In 1960, when the Everly Brothers signed a 10-year, million-dollar recording contract with Warner Bros. — the most lucrative artist deal in music biz history at the time — rock ‘n’ roll’s most influential brother act was coming off an incredible three-year run of hit singles like “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “(Till) I Kissed You.” But the Everlys never again topped the charts after “Cathy’s Clown,” their first Warner release, and their ensuing commercial decline obscured the brilliance of much of the material that Phil and Don subsequently waxed for the label. On the sad occasion of Phil’s recent passing, here’s a roundup of the Everlys’ 10 best albums from their Warner Bros. period, many of which have been criminally overlooked.
The Everlys' first Warner full-length opens with Don's heartrending "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)," one of the finest songs in the Brothers' entire canon. But the rest of this 1960 album isn't too shabby, either, with their personal mixture of country, pop and rockabilly shining especially brightly on "Sleepless Nights," "Nashville Blues" and "You Thrill Me (Through and Through)," all three courtesy of the ever-reliable songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant.
The follow-up to It's Everly Time stays in a similar country-pop-rockabilly vein — and it may be even better, with highlights that include "Cathy's Clown," a rollicking cover of Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me to Do," and a guitar-centric take on Little Richard's "Lucille." Phil's shimmering "Made to Love" is pure pre-Beatles pop bliss, while his and Don's "That's Just Too Much" is almost as devastating a weeper as Boudleaux Bryant's classic "Love Hurts," which made its first of many recorded appearances here.
With their telepathic-close harmonies and impeccable knack for finding the aching heart of a song, there's no way that an Everlys album of classics by Hank Williams ("I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"), Johnny Cash ("I Walk The Line"), Don Gibson ("Oh Lonesome Me," "Sweet Dreams") and others could be anything less than excellent. Though a commercial stiff at the time, this 1963 album has aged substantially better than the popular "countrypolitan" records of its day.
The Everlys' two 1965 releases, Rock 'n Soul and Beat & Soul, recast R&B and rock 'n' roll chestnuts in a frug-worthy mid-60s style. Beat & Soul, which features stellar backing from L.A. session cats like Glen Campbell, Jim Gordon and Leon Russell, is the better of the two. The album's standout track is its lone original composition: Phil and Don's crackling "Man With Money," which would be covered in short order by English mod bands the Wild Uncertainty, the Eyes and the Who.
Largely ignored in their homeland by 1966, the Everly Brothers made it to No. 2 on the UK charts with In Our Image's "The Price of Love." "Leave My Girl Alone," "[You Got] "The Power of Love," "June Is As Cold As December" and the harpsichord-and-fuzz-guitar-laden "Glitter and Gold" are all similarly muscular and melodic folk-rock tracks that would have easily held their own alongside the Byrds, the Hollies and the Association, had they actually been played on US radio at the time.
Having massively influenced the bulk of the British Invasion from the Beatles on down, it was only natural that Phil and Don should head to London in the spring of '66 to record with some of their acolytes. Backed by the Hollies (who wrote eight of Two Yanks' songs) and a cast of session men that reportedly included Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and a young Elton John, the Everlys delivered a uniformly wonderful LP that remains a must-own for any fan of guitar-driven '60s pop.
Baroque pop, sunshine pop and psychedelia might seem like odd stylistic avenues for a couple of guys who cut their teeth on bluegrass music, but the Everly Brothers handily incorporate them all into this 1967 album, most notably on the minor hit single "Bowling Green," the horn-stoked "A Voice Within," the meditative "Talking to the Flowers" and the Nuggets-worthy THC freakout "Mary Jane" — the latter of which easily constitutes the most spectacular hop onto the psychedelic bandwagon of any first-generation rock 'n' roll act.
A concept album bookended by snatches of the Everly Family's 1952 radio show, Roots is a beautifully compact seminar on the past, present and future of country music, with a cosmic reworking of Phil and Don's 1957 hit "I Wonder If I Care As Much" as the centerpiece. Released a few months after the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo and a few months before the Flying Burrito Brothers' The Gilded Palace of Sin, Roots remains a significant pillar of the country rock and Americana movements.
The Everlys fulfilled their Warner contract with this 1970 album, recorded live at the Grand Hotel in Anaheim, California. While Phil and Don have clearly sung many of these songs thousands of times, it's still a treat to hear them harmonize in a concert setting, and the hard-rocking 18-minute "Rock and Roll Music" medley — which includes bits of "The Price of Love" as well as Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter," Joe South's "Games People Play" and the Beatles' "The End" — is a thing of audacious beauty.
Though not actually released until 1977, The New Album collects 14 studio tracks from the Everlys' Warner Bros. period, most of which hadn't been released at the time — though clearly not because of any lack of quality. Highlights include 1965's folk-rocking "I See Your Light," an alternate take of 1963's "Nancy's Minuet," the Roots outtake "Omaha," and the gorgeous "Empty Boxes," an obscure single from 1968 that never made it onto an album.