since that mid-1973 split (though each had actually put out their first solo releases prior to that). The New Album, to be blunt, was anything but a truly new album. Instead, it was a trawl through the vaults of their work for Warner Brothers, for whom they recorded voluminously for a decade starting in 1960. Comprised almost wholly of previously unreleased material from that era, The New Album was issued only in the United Kingdom, failing to appear at the time even in their native United States.
American Everly Brothers fans, naturally, were not pleased with this turn of events, which made the LP hard to acquire at the time (and even harder to find since it went out of print). There was logic behind the label's reasoning, however. The Everly Brothers, even as a defunct act, were far more of a commercial property in the UK in the late 1970s than they were Stateside. In late 1975, the UK-only compilation Walk Right Back with the Everly Brothers had gone into the Top Ten in Britain. Around the same time, BBC radio ran a five-part radio documentary series on the Everlys, narrated by Tim Rice (yes, the same guy who collaborated as a lyricist with Andrew Lloyd Webber). So the time was ripe for new Everlys product, and both Don and Phil co-operated on the assembly of The New Album, although they weren't working together (or even communicating with each other) in the late 1970s.
Thus The New Album couldn't be placed on the level of the proper LPs the Everly Brothers issued on Warner Brothers between 1960 and 1970. That doesn't mean, however, that the music on the resulting compilation wasn't worthwhile on its own merits. For one thing, there was a lot from which to choose. Although the Everlys were out of commercial favor for most of their time on Warner Brothers, failing to reach the American Top Ten after 1962 and doing only somewhat better in the UK, they cut material for the company at a prolific rate. Why some of this was passed over for release at the time it was done is not always clear. Certainly just about any track on The New Album is preferable, for instance, to "Oh! My Papa (O Mein Papa)" (from 1962's Instant Party), to shoot just one fish from that particular barrel.
Even without any dates whatsoever included in the original packaging, it was obvious to knowledgeable listeners that the fourteen tracks selected for The New Album spanned their entire Warners career, albeit with something of a weight toward their earlier years at the label. "The Silent Treatment," in fact, dates all the way back to the first session for their second album, 1960's A Date with the Everly Brothers; "Why Not," composed by John D. Loudermilk (whose "Ebony Eyes" would be a Top Tenner for the duo in 1961), was done later in 1960. The Cajun-flavored "Gran Mamou" had been cut in 1961 during sessions for Instant Party, and would have been one of the better tracks on that most erratic LP had it been included. "He's Got My Sympathy" dates from later in 1961, and sounds like an attempt to get the Everlys on track toward a more commercial pop-rock sound than much of what had filled up their 1961 albums, which had been heavy on covers of pop and folk-country standards.
"He's Got My Sympathy" was written by the Brill Building songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller, who composed several early-1960s Everly Brothers singles. During this era and indeed for years afterward, the Everlys were covering quite a few Brill Building songs, partly because a managerial dispute cut off their access to work by the Boudleaux Bryant-Felice Bryant team that had penned many of their early hits. A few more Brill Building obscurities were exhumed for The New Album, including another Goffin-Keller item, "Little Hollywood Girl" (which was done by the Crickets on a 1962 single); "I Can't Say Goodbye," which Goffin wrote with his more frequent and celebrated songwriting partner, Carole King (who'd in turn written the Everlys' early-'60s hit "Crying in the Rain" with Howard Greenfield); and the lushly (for the Everlys) orchestrated "When Snowflakes Fall in the Summer," authored by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and also recorded by Julie London on the 1963 LP The Wonderful World of Julie London. (Mann and Weil, known for classics like the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," the Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," and Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Kicks" and "Hungry," did manage to place a song on the topside of one of the Everlys' 1966 singles, "Glitter and Gold.")
A real standout on The New Album was a previously unreleased alternate take of their 1963 single "Nancy's Minuet," which was clearly a favorite of the duo despite its failure in the marketplace. Indeed, as Phil Everly himself wrote in the LP's sparse back cover notes, "The song that Don wrote, 'Nancy's Minuet,' should have been another 'Cathy's Clown,' and would have been had it been released when created." In contrast to the brighter (though equally worthwhile) officially released 45 version, this take boasts a far more somber, ghostly feel, greatly enhanced by the spooky guitar reverb.
Also an obvious favorite of the duo was "Empty Boxes," which had actually appeared as an obscure flop single in spring 1968. Wholly acoustic, it was written by Ron Elliott, who plays guitar on the track (and would work with the Everlys on most of the arrangements on their 1968 album Roots, also contributing some guitar and songwriting to that LP). "If you only have time to listen to one song in this album, listen to 'Empty Boxes,'" advised Phil in the liner notes. "It's pure Everly Brothers -- one guitar and two voices. It's my favorite."
Filling out the record were other tracks from various eras that, like the album as a whole, were uneven but at the very least interesting, and sometimes better than that. "Dancing on My Feet," the sole Phil Everly composition on the LP, is pretty lightweight as far as Everly Brothers originals go; "Burma Shave," recorded in early 1962, was a slight (and slightly wacky) early Roger Miller song. More ear-catching was "Nothing Matters But You," recorded in September 1965, and the kind of graceful ballad that brought out the best in the brothers' close harmonies. Cut on the same day was another superior outtake, "I'll See Your Light," with its brash full Hollywood production and heavily folk-rock-influenced guitars. It's inexplicable as to why it was initially passed over, considering that it sounded very in tune with the sounds of late 1965 at a time when the Everlys were struggling to re-establish themselves with the contemporary rock audience, and that it outclassed much of what the duo were actually releasing at the time. Don Everly's "Omaha," from late 1968, dates from their late-'60s country-rock period, and would be re-recorded by Don on his self-titled 1970 debut solo album.
The New Album
not a chart record when it was first released; few albums of virtually
unheard archival material by inactive artists are. Yet it's been one of
the most coveted albums by Everly Brothers collectors, in part due to
very scarcity. This reissue finally puts it into circulation on CD in
United States, where its nuggets and oddities can get a wide hearing in
the land from which these great rock'n'roll pioneers hailed.
-- Richie Unterberger
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