The death of Phil Everly starts out the new year on a sad note. And probably not the best way to start a new year but I must tell you that if it wasn't for The Everly Brothers, music today would not be the same. The perfect brother harmonies were never really topped by anybody. But the brothers have had a interesting music career, like brothers when firing on all six, nobody could beat their Nashville type of country rock, but when when they were at each others' throats the results were disastrous.
In everybody's home there was always a Everly Brothers best of laying around. The Cadence best of remains one of the most essential rock and roll albums ever made, rivaling that of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Bo Diddley. With some of Nashville's finest session players available, the hits was there on the radio. Bye Bye Love, When Will I Be Loved, Wake Up Little Susie, Problems, the list goes on. They could get away with a tender ballad (Let It Be Me) and on the flip side put some tough sounding rockabilly that could have been a hit as well (Since You Broke My Heart). Rhino Records continues to keep the 20 Greatest Hits (The Cadence Years) over the years and that's a good thing. The first two albums (The Everly Brothers and The Fabulous Style Of The Everly Brothers) adds a few missing pieces to the equation (Leave My Woman Alone comes to mind) but are more of a luxury and you could probably live without them. Songs That Our Daddy Taught Us was an okay album but Norah Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong liked that album enough to do a song by song cover for Reprise last year, a good attempt but it didn't sell.
With a great track record of sales, Warner Brothers snapped them up and gave them the biggest contract at that time and while the hits continued on the first album (Cathy's Clown, Crying In The Rain) the Warner albums are an exercise in their label throwing various styles and fads and coming up short. Didn't help that they got rid of their manager which kept them from accessing teh Acuff-Rose songs out there but it was not a total washout. In fact through the 60s, The Everly's did some great songs although not chart toppers, the songs Man With Money was covered by The Who, Price Of Love was done by Bryan Ferry and Gone Gone Gone was done by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss The 50 song section of Walk Right Back-Best Of The Warner Brothers Years showed that The Everly's still made great singles despite the majority of them not making the charts. Collectors Choice Music managed to issue the Warner Brothers albums and most are now out of print. But keep an eye out for In Our Image, The Hit Sound of The Everly Brothers and Two Yanks In England to which The Hollies wrote the majority of the songs under an alias but it also includes the absurd Fifi The Flea which might be the worst thing Phil And Don ever recorded. While Roots might be included in the trailblazing Americana sound, I come to find that album somewhat too bizarre and hippy dippy for my liking. But it's worth a listen.
I can't tell you much about the RCA albums, where the Everly's went after Warner Brothers but they're a bit more country sounding than rock although the odd Christmas Eve Can Kill You made it to a Christmas Compilation but One Way did issue Stories We Could Tell and Pass The Chicken And Listen. And then the brothers went their own ways after a major blowup at a concert strained their relationship and music for about 12 years till a highly publicized reunion got them to record once again and with Dave Edmunds producing them and Paul McCartney giving them On The Wings Of A Nightingale on the comeback EB 84 album for Mercury. While Born Yesterday may have been good as EB 84, their finale 1990 album Some Hearts was awful, very dated 80's production and they sounded bored with the whole thing. And that was it. Universal/Polygram cherry picked the best known stuff for The Mercury Years and an Millennium Collection that has fallen out of print (another 20th Century Masters Comp is out but that deals with the Cadence singles and if you have the Rhino album you don't need this). And outside of a handful of state fair shows, the Everly's were basically retired from rock and roll.
For myself, The Everlys are a big influence on my music and like Buddy Holly, The Who and garage rock in particular if I haven't heard of them, I probably be fixing cars for a living. But the harmonies and their music was second to none. Even on the strengths of the Cadence hits, had the Everly's never recorded anything else, they would still have a place in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and The Country Music Hall Of Fame for that matter. With Phil's passing, that chapter is forever closed, but we will always have the music and why it mattered so much so.