By Richie Unterberger

Of all the American rock stars who began recording in the 1950s, the Everly Brothers were among the most influential on the British Invasion, from the Beatles on downward. And among the great 1950s rock stars, the Everly Brothers were among the ones most influenced by the British Invasion. Too, by the mid-1960s the Everly Brothers were far more popular in the UK than they were in the US, scoring two big hit singles ("The Price of Love" and "Love Is Strange") in Britain in 1965. It made sense, then, to arrange for the Everlys to record an album in London in mid-1966, with mucho help from one of the British Invasion bands most indebted to the Everly Brothers' harmonies, the Hollies. If the resulting album, Two Yanks in England, smacked of a gimmick concept, it wasn't of any great consequence. For the music it yielded was in fact quite good, enduring as one of the duo's betterWarner Brothers 1960s albums.

    Pseudo-concept albums were in fact nothing new to the Everly Brothers. In 1961, Both Sides of an Evening and Instant Party had both posited themselves as accompaniments to an evening's entertainment, although those records leaned inordinately hard on popular music standards and tunes from musicals. In 1965, the more satisfying Rock'n Soul and Beat & Soul were devoted almost entirely to covers of rock'n'roll oldies and soul hits. In 1963 they'd interpreted country songs on Sing Country Hits, and way back in1958 they'd done something similar, with a more traditional and folk bearing, on Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. Two Yanks in England was a different sort of project, however, in that Don and Phil Everly would opt to record material that was new to both themselves and their public. The main suppliers of that material would be the Hollies, who wrote no less than eight of the twelve tracks, all credited to the collective "L. Ransford" pseudonym used by the Hollies' Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, and Graham Nash. The Hollies, Phil Everly has recalled, also played on most of the album; it has also been reported that Jimmy Page contributed some guitar as a session musician.

    It was perhaps a bit odd that the Hollies played such a strong role in the album, when there were no doubt other worthy British rock musicians and songwriters who would have been interested in contributing as well. But Don Everly had already met Graham Nash previously in New York, and the Hollies had a bunch of songs already written to submit to the Everly Brothers. It should be noted that most of these tunes were not donated to the Everlys for exclusive use, and that over half of them had already been on Hollies vinyl. The Hollies had just released a couple of them, "Fifi the Flea" and "Hard, Hard Year,"on their US Beat Group! album (and on the nearly simultaneous UK WouldYou Believe LP). "Don't Run and Hide" had just been on the B-side of their classic hit "Bus Stop"; "So Lonely" had first appeared back in the summer of 1965 on the B-side of another classic Hollies hit, "Look ThroughAny Window"; and "Signs That Will Never Change" would come out later on yet another B-side, of 1967's "Carrie Anne." "I've Been Wrong Before" had been issued, with the slightly different title "I've Been Wrong," in late 1965 on the US Hear! Here! and the UK Hollies LPs. "HaveYou Ever Loved Somebody" would become the Searchers' final British chart single later in 1966, with the Hollies placing their own version on their1967 album Evolution. Even "Like Every Time Before" would come out as a Hollies 1968 B-side in Germany and Sweden.

    So no, the Hollies weren't exactly giving Don and Phil Everly the cream of their crop. But although the eight songs might have been a rather haphazard assortment of Hollies B-sides and LP tracks, it shouldn't be assumed that they were inferior for this reason. The Hollies wrote many more fine songs beyond their hit singles than many listeners realize, and the ones chosen by the Everlys were actually quite good. Too, as was par for the brothers when covering songs by others, the Everlys' versions were substantially different thanthe ones waxed by the Hollies. The arrangements, probably in keeping with what the Everlys were seeking by recording in London in the first place, were brasher and more British Invasion-sounding than the mid-1960s sides they'd cut over the past year or two in Nashville and Hollywood, using some fuzz guitar and organ. The dramatically melancholy "Hard, Hard Year"is a particular highlight, as is the longing "So Lonely." "I've Been Wrong Before," in contrast, is as close to Merseybeat as the Everly Brothers came, while the far more delicate "Like Everytime Before," like several Hollies songs of the period, dabbles in bossa nova rhythms. "Signs That Will Never Change" was indicative of the more tender, mature approach the Hollies would move into in the last years of the 1960s.

    Not everything on Two Yanks in England came from the repertoire of the Hollies, or even of Britishartists. Yes, there were two other British Invasion covers in "Somebody Help Me," which had recently topped the UK charts for the Spencer DavisGroup, and "Pretty Flamingo," which had done the same for Manfred Mann (in fact, "Pretty Flamingo" made #1 just two weeks after "Somebody HelpMe" had vacated that position). But there was also the haunting, mysterious"The Collector," credited to Sonny Curtis, who'd written a few tunes for the Everlys in the past, including their big 1961 hit "Walk Right Back." This unusual composition was based on the British novel of the same name(also made into a 1965 film) by John Fowles, which both Don Everly andSonny Curtis had read. (Curtis, incidentally, has said that "The Collector"is really Don Everly's song, despite what the songwriting credits say.) While Don and Phil Everly didn't write as much original material on their mid-1960s LPs as many fans would have liked, they did at least contribute one composition to Two Yanks in England, "Kiss Your Man Goodbye,"which they'd actually written (and previously attempted in the studio) some time earlier.

    Despite its quality, TwoYanks in England didn't sell well, and the Everly Brothers would soonmove in a country-pop direction. Along with many other recordings, however, it proved that the duo could play straightforward rock as well as anyone when the spirit moved them. -- Richie Unterberger

contents copyrightRichie Unterberger, 2000-2010
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