Monday, April 16, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1127: Patsy Cline

I’m feeling a little tired today. Could be the weather, or maybe it was watching my beloved Bruins lose a hockey game. Whatever it is, it’ll pass.

Disc 1127 is… Gold
Artist: Patsy Cline

Year of Release: 2000, but featuring music from 1956-1963

What’s up with the Cover? The lady of the hour posing for some glamour shots.

How I Came To Know It: My mom loved Patsy Cline and I heard this music as a young boy. In more recent years my buddy Casey brought some over one night and it reminded me how great she was. Shortly thereafter I went out and found this compilation.

How It Stacks Up:  Anthologies like this one don’t stack up.

Ratings: Compilations don’t get rated because they aren’t true albums – maybe one day I’ll rank all my compilation records, but not today.

I’m going to put my musical cred on trial and admit that I watch American Idol. What can I say, it’s a guilty pleasure. You’ll hear a lot of talk about a singer’s tone on that show, and if you’re in my house when you’re watching you’ll hear me weigh in on the same subject. It’s because it’s one thing to be in tune, and it’s one thing to be in time, but that’s just the start of a great vocal performance. A rich and unique tone is that rare treasure that every A&R man is looking for.

Patsy Cline has it all. She walks effortlessly around the pocket like Frank Sinatra and can hit a note like Billie Holliday. As for tone – hers has a quality that approaches the mythical. When she opens her mouth clouds part, rivers run and sailors dash themselves on the rock, overcome by the beauty of it all. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but listen to her belt out “Sweet Dreams (Of You)” and tell me I’m wrong. Just remember to wipe away those tears before you do though; they’ll betray the lie.

Back in the fifties and sixties you didn’t have to have great dance moves to be a singer, and you didn’t have to be a songwriter either. You just stood in front of one of those big silver microphones and let those aforementioned A&R men scour the land to find beautiful words for you to sing into it.

You could say Cline benefited from these industrious labours; I prefer to think she inspired them, but that’s probably the romantic in me. In any event, this collection showcases some great songs that take full advantage of her instrument.

This collection starts appropriately enough with “Walkin’ After Midnight,” which was her first hit back in 1957. It is very traditional country in structure, with Cline swaying her way through it with effortless grace and some glorious steel guitar. However, Cline has a style that crossed easily between the worlds of country and pop.

There’s so many great songs in this collection, but my favourite is “She’s Got You.” I love the way this song’s melody climbs up triumphantly as Cline sings about all the memorabilia from a failed relationship, just to let it collapse back down as she laments “she’s got you…” Great stuff.

This is also a good time to give a shout out to the great musicians on these tracks (thanks again, A&R man). In particular I noticed the backup singers crooning away in the background. It’s always more fun to imagine yourself in the lead, but these guys made me think I could be happy just oohing and aahing behind the great Patsy Cline.

That isn’t to say it is all good. 33 songs is a lot of songs to wade through in one sitting, even if they are sung by Patsy Cline. Some of these songs are over 60 years old and haven’t aged well. “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home” felt like a USO show and “South of the Border” didn’t get sufficiently “south of the border, down Mexico way” for it to feel authentic.

Fortunately, those are the outliers. More often than not Cline’s songs of love and heartache are so powerful they cut clear across the decades and into your soul.

In addition to being an inspiring listen on merit alone, Cline is integral to the growth of modern music. The musical structures employed here have been borrowed and built on to create pop, easy listening and country music alike for more than three generations, and they continue to inspire. While Cline didn’t write these songs, she gave them life and her vocal style remains a mountain modern singers attempt scale at their peril. I revel in watching them try it ever year on American Idol – please don’t tell anyone, though. I’ve got a reputation to think about.

Best tracks: Walkin’ After Midnight, A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold), Lovesick Blues, I Fall to Pieces, Crazy, Foolin’ Around, She’s Got You, Your Cheatin’ Heart, Why Can’t He Be You, Sweet Dreams (Of You)

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