Eddy Arnold (1925-1982)
Eddy Arnold "The Early Hits Of The Tennessee Plowboy" (ASV-Living Era, 2000)
A little-known fact about Eddy Arnold is that he actually was pretty good "real" country singer back when he started his career in the late 1940s... Initially known as "The Tennessee Plowboy," Arnold recorded plenty of fun, sprightly, sappily romantic hillbilly hits back in the 1940s, when he was still an up-and-coming youngster. When I first found out about this phase of Arnold's career, through a cache of old 45s bearing his original nickname, I was flabberghasted -- I had always thought of Arnold as the ultimate Nashville cheeseball crooner, a guy with a couple of immortal tunes ("Cattle Call" and "Room Full Of Roses") amid an ocean of overripe pop-country crossovers. This 25-song collection will redeem Arnold for a generation of listeners in much the same way those old 45s did for me; these are great, deliciously corny country tunes -- real country tunes, mind you -- that will cut through the years and charm true country fans as well as Arnold loyalists. Includes early versions of a hits like "Cattle Call" as well as yummy, lesser-known tunes like "Daddy Is Only A Picture" and "What A Fool Was I" and "Then I Turned And Slowly Walked Away..." Nice sound quality and great song selection as well.
Eddy Arnold "The Essential Eddy Arnold" (RCA-Nashville, 1996)
Eddy Arnold "RCA Country Legends" (BMG-Buddah, 2001)
If you want to check out Arnold in his post-billy countrypolitan crooner phase -- the music he's best known for -- then either of these brief collections should do ya right. Not only do these have his big smashes, such as "Cattle Call," "Bouquet Of Roses" and "Make The World Go Away," but the producers also had the remarkable good taste to include several of his early songs from the 'Forties, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Inevitably, these CDs chart his rapid plunge into super-cheesy countrypolitan -- but they're still worth checking out for the good stuff. (For more info on his early years, check out my Real Hicks section...)
For a more extensive look at Arnold's early career, this fab 5-CD set should do the trick. With Bear Family's trademark perfect sound and extensive liner notes, it's manna from heaven for the Eddy Arnold true believer! For starters, this is one of the Bear Family boxes I've heard that best stands up to intensive and repeated listens. It's a treasure trove of old-fashioned sentimental county songs, packed with songs about little kids, lost loves, and sweet, saintly mothers, this is without doubt the definitive look at his early career, superseding the more humble (but no less enjoyable) single-disc collections that cover the same era. In the mid 1950s, Arnold unreservedly adopted the new "Nashville Sound," the country-pop accommodation that Music City saw as its only hope to survive the commercial onslaught of the early rock'n'rollers. In some ways, his switch to a pop vocals wasn't that big a deal: Arnold was always a slow paced, sentimental crooner, by going pop he was just shedding the modest fiddle and pedal steel licks that buoyed his old records, and toning down the twang. He also revisited several of his older hits -- "Anytime," "Bouquet Of Roses," "Cattle Call" -- and gave them a grander-sounding orchestral sweep. It's fun to hear them here in their original stripped-down glory, but sweeter still to hear all the less well-known gems that came out at the same time, in all their unabashed, corny glory. There are also songs that he re-recorded within the space of a couple of years, such as "Little Angel With The Dirty Face" and "This Is The Thanks I Get (For Loving You)," which reveal Arnold already trying out a more robust baritone style, and experimenting with various musical arrangements. His understated delivery and richly sentimental, varied material all make for some mighty fine listening. Trust me: I, too, was leery of investing the big bucks to hear "too much" of such a sappy singer's work, but was very pleasantly surprised at how well this collection held up to repeat listens. Nice stuff! (PS - For more info on his early years, check out my Real Hicks section...)
Eddy Arnold "Strictly From The Heart" (Bronco Buster)
Unfortunately -- and justifiably -- Eddy Arnold is best known as an archetypal Nashville pop-vocals cheeseball, whose most distinctive hits were "Make The World Do Away" and a remake of the early '40s classic, "Cattle Call"... What most folks don't know is that early on, when he was still a young whippersnapper, Eddy Arnold was actually a damn good country singer. Soft around the edges and smoother than most other hicks, but good. These 1950 transcription tapes were made for Brown Records, a specialty label that made transcription discs for radio stations to play. This was around the time Arnold went by the backwoods-y nickname, "The Tennessee Plowboy," and the tunes are all pretty cool. This disc may give you a whole new opinion of the man.
Eddy Arnold "Hillbilly Favorites" (Bronco Buster)
This one's pretty cool, too. You wouldn't think it from listening to his final 83 albums but once apon a time Eddy Arnold was a really great country singer, with steel guitars, fiddles and everything. These songs, taken from rare 16" transcription discs on the Brown record label, showcase Arnold at his all-too-brief best, during the late 1940s and early '50s. Ironically this disc contains a stripped-down version of his hit song, "Cattle Call," which was one of the successful smashes that lured him into going countrypolitan later in the 'Fifties Loaded with lovely, pointedly sentimental material, this CD uncovers Arnold's deep roots in the older stringband tradition. It's a shame RCA can't see fit to do a similar reissue of the many mid-to-late '40s singles Arnold did in the same vein. I'd snap it up in a second.
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