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Old 05-07-2010, 11:22 AM   #68 (permalink)
why bother?
Bulldog's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 4,826

Here are some more words and pictures for you to look at. I've got one more review for this thread lined up as well, so I'll probably get that in the can over the next week or so...

Emmylou Harris
Elite Hotel

Amarillo [Harris/Crowell]
Together Again [Owens]
Feelin' Single, Seein' Double [Kemp]
Sin City [Parsons/Hillman]
One Of These Days [Montgomery]
'til I Gain Control Again [Crowell]
Here, There and Everywhere [Lennon/McCartney]
Ooh Las Vegas [Parsons/Grech]
Sweet Dreams [Gibson]
Jambalaya [Williams]
Satan's Jewel Crown [Eden]
Wheels [Parsons/Hillman]

As a lot of artists did back in the days of yore, 1975 was a year of furious recording and touring activity in a year that saw her release a couple of albums. The first of those was the widely acclaimed (and almost equally-awesome) Pieces Of the Sky and, evidently, Miss Harris' second studio adventure that year saw her come up with this album - one of the true country classics. The songstress who'd had a real hand in the making of some of the finest and most influential country rock albums of all time (again, have a look at the link in my signature) with a certain Gram Parsons really started to come into her own as a performer here, as you may be able to tell from her eclectic choice of old-timers to cover (from the Flying Burrito Brothers and Don Gibson to the Beatles and Buck Owens). At this early stage in her professional career, Harris wasn't the renowned songwriter she is today, but one who'd made a name for herself if not through her association with the fantabulous Gram Parsons then as one of the best cover artists out there too.

Given who she'd been working with, it should come as no surprise that this is an album with the country rock stamp (rather than the more rural, traditional sound) stamped all over it, starting with a song that any lucky owners of the Old Grey Whistle Test DVD would recognise - Amarillo. This uplifting, lively knees-up of a country rocker keeps up the theme of Harris' early albums opening with a real punch and as such is another one of her finest songs. Coming right after that is the torch-lighting Buck Owens ballad Together Again. It's not exactly a masterpiece and as such isn't really what I'd call an album highlight but, having said that, it does its job as a slower, more tender and emotional moment on the album. Along with the more playful Feelin' Single, Seein' Double, it's not really something I'd give the uninitiated to listen to. Like a lot of songs on this album, it's a lot more in the acquired taste court than a few of the albums I've mentioned here already.

A mixed bag on an opening salvo by the standards of the non-country-savvy but, coming right up after them are four reasons I reckon this album more than deserves the praise it gets. Beginning with the slower, beautiful reading of the Flying Burrito Brothers classic Sin City, the album ascends to a higher level of quality altogether. Such a highlight is complimented nicely by its being followed by the mesmerising One Of These Days - a song that's definitely among the most gorgeous country tunes, and one that has most of everything I love about the unique vibe of country music hidden within it. The live version in the video below doesn't quite capture the full glory of its studio version, but it'll do eh. Overall though, the album's started to take us down a slower, more contemplative kinda avenue and, as per norm, Emmylou's voice sounds nothing short of beautiful in the following 'til I Gain Control Again, keeping up the soothingly gentle vibe of the two songs before it and serving as another high-point of the album. Standing as yet another one of those reasons I feel this album is as successful as it is in its own right, Harris does another brilliant job with her next choice of a tune to cover, this one being the Beatles' Here, There and Everywhere, with her voice doing so much to both compliment a classic and give it a new edge entirely (as the very best of cover versions do).

Not to play down its quality at all, as it is a very fine number, but the Gram Parons number Ooh Las Vegas doesn't quite live up to the level of quality that'd been set up by the songs before it. Still a very fine, much more uptempo number by all accounts though. Again, a livelier moment in the tracklisting is followed by another ballad, this one being Sweet Dreams - a song written by Don Gibson and one that'd been made famous by a certain Patsy Cline, and would be even more so by the one and only Elvis Costello some six years later. True to its being a Hank Williams song alone, Jambalaya is another superb, more uplifting and catchy little number, this one featuring a wonderful piano solo at its mid-way point, not to mention the vocal harmonies with Rodney Crowell that do this album so much good. Yet another ballad follows that kinda song in the form of Satan's Jewel Crown which, yet again, shows off Harris' talent for really elevating the slower songwriting form with her beautiful voice. Putting the lid on the album is another absolute highlight, this being a frankly brilliant re-reading of one of my very favourite Flying Burrito Brothers songs, this one going by the name of Wheels. While I'll admit it doesn't quite stand up to one of the best vocal duos in music history (the Gram Parsons/Chris Hillman one), Emmylou Harris and Jon Edwards still do this magnificent song justice in a faithful re-reading. The video I've found of it has Harris holding up part of an almost-as-good vocal harmony with a certain Elvis Costello, and should give you some idea of what kinda song this is in case you didn't already know.

Basically, there are five reasons you should get this album if you don't already have it. Those are 1) Sin City, 2) One Of These Days, 3) 'til I Gain Control Again, 4) Here, There and Everywhere and 5) Wheels. Saying that, this probably isn't an album someone with no experience of country music should get, as it's maybe a bit much for the uninitiated. It's probably best you work your way towards it by getting Elvis Costello's Almost Blue, Ringo Starr's Beaucoups Of Blues, the Flying Burrito Brothers the Gilded Palace Of Sin and/or the Byrds' Sweetheart Of the Rodeo first. Just know that this album is one of my favourites of all time, and I eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, bangers and mash for dinner and fish 'n' chips for supper everyday, so it can't be that bad eh

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