Listening: The Everly Brothers

The other day, while down a rabbit hole, I discovered that the Everly Brothers once recorded John Sebastian’s song “Stories We Could Tell” and not only named an album after it but recorded the album at John Sebastian’s house.

This I had to hear, so — despite my resolution not to buy any more records for awhile — I took to eBay. There, I found not only the album in question but a lot of seven Everly Brothers albums from the 1970s and ’80s, none of which I owned previously.

And so I’m currently going through a trove of music by a duo I have always admired but never explored in any depth. There have been some revelations.

Stories We Could Tell, the album, is more of a variety show than strictly an Everly Brothers album, with contributions from Sebastian from Sebastian, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Geoff Muldaur, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Ry Cooder and a host of other talented musicians from 1972. It’s an interesting collection.

Before I ever heard the song, I remember reading that “Stories We Could Tell” was a great unrecognized Sebastian composition and then being disappointed when I finally heard it on his Tarzana Kid album in 1974. It’s the closing song on the Everlys’ album, and it feels like the assembled multitude had a lot of love for the song. It’s lovely enough, but I was still waiting for the day when it all comes together and I understood the love.

Then, while searching YouTube for the album version, I stumbled across this slightly peppier performance that Don and Phil did on German television, and wow! This is a nice little tune (see below).

The real early leader as I work through the new stash (I still have two 1980s albums to hear) is a two-record set from Barnaby Records called End of an Era. Its package is similar to Barnaby’s The Everly Brothers Original Greatest Hits, so the label probably wanted to milk the catalog a little deeper, and they found some real gems. There’s a handful of familiar songs that were left off the “Greatest Hits” collection — “Take a Message to Mary,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “Claudette” and “Devoted to You” — but it’s heavy with folk and country tunes, both originals and standards, that show off their wonderful harmonies and interpretative skills. “Barbara Allen” is here, and Gene Autry’s “That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine,” and by the time I worked through both records, the Everlys had become more than musicians I’ve always admired.

I’m definitely a fan now. Better late than never.

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