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exceptionally good pop songs with It’s Only Make Believe and Lonely Blue Boy long considered classic rock-pop songs of the era that have stood the test of time. But there are other equally good numbers here like the growling I Vibrate, the popified innocence of Can’t We Go Steady and the brooding sultriness of I’ll Try. You’ll also find unique takes on such well-known popular standards as Blue Moon, Sentimental Journey and Mona Lisa. A good slice of late 1950s rock-pop that stands up rather well. Alan Cackett

David Houston MY ELUSIVE DREAMS: EPIC COUNTRY HITS 1963-1974 T-Bird Americana TBIRDAM 035 HHH The birth of countrypolitan Smooth-voiced balladeer David Houston

spearheaded Billy Sherrill’s countrypolitan sound that dominated country music from the mid-1960s through to the mid-1970s. When Sherrill signed the Louisiana-born singer to the newly launched Epic label (a country subsidiary of Columbia Records) in 1963, Houston had already had failed deals with Imperial, Demand, NRC and Sun Records subsidiary Phillips International. His career was immediately turned around with Mountain Of Love, his debut Epic release, making number two on the country charts in 1963. Following a series of smaller hits— Chickashay, One If For Him, Two If For Me, Love Looks Good On You—he was back near the top with Livin’ In A House Full Of Love in 1965, followed the next year by his biggest hit, Almost Persuaded. Now regarded as a country standard with dozens of renditions, Houston’s version topped the country charts for nine weeks, crossed over to the pop charts and picked up a couple of Grammy Awards. From then on Houston and producer

Sherrill were on a roll with their lush productions of what were mainly country- themed songs like A Loser’s Cathedral, a great barroom ballad, I Do My Swinging At Home, Where Love Used To Live and Wonders Of The Wine. There were also some highly successful duets, initially with the relatively new Tammy Wynette and the classic My Elusive Dreams (a 1967 chart-topper) and then a whole series with Barbara Mandrell,

including After Closing Time and I Love You, I Love You, all included on this hit-laden package. Sometimes the production is a little over-the-top, especially when the songs are little too sweet for comfort such as My Woman’s Good To Me and Maiden’s Prayer (not the Bob Wills’ classic), but it’s good to see at long last on CD many of David Houston’s biggest hits. Alan Cackett

George Jones THE GRAND TOUR/ALONE AGAIN Morello Records MRLL1

HHHHH BARTENDER’S BLUES/SHINE ON Morello Records MRLL3 HHHH More George Jones reissues, but lacking the continuity fans expect … Four of George Jones’ albums from

his days working with ace producer Billy Sherrill and originally released by Epic Records. It’s good to see these 2on1 reissues being made available on CD, but why oh why can’t they release them in chronological order, which would certainly be more advantageous for longtime Jones’ fans wanting to replace their old worn-out vinyl and would also make sense for newcomers wishing to discover the legendary singer’s music. It would have been more prudent to have paired THE GRAND TOUR (1974) with 1975’s MEMORIES OF US (a greatly underrated Jones’ album). Then ALONE AGAN (1976) could have been paired with THE BATTLE (also 1976). As it is they’ve put 1978’s BARTENDER’S BLUES with 1983’s SHINE ON. It just doesn’t make sense. Having got that out of the way, let’s

now look at the music, and there’s really not one word of complaint from me. Long recognised as the king of the tearjerkers, it is the ballads about pain and loss that anchor the first two albums. Jones knew all about that side of life through several well-publicised bouts with the bottle and battles with the opposite sex. Heartbreak, self-abuse, sorrow and miles of sad, sad country songs to tell all about it. Whether being brutally honest with A Drunk Can’t Be A Man, tender and sensitive on I’m All She’s Got or soulfully pained with She’ll Love The

One She’s With, Jones’ distinctive vocals were perfectly complemented by Billy Sherrill’s production, which helped give him his really identifiable sound. The second set of later recordings

doesn’t quite match the quality of the first. He starts off well enough with James Taylor’s Bartender’s Blues, with Taylor joining in on harmony vocals (no mention in the rather brief sleeve notes), but overall this album is a softer George Jones, even dare I say it, almost coasting along on such songs as Bob McDill’s I’ll Just Take It Out In Love and his co-written If You Loved A Liar (You’d Hug My Neck). He comes more into his own with Ain’t Your Memory Got No Pride At All but both Ray Charles and Merle Haggard turned in far superior versions. He seemed to have regained his voice for SHINE ON, turning in superb renditions of Bobby Braddock’s I’d Rather Have What We Had and Chuck Howard’s The Show’s Almost Over, but overall this pair of albums pale somewhat in comparison to THE GRAND TOUR/ALONE AGAIN. Having said that, they’re still mighty good and well worth adding to any genuine country music collection. Alan Cackett

John Anderson SEMINOLE WIND/SOLID GROUND T-Bird Americana TBIRDAM 040 HHHHH John Anderson sounds like nobody else in country music, and that’s certainly refreshing in these days of manufactured clones and soundalikes Two of John Anderson’s very best

albums from 1992/1993, respectively, now reissued as a 2on1 package. After a streak of hits in the early 1980s for Warner Bros that included his rendition of Billy Joe Shaver’s I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday), Wild And Blue and Swingin’, his star dimmed somewhat, only to burn brightly again in the early 1990s when he joined BNA and hit back with Straight Tequila Night, Seminole Wind and Money In The Bank, all included here. There’s also winning versions of Mark Knopfler’s When It Comes To You (with Knopfler on lead guitar), and Tony Joe White’s Steamy Windows. A neo-honky- tonker, Anderson was armed not only with a memorable and engagingly different

Maverick 101

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