Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Mehverley Brothers

There are a handful of artists who possess a quality so special that it often transcends all else. Emmylou Harris and Richard Thompson immediately come to mind. Neither has made a bad record. That's not to say every release was a winner. But it's hard to find a true loser among their catalogue. Even the weakest releases will have Emmylou's voice and Richard Thompson's storytelling and guitar playing. Just sit, listen and wait for it and those qualities will show up strong as ever.

This is also how I feel about the Everly Brothers.

The sound of Phil and Don singing together is pure. It is a sound that comes from the blood.  Like the Louvin Brothers before them, the Everlys voices become one, and the sound of those voices is what makes great records like "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us" greater and lazy cover records like the brothers 1965 releases "Rock'n Soul" and "Beat & Soul" more than listenable.

There have been many positive reviews, as well as some good word of mouth from friends about the new Norah Jones & Billie Joe Armstrong record "Foreverly," a recreation of the Everly Brothers second LP, "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us," released yesterday. Many of the reviews and comments all shared the same sentiment, something along the lines of "pleasantly surprised." I imagine that feeling comes from "Foreverly" not sounding like Green Day, though that may have made for a more exciting release.

There's nothing particularly wrong with "Foreverly." As a matter of fact, there is plenty to like. For instance, it's nice to know that two major artists with completely different but uber-successful careers can just come together and release something without fanfare. And, it's more than listenable. But my issue with "Foreverly" is, why listen more than once?

I am a fan of both Norah Jones and Green Day, though I don't love either and I don't necessarily play either's records very much. Their voices together, though pleasant enough, do not have that quality. "Foreverly" comes and goes, unlike the original "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us" which has a certain power thanks to the history of the songs and the voices of the singers singing those songs. I just don't see the point in bothering with "Foreverly" more than a first pass curiousity anymore than I see the point of listening to the Broadway cast of "Beatlemania" instead of "Rubber Soul."


buzzbabyjesus said...

Please tell me T-Bone Burnett isn't the producer.
I heard the piece on WNYC yesterday and was pleasantly surprised as well, but I agree with you. I don't need to hear it more than once through, in fact the 20 seconds of a handful of songs I heard yesterday is all I need.

Jerry Lee said...

I listened to it twice, "Long Time Gone" is the only song I'll save in iTunes. It's not bad, there's nothing special there.

William Repsher said...

I'll go a step further and say I don't think I've ever heard really good, interesting covers of The Everly Brothers. I'm not sure why that is, just as it's rare to hear good Buddy Holly covers. With The Everly Brothers, most covers are too reverential -- they simply sound like lesser versions of what they did. Same melody, same rhythm, same harmony vocals. It's always kind of dull. Which goes for Rockpile, too, much as I love Edmunds/Lowe and all they did back then!

For me, a good cover is never too reverential. The artist does something that puts his or her stamp on the song, whether it's taking the vocals in another direction, radically re-arranging the instruments or tweaking the melody to show something new. Most Everly Brothers covers, I think, "Yeah, that was nice ... but the original was so much better."

FD13NYC said...

Forever a fan of Phil and Don myself, I have to give this new one by Billy and Nora a listen. Probably a nice effort on their part. I agree with you on the one pass through though. Maybe keep a couple of songs if they stick to me. Also was sort of impressed with The Chapin Sisters release A Date With The Everly Brothers this year, not bad at all.

Guillermo Soler said...

It appears to be everly time, anyway. There was also "What the brothers sang" by Bonnie "Prince" Billy & Dawn McCarthy this year, which is probably more interesting as it's not as reverential and has some curious choices regarding repertoire.

Anonymous said...

Haven't listened to this yet, but curious, Sal, what you think of Under the Covers Vol. 3 now that it's out. I've been enjoying it as much as the first two. Nothing essential or revelatory, but a fun listen.

Bruce H

Sal Nunziato said...


I like Under The Covers 3, but it is my least fave of the three. Yes nothing revelatory, but I think both Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs have distinct enough voices to make the songs more fun than they should be.

Anonymous said...

Hello all...no, please remain seated,

Also heard the piece on NPR and thought they sounded nice together. Norah talked about how much you need to focus on the other singer's lips to achieve the close harmonies. Sounded nice, but I probably won't take the plunge. I would have been more interested in new songs performed in everly-type harmony.

Btw...to William Repsher...I worship Raul Malo's version of So Sad from the You're Only Lonely album. Good Everly covers are not impossible.



Sal Nunziato said...

Rich D, your mention of Raul Malo's cover reminded me of this


Norah's cover of "Sleepless Nights," which I think is better than anything on "Foreverly."

William Repsher said...

I think you need a voice of Raul Malo's caliber if you have hopes of getting anywhere near a memorable cover of an Everly Brothers song. I've heard him do the same with Roy Orbison, who's also hard to approach in covers.