All the CDs reviewed below are available to buy from the 'Other Artists' category at the Johnny Cash Fanzine Store.
Old Yellow Moon (Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell) — Emmylou Harris first heard Rodney Crowell back in 1974 while choosing songs for her first solo album with producer Brian Ahern. Having worked through a selection of song demos, Harris was unable to find anything that appealed to her. Ahern remembered a tape he had of a songwriter who, although he signed on the recommendation of someone whose opinion he valued, had actually never listened to. The first song on the tape was Bluebird Wine and from that moment Harris knew she needed to know and hear more from this talented singer/songwriter. Crowell’s Bluebird Wine opened her debut solo album Pieces Of The Sky and it wasn’t long before Rodney Crowell was recording and touring with Emmylou Harris as part of her Hot Band appearing on many of her albums including Luxury Liner, Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town and Blue Kentucky Girl. They both went on to have very successful solo careers but are now back together on Old Yellow Moon, an album of duets between Harris and Crowell that has been a long-time coming, nearly forty years, and it has been worth the wait. Like her earlier work with Gram Parsons there is something wonderful when they record together trading verses and singing in harmony. Produced by Brian Ahern, who has worked previously with both artists, the album brings together many of the original members of the Hot Band - James Burton, Glen D. Hardin, Emory Gordy and John Ware. Additional musicians include Vince Gill, Stuart Duncan and Bill Payne. Two uptempo tracks open the album, Hank DeVito’s Hanging Up My Heart and Roger Miller’s Invitation To The Blues and then the tempo slows for a beautiful version of Patti Scialfa’s Spanish Dancer. Crowell provides four songs to the album, Bluebird Wine, Open Season On My Heart, Here We Are and Bull Rider. Crowell revised the lyrics on the first two verses of Bluebird Wine as he had originally written the song when he was 21 and felt the new lyrics were, “…a little more in keeping with my sensibilities now.” Harris had recorded Here We Are with George Jones for his My Very Secial Guests album and Johnny Cash had recorded Bull Rider for his Silver album. Personally I think this version of Here We Are is far superior to the George Jones duet. Black Caffeine and Old Yellow Moon, which closes the album, are two more DeVito compositions and fit perfectly on the album with the latter featuring beautiful harmonies from both artists. The same can be said about Dreaming My Dreams, originally recorded by Waylon Jennings, and Matraca Berg’s heartbreaking Back When We Were Beautiful. Talking about the album Harris said, “It was always something that was going to happen. I’m glad it’s happening now, at this point of our lives and our careers.” Old Yellow Moon is one of the best country albums to be released in a long time and I can’t see there being a better country album this year.
In Time (The Mavericks) — In 2003 The Mavericks split following the failure of their self-titled sixth album. Now, ten years later, they are back and sounding better than ever. The retro-styled band who formed back in 1989 in Miami brought together a blend of Nashville, Mexiacn horns and Cuban rhythms that won them international popularity and critical acclaim. The vocal style of Raul Malo, who has released several solo albums during the bands split, is a major part of the bands success and his style has often been compared to that of Roy Orbison. In Time features fourteen tracks written and produced by Malo who is back with fellow band members Robert Reynolds, Paul Deakin and Jerry Dale McFadden. Like previous Mavericks albums the sound is instantly recognisable and there is no filler. It is hard to pick out the best tracks when there are fourteen of them but my own personal favourites are the opening track Back In Your Arms Again, Fall Apart, As Long As There’s Loving Tonight, Forgive Me and the excellent, haunting (Call Me) When You Get To Heaven. This album is a joy to listen to, exciting, fun and featuring excellent musicianship, songwriting and one of the greatest voices in modern country music. It is great to see them back together again.
Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite (Elvis Presley) — In January 1973 Elvis Presley performed a landmark concert at the Honolulu International Center in Hawaii which was broadcast live across Japan, The Phillipines, Korea, China and Australia. It was the world’s first, and most expensive, full-length concert satellite broadcast and within four weeks the concert was released as Elvis Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite and would eventually go on to reach #1 on the Billboard Chart and reach 5 x Platinum status by the Record Industry Association of America. The broadcast was delayed in America until April due to the recent release of the movie Elvis On Tour while the UK would have to wait even longer. It was estimated that a viewing audience of over 1.5 billion people watched the show although this is unlikely and has been disputed in the years since. In 1988 a recording of the live rehearsal show, recorded as a safety back-up should something go wrong during the live broadcast, was issued an The Alternate Aloha and now on this Legacy Edition both shows are brought togther for the first time with the five bonus songs recorded after the audience had left the building.
Both shows are almost identical with just a couple of differences in song selection between the two performances. Opening with See See Rider and the recent hit single Burning Love the show moves at a fast pace through many of Elvis’ greatest hits and several songs which, back in 1973, he had not recorded or released before. Of these new songs the highlight has to be his cover of James Taylor’s Steamroller Blues which was also released as a single. Other new tracks include What Now My Love, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (a song he introduces as the saddest song he has ever heard), Welcome To My World, Something and It’s Over. The show was a benefit for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund, raising over $75,000, and Elvis performed I’ll Remember You, a song written by Lee. One of the highlights during the show was An Americn Trilogy which received thunderous applause from the audience. As always Elvis ends the show with Can’t Help Falling In Love, very appropriate at this show as it was featured in the 1961 film Blue Hawaii. At 3:00am, following the show, Elvis and the band recorded five songs for use in the US broadcast. Of the five songs four, Blue Hawaii, Ku-U-I-Po, Hawaiian Wedding Song and No More originated from Blue Hawaii while the fifth was a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain. Elvis does sound tired on these tracks but their inclusion is a bonus.
The sound has been improved on both discs but is more noticeable on disc two. The sound on the original release of the rehearsal show was awful and it is good to have it here, newly remixed and remastered, with great sound and an excitement that was missing from The Alternate Aloha. The package includes a booklet with liner notes by Stuart Colman and many rare photos. My only complaint is that the first disc, featuring the original album, has a few seconds of silence where each of the original sides of the album ended. I cannot see why this has been done as it spoils the flow of the live recording and I hope it is corrected on the finished product. Despite my minor quibble this is another neat package from the folks at Sony/Legacy.
Boy Meets Girls TV Shows Vol. 1 (Various Artists) — Back in the fifties there was little chance of you seeing your favourite American artists on British television. BBC’s 6.5 Special, produced by Jack Good, ran from September 1958 to May 1959 and gave the viewer the chance to see artists like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, but mostly from movie clips. Good’s next venture into pop television was Boy Meets Girls which was televised between September 1959 and March 1960. Marty Wilde and Billy Fury were regulars and among the American artists featured on the show were Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Ronnie Hawkins and Johnny Cash. Cash guested on the show in September 1959 and Musicians Union rules meant that had to use British musicians, including Joe Brown, and is probably the only time from this period that he wasn’t backed by the Tennessee Three. This new CD includes two complete shows from the 16th and 23rd February 1960 which have been digitally remastered from the original soundtrack recordings and features many previously unreleased songs by the compare Marty Wilde (Way Down Yonder In New Orleans/Let’s Talk About Us) and guests including Billy Fury (Turn My Back On You/Colette), Johnny Gentle (If I Had A Girl/Be My Girl), Eddie Cochran (Hallelujah! I Love Her So/C'mon Everybody/ Somethin' Else) and the Vernon Girls (What About Us). There are four bonus tracks from shows between late 1959 and early 1960 including Johnny Cash (I Got Stripes). There was always confusion about which songs Cash performed on the show and now we know at least one of them! The twelve page booklet includes many original photos from the shows some not seen before and liner notes by Derek Genister. The CD is available from Bim Bam Records at www.bim-bam.com
I am a British-born author with several books to my credit, including the prize-nominated Johnny Cash Chronicle-I’ve Been Everywhere.