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Pass The Chicken and Listen: Morello Reissues Everly Brothers, Janie Fricke

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Everlys - Pass the Chicken and StoriesWhen The Everly Brothers joined RCA Victor in 1972, their place in the popular music firmament was already all but assured. Their string of hits for the Cadence label beautifully fused tight, ethereal country harmonies with a rock and roll spirit, from 1957’s “Bye Bye Love” (U.S. No. 2) onward. When Don and Phil joined the Warner Bros. roster in 1960, they scored another smash right out of the gate with the chart-topping “Cathy’s Clown,” but by the late sixties, the hit singles had dried up. Artistically, the brothers were still vibrant, collaborating with members of The Hollies and The Beau Brummels and championing songs by Randy Newman and Jimmy Webb. Commercially, the brothers might not have been at their most viable when RCA Victor signed them in 1972, roughly four years after their final Warner Bros. studio album. The Everlys only remained at RCA for two LPs which rank among the least remembered in their catalogue. Luckily, Cherry Red’s Morello imprint has given both albums a new lease on life with the two-for-one release of Pass the Chicken and Listen/Stories We Could Tell.

Paul Rothchild (The Doors, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band) might not have been the most likely candidate to helm an Everly Brothers album, but he steered the direction of RCA debut Stories We Could Tell. Unsurprisingly, many of rock’s finest lined up to support the Everlys. John Sebastian (in whose home studio the album was recorded) and Clarence White sat in on guitar along with Waddy Wachtel. Ry Cooder brought along his slide, and both Spooner Oldham and Barry Beckett played keyboards with the young Warren Zevon. Jim Gordon, Russ Kunkel and John Barbata (The Turtles, Jefferson Starship) handled drum duties. Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett and two thirds of CSN – David Crosby and Graham Nash – added backing vocals.

An all-star cast requires all-star songs. The Stories the Everly Brothers chose to tell included three songs by “Burning Love” songwriter Dennis Linde, who also played on the LP. Kris Kristofferson’s “Breakdown,” Jesse Winchester’s “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz” and Rod Stewart’s “Mandolin Wind” were all inspired choices. Sebastian contributed the title track, and Delaney and Bonnie offered “All We Really Want to Do.” (The Everlys were no strangers to Delaney’s music, having recorded his song “(You’ve Got) The Power of Love” back in 1966 for Warners.) Don and Phil each wrote one track, and collaborated on a third (“Green River”). The album didn’t restore the Everly Brothers’ fortunes, not even making the Top 200 of the Billboard LPs chart, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Don and Phil returned to RCA later in 1972 with Pass the Chicken and Listen. This time, they recorded in Nashville under the auspices of the legendary Chet Atkins, with a band of the city’s great musicians including Hargus “Pig” Robbins and David Briggs. The concept of this LP was a simple one: to get back to basics. The original sleeve note promised: “Don and Phil were back in Nashville to record, back where all those biggies of the ‘Bye Bye Love’ days were cut, back working with Chet Atkins, back singing Boudleaux Bryant songs, back doing those loose head sessions with a steady flow of folks stopping by to listen.” It promised, “Reunion. Not rehash.”

For this return to the Everlys’ roots, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant (“Bye Bye Love,” “All I Have to Do is Dream”) contributed “Rocky Top” to the LP.   Other country greats were also represented. Don and Phil tackled Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings’ “Good-Hearted Woman,” Mickey Newbury’s “Sweet Memories” and Roger Miller’s “Husbands and Wives.” Kris Kristofferson was back again on an Everlys LP with his song “Somebody Nobody Knows.” Folk hero John Prine’s “Paradise” and outlaw country pioneer Guy Clark’s “A Nickel for the Fiddler” were adventurous choices, while “Not Fade Away” revived the classic Buddy Holly hit in Everlys fashion. The blend of nostalgia and contemporary material on Pass the Chicken, alas, didn’t catch the public’s fancy, either.

There’s more on the Everlys – plus Janie Fricke – after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 10, 2014 at 10:31